Why I like King's dating culture
Let me be the first to say it: I like King's dating culture.
If you're a freshman and haven't heard the King's dating horror stories, don't worry--you will soon. Guys will tell you the girls are "ice princesses"; girls will tell you the guys are socially handicapped. People will warn you that the social pressure is enormous: hanging with a guy or girl means you're dating, and dating or taking him or her to a dance means you're engaged.
Girls will tell you that the guys get all the breaks because the student body is comprised predominately of women (6:4). Guys feel at a loss because, in the (unfortunate) event of a break-up, the guy almost certainly gets blamed.
Last year a meme poking fun at King's guys created a Facebook firestorm--the comments section went on for days. Every heated comment involved some claim about what was wrong with King's guys or girls.
As a King's guy, I can acknowledge there's some truth to all of this. Similar to most Christian colleges, casual dating here is pretty hard to manage.
People take relationships seriously. So even if dating individuals doesn't put each other under pressure to "go steady,” all of their friends will tend to. Since everyone seems to find little room for casual flirting or experimental dating--only entering into relationships they're pretty sure of--non-daters ("single" is too soft a term) can often feel a bit unnoticed and lonely.
For King's students, this loneliness leads some to seek relationships outside of the school, compressing the dating pool even further, and perpetuating this feeling of rejection.
Even so, I like the dating culture at King's for two reasons.
First: the grass is not at all greener on the other side of the fence. The New York Times ran a story in July called "Sex on Campus," which explores the "hookup culture" that dominates the majority of college campuses. The article describes how finding a real relationship is all but impossible for many. Instead, girls and guys are expected, and, some would argue, encouraged to have a string of one-night stands that offer no promise of future commitment. The article states,
“It’s kind of like a spiral,” she said. “The girls adapt a little bit, because they stop expecting that they’re going to get a boyfriend — because if that’s all you’re trying to do, you’re going to be miserable. But at the same time, they want to, like, have contact with guys.” So they hook up and “try not to get attached.” This hookup culture also has a "disturbingly" high propensity for abuse and sexual assault, with a lot of "confusion and disagreement about the line between a 'bad hookup' and assault."
Second: genuine romance is not rare at King's. In fact, it seems to be the one place in the country where courting may be alive and well. (Read the Times article "The End of Courtship" for the general trend). For most of the student body, courtly romance is openly celebrated and engaged in without irony; those in the dating scene can, and do, expect to woo and be wooed with chivalry like ladies and gentlemen.
You don't have to search too hard to find guys who give girls flowers, or take them to romantic spots. You might hear one person talking about a lovely poem one wrote for another. It's ubiquitous.
The culture at King's is exciting and uplifting; seeing it happen all around you makes you believe in love and happily ever after in a sort of goofy, earnest, old-fashioned way.
Relationships at King's also tend to last. People will start out as friends, then start dating, then get engaged and then married once they graduate. It reminds you of something out of a storybook, but at King's it's the norm.
Of course, there are exceptions. There are parts of King's that look slightly more like the scenes described in the Times article. But those are the exception--that isn't the mainstream culture that is seen and lived through, whether you seek it out or not. Even those who don't like King's or make fun of it typically mock it for being too innocent and wholesome.
But as I walk through the lobby or the the halls and the student lounge and see couples laughing together, cuddling, or just looking cute and flirting--many of them friends of mine--I can't help but have a big smile on my face.
No, the girls at King's are not ice princesses and the guys are (probably) not complete dorks. Convince the girl that you won't go ballistic if she turns you down, and she'll probably end up being your best friend; convince the guy you won't laugh at him if he falls on his face and he'll do the same.
Be chill; you can make mistakes. Jesus will forgive you. There will be some rejections, sure. But in the end--all quirks considered--King's guys and girls make it worth it.