With the topic fresh in their minds after "Ask Someone Out Week," two writers discuss the dating culture at Northwestern:
It's a date
by Dani Levy
As a member of Sexual Health and Assault Peer Educators (SHAPE), I felt a pressure to act, a duty to lead the charge of asking someone out during SHAPE and Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault’s “Ask Someone Out Week.”
The campaign gave me the extra push to do what I had been wanting to for a long time. It acted as a reminder of what I could have if I put myself out there, affording me the opportunity to learn about socializing and intimacy in a new way.
The “Asking Someone Out 101” event was the perfect amount of guidance on relationships as a whole; the lack of definitive direction reminded me that dating can be whatever you make of it, an education in itself. The mistakes we make and the rejection we might face are more informative than a dating handbook. And while the thought of first dates make me anxious, the campaign placed all prospective daters in the same eager boat.
So I did it: I went on a date.
I was nervous before the date started, the final test of my confidence coming to life in the form of late night coffee at local café Kafein.
Before I could go bite my nails completely off, my roommate delivered some much-needed guidance.
“Every time you put yourself out there is a learning experience,” she said. “Just imagine you’re going to make a new friend and are learning how to charm a stranger.”
I immediately felt calmer. By putting the date in the context of something I was familiar with (networking, charming the boss, etc.) I could change the lens through which I viewed the date. I moved from thinking, “Is this boy going to like me? Should I be extra flirty?” to “I’m getting to know someone new. I’m learning about another person. I’m gaining skills I’ll need when I’m 32, single and the proud owner of a cat-laden apartment.”
I imagine that fear of being alone and the intimidation of dating has crossed the minds of many Northwestern students. The image of Rose Byrne’s character from the film “The Internship” comes to mind: a workaholic, career-driven yuppie with no time for dating and a fear of being #foreveralone. Like her, I’ve often forsaken dating for my work.
As it is for many Northwestern students, to me, dating is mostly a fairytale. I ascribe to the simpler, more casual hookup culture that makes it easy to find intimacy without sacrificing study time. Even during the “Ask Someone Out Week” campaign, I had friends who wanted to ask people out but had no one to ask. Their minds are too focused on work that dating isn’t even in the ballpark of possibilities.
The “go-getter” culture of the career-oriented NU community tells us to have no fear when going out on scholarly, academic related quests like asking faculty for research opportunities or attending intimidating networking events. Yet when it comes to quests of the heart, we tend to go the easy way out and rarely take the plunge. We are too focused on using our limited adolescent confidence to further our career goals and scholarly intelligence that we leave social and relationship pursuits on the back burner. Many of us use clubs to make friends and parties to find short-term romantic partners. In doing so, we ignore the learning opportunities dating can provide and forget about the true intimacy relationships offer.
If we need a justification to date, beyond our own desire, one does exist: Dating is a way to become a more well-rounded person, the penultimate goal of higher education. Rather than viewing dating as a “waste of time,” we should view it as a way to be challenged in unusual ways. Through facing occasional awkwardness and new conversations, we can improve our critical thinking skills and prepare ourselves for life’s uncertainties. We can use intimacy and closeness to develop our views, open ourselves to new experiences and make us fuller, more complete human beings.
During the campaign’s short tenure, I saw happiness come to friends who took a chance. At dinner last week, my friend asked an old flame to formal. His “yes” was enough to make her smile for the duration of dinner. Another friend reconnected with her boyfriend. Even more, I see my friends in new relationships being challenged emotionally and intellectually by their partners in ways friends just can’t offer.
Dates are meaningful even when they don’t turn into long-term relationships. And though the official “Ask Someone Out Week” is over, I plan on continuing the initiative and inviting others to do so as well.
A real and honest relationship is an integral part of the foundation of so many individuals’ success. Barack and Michelle for life, am I right?
I don’t plan on letting the cat-lady fantasy happen to me, no matter how comfortable it may seem.
It's not that easy
by Carolyn Betts
As soon as I saw Sexual Health and Assault Peer Educators (SHAPE) and Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault's (MARS) “Ask Someone Out Week” event “How to Ask Someone Out 101” on Facebook, I immediately thought of the person I wanted to ask out.
My interest in the person I thought of is platonic, but I want the opportunity to get to know said person. The event promoted “friend dates,” but because of my complicated feelings I avoided the idea of asking this person out entirely. Instead of showing how to take advantage of my love life, “Ask Someone Out Week” was yet another public reminder that I don’t have the necessary skills to overcome my social anxiety regarding relationships. Instead of making it easier for me to ask someone out, “Ask Someone Out Week” triggered my guilt for having these anxieties and the inability to overcome them.
Acknowledging my social anxiety has not eased my mind, but rather my awareness has increased the guilt I feel for my social interactions or lack thereof. “Ask Someone Out Week” promoted asking someone out in a casual capacity. While they never explicitly stated this, many people assume that the asking should be done via social media. It’s casual and convenient yet it still gives us the ability to hide behind a screen. The distance should make it easier, but for some people it increases the tension. After previous (failed) attempts to ask a crush on a casual date via social media, I am now adverse to the idea.
As someone who could not attend “How to Ask Someone Out 101,” the following online campaign for “Ask Someone Out Week” was vague and unhelpful. SHAPE’s Facebook page was filled with Vines that attempted to relieve the stress from asking someone out in person, but they never stemmed far from entertainment. They were cute yet uninformative. I don’t know the person I wanted to ask out very well, and I doubt a cheesy, provocative pick-up line would’ve done the trick. Every Vine featured success. It’s optimistic to think everyone who participated in the event got their coveted "yes." But I needed a realistic situation that covered the harsh reality of rejection.
“We wanted to encourage those who feared rejection to accept that their fear was natural and okay,” said head of SHAPE’s event committee Grace Gabel.
However, I have a hard time hearing a “no” and simply convincing myself it is normal or okay. It is a nice idea to encourage reacting to rejection it in positive ways, but I, like many other students, don’t handle rejection well because my confidence doesn’t come easily. For those who aren’t naturally confident, effectively faking it in order to ask someone out is very difficult.
On the outside I appear to be an extravert, but there are deep-seated anxieties I am attempting to remedy on my own. Over the summer, I got a tattoo, “1:37,” on the inside of my left wrist. It’s a reference to a scene in favorite movie when one character decides to tell another that he loves her. It’s to remind me that sometimes the best things in life come with a little risk. I have a permanent prompt to be brave and yet, as much as I want to, sometimes I can’t bring myself to do it. “Ask Someone Out Week” told me to “go for it” and that “everything will be okay.” But I needed them to show me.
I have rationalized that having a definitive “no” is better than always wondering what could have been, and, at times, I am able to take advantage of that mindset. But more often than not, the tightening in my chest and the knots in my stomach convince me that it isn’t worth the risk.
While I admire the intentions of “Ask Someone Out Week,” it functions under the false pretenses that asking someone out is as easy as breaking out of your comfort zone, but for many people it’s an issue further complicated by social anxiety. Taking initiative with your love life is easier said than done. There’s always the fear of saying or doing the wrong thing and fear of rejection. That’s what holds me and other people back from pursuing romantic interests. “Ask Someone Out Week” was a great idea and had plenty of successes, but I am not one of them.