Time to Stop Being Serious!
I'm by no means an expert on love or dating. Please. The extent of my relationship knowledge comes from One Tree Hill reruns (so basically I've learned not to trust creepy, obsessive psychopaths). Tally up those nuggets of wisdom and you have a pretty questionable foundation for writing an article about dating.
I am an excellent observer of the human condition. Once described as "hyper aware" of my surroundings, I could gold medal in people watching. So upon arriving at Furman in the fall, I noticed something peculiar about relationships here. (Actually, I won't flatter myself. Anyone with a pulse would pick up on this).
Furman is a polarized campus; students are either hooking up to extremes or prepared to walk down the aisle. There isn't a lot of movement in between. Guys, this scares me. I mean, yeah, I'll reblog the occasional wedding collage on Tumblr, but I am by no means ready for eternal companionship. I'm only nineteen, for Lord's sake. And hooking up with random strangers is a great option… except I go to Furman where I will see this person in the DH for weeks to come. The awkwardness may never subside. My options are pretty much shot, unless I get creative… which I am about to do.
Bring back the casual date, Furman! Bring back Friday nights where the main focus is getting to know someone new, not urgently searching for a significant other! Bring back questions other than "Okay, dinner-and-a-movie on Friday?" Bring back ingenuity. Bring back fun.
You're sitting there reading this, no doubt, thinking one of four things:
(a) Dates are expensive. Why should the guy pay while the girl gets off scot-free?
(b) Um, hullo, Earth to Sarah, but dates lead to relationships. I don't want one of those, so I'm not going to date.
(c) This is 2012. Things are going swell, so just forget it.
(d) Who am I going to date? I know everybody already.
First of all, dates are not required to be expensive OR exclusively financed by the guy. My pocket book of clichés is referring me to "The best things in life are free." So pack up peanut butter sandwiches and go for a picnic, or simply go Dutch if that's you're style. There are no set rules on casual dating. It's about getting to know someone outside the constraints of the classroom or Greek life or intramurals.
Excuse B. True story: In the eleventh grade my best friend shared flirtatious texts with a guy in her Anatomy class. About a week later, he asked her on a date (via text). She said yes, figuring, "What the heck? He seems like a nice enough guy with no noticeable deal-breakers."
Alas, this date was a disaster. I literally cringed when she recounted the details of the night. The unfortunate date ended with him asking, "So, um… can we make this Facebook official now?"
Now I know most of you are mature and practical and wouldn't automatically leap to broadcasting your quasi-relationship on a social networking site after one date. It is weird and presumptuous. But some of you unapologetically do. You folks are the ones that send innocent date-ables screaming for the hills for fear that they're entering into a holy union by committing to just one little date.
Definitive results are not a part of casual dating. There doesn't need to be a clear "Yes, she's my dream girl!" or an "Ugh, get that vacuous jerk away from me." You can go on more dates even if you simply like hanging out with that person but don't immediately see a romantic future. Who knows what will happen? It's about having fun, not speed dating until you find The One.
Excuse C. Aw, the "Why fix it if it isn't broken?" excuse. If you feel that way, by all means, stop reading. Casual dating isn't everybody's thing. You may be sitting in the PDen one day, nonchalantly eating chips when you run out of queso. You look over at the next table and see a boy with queso, but no chips. BOOM, DESTINY. You two spend the rest of eternity together. And that's great. But most of us don't live in a Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan film. We want the casual dates because they're less risky. There's breathing room for those of us that don't want a rom-com romance or simply can't stomach the hookup circuit. We want the happy middle.
Excuse D. Who are you going to date? Anyone and everyone, of course! Wait, too vague? I'll specify.
Casual dating is the exact opposite of searching for your perfect companion. You know, that ideal standard you've concocted in the wee hours of late night studying. The person you're secretly holding out hope for. Casual dating is meant to rid you of this idealism. Ask out the girl you see running everyday around the lake. Tell the guy you bump into at the post office that you'd really like to get dinner some time. Ask out the friend that you've always had a teensy, tiny crush on. A lot of people mistake dating for getting to know someone first, then asking them if they'd like to go out. Au contraire, ask someone out casually in order to get to know them.
A final word to the wise (aka a note to the date-ables in question): Be open to casual dating. Don't turn down a guy just because he's reserved in class. Don't shy away from asking out a girl in your math class, just because you think she definitely, maybe, probably has a boyfriend. Carpe diem, readers!
The unofficial Furman mantra, "Ring by spring, or your tuition back," sounds ominous. It doesn't have to be. Bring back the date, and you'll find that there are many middle-grounders that, like you, share a sympathetic desire for fun and informal dating.
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