Whatever Happened to Dating?

Boston College Professor Kerry Cronin is working to bring back dating

(photo: Register Files)

At an informal celebration for her graduating capstone seniors a few years ago, Boston College professor Kerry Cronin asked who they were dating, and how graduation was going to affect their relationships. When she got blank stares in return, she realized something was up. It turned out that only one of the eight seniors had actually dated while in college.

As Cronin told the Catholic News Agency, “[They] were just really stellar people, beautiful inside and out, and had all kinds of charisma and everything and almost none of them had dated at all in high school or college. And I thought wait, what? What’s going on?”

Sadly, dating has gone out of fashion on many college campuses. And that’s left many young people with a choice between very limited social interaction with the opposite sex and engaging in the hookup culture.

The Love and Fidelity Network, a Princeton-based organization dedicated to promoting traditional marriage, intact families, and sexual integrity among college students, describes the hookup culture this way on its website:

A hookup refers to any sexual encounter (from kissing to sex) that is meant to be casual and occurs outside of a relationship with no intention of commitment. ‘Hookup culture’ refers to the set of attitudes, behaviors and beliefs that accept and promote casual sexual interactions (hookups).

Both Cronin and the Love and Fidelity Network are working to bring back dating.

For her part, Cronin, who’s taught philosophy and theology at Boston College for more than 20 years and who calls herself a “devout, traditional Catholic,” started by giving her students an extra-credit assignment to go on a date.

But by the end of the semester none of her students had taken her up on this opportunity. Cronin realized they didn’t know what going on a date meant. As she told The Catholic World Report, “They’d ask, ‘Who do I ask out?’ ‘Do I need to be in love with them?’ ‘What do you talk about on a date?’ It was all so strange.”

So she spelled it out, providing rules and parameters. Their dates, she told them, should be relatively short, no more than 60 to 90 minutes. No drugs or alcohol allowed. Whoever asks does the paying, and the asking has to be done in person – not by text. The price tag shouldn’t be more than $10. And the only physical contact allowed was what she called an “A-frame hug.”

In its report on Cronin, The Washington Post suggested another potential factor at play in the demise of dating: fear of intimacy: “How did going on a first date become ‘countercultural’? That may sound bonkers if you’re older than 22. But to many college students, Cronin acknowledges, meeting for a cup of coffee and sober conversation with someone you’re interested in on a Sunday afternoon can feel more intimate than getting naked with them on a Friday night.”

Resurrecting the art of dating is something the Love and Fidelity Network has taken up in its annual Valentine’s Day campaigns held on college campuses across the country. Supporters hang posters, host lectures and organize events that encourage students “to get to know each other by going on real dates, not hookups.” Here’s how one poster read:

    HOW TO ASK SOMEONE OUT

  1. SAY HELLO. CONFIDENCE IS KEY.
  2. RELAX. THEY’RE HUMAN, TOO.
  3. ASK IN PERSON. (OR PICK. UP. THE. PHONE.)
  4. BE CLEAR. “DATE” DOESN’T HAVE TO BE A FOUR-LETTER WORD.
  5. SMILE!
  6. SAY WHEN AND WHERE. (KNOW IN ADVANCE.)

Over the years, Cronin has become known around the Boston College campus as the “Date Doctor,” and today she talks to college students across the country about how to date. She’s also starring in a documentary called “The Dating Project,” which follows five single people navigating their way through today’s dating scene.

Cronin told The Catholic World Report that the documentary has two important messages:

First, it is hard for single people to navigate the dating landscape in contemporary culture. People are nervous, awkward and scared. The contemporary culture is not helpful to people who want to date. That’s the central message. Second, we all need family and friends to understand that it is not easy and to help us out. It’s not helpful to get together at a large family event, such as Thanksgiving, and have someone say to us, ‘What’s wrong with you? I didn’t have any trouble when I wanted to get married.’

Check out Cronin’s videos on YouTube, like the one above on “Rules of the 1st Date,” and share it with a college student you know.

Nicolas Poussin, “Sts. Peter and John Healing the Lame Man,” 1655 — “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.” ... He leaped up, stood, and walked around, and went into the Temple with them, walking and jumping and praising God.” [Acts 3:6, 8].

No Reason for Being Sad

“For man was made an intelligent and free member of society by God who created him, but even more important, he is called as a son to commune with God and share in his happiness.” (Gaudium et Spes, No. 21)

Nicolas Poussin, “Sts. Peter and John Healing the Lame Man,” 1655 — “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.” ... He leaped up, stood, and walked around, and went into the Temple with them, walking and jumping and praising God.” [Acts 3:6, 8].

No Reason for Being Sad

“For man was made an intelligent and free member of society by God who created him, but even more important, he is called as a son to commune with God and share in his happiness.” (Gaudium et Spes, No. 21)