by Brian Grab
On February 11, Professor Kerry Cronin gave her popular “Bring Back the Date” talk to a beyond-capacity crowd jammed into Fulton 511. An annual event sponsored by the St. Thomas More Society, Cronin’s talk draws huge numbers of undergraduates each year as she shares the dating wisdom she’s gained from years of studying the romantic lives of college students. Her talk offers practical dating advice, as well as critiquing the hookup culture.
Cronin began by elaborating the mores of hook-up culture. She highlighted key rules like “Don’t be awkward” and “You have to drink.” Laughs aside, Cronin pointed out that a pervasive hook-up culture leaves its participants with emotional pain and loneliness. As the talk turned from humorous to reflective, the crowd grew silent for a moment.
From interviews with her students, Cronin has found that there are three alternatives to the hook-up culture on campus. First, she described the “pseudo-married” couples, or monogamous couples whose relationships mimic married life. While she joked about how close such couples get, she argued that they may be too close to allow a discernment proper to dating.
Cronin also criticized what she called “the stealth daters.” In these ambiguous relationships, at least one partner views the other romantically, but neither acknowledges that they are dating. According to Cronin, the trouble with this type of relationship is the lack of clarity. Since neither student puts a label on their relationship, they will never feel secure.
Finally, there are the students who choose to simply “opt out.” These people dislike the promiscuity of the hook-up culture and the overly-intense monogamy of the pseudo-married couples. Cronin rejects the idea that students are simply too busy to date, a common excuse for those who choose to “opt out” of dating. She argues that for students who want to someday marry, dating in college is great practice simply getting to know new people.
Cronin didn’t just critique the ways students date. She also offered practical step-by-step advice on how students should begin to date. A true date begins with asking the other person face to face and not over text. She asks students to consider it an exercise in courage, which is a virtue essential in eventually dating long term. But there shouldn’t be any pressure. A first date, or what Cronin calls a “level-one” date should last less than an hour, not involve alcohol, take place close to campus, and end with no more “A-frame hug.” These guidelines allow both parties to maintain a discerning mindset.
Despite her high standards for a proper date, Cronin’s talk draws huge crowds of students every year. Her rules offer a practical way to approach what for many students is the intimidating prospect of asking someone on a date. By offering students these guidelines, Cronin aims to revive the practice of dating and offer a positive alternative to the hook-up culture on college campuses.