If there were such a thing as a fairy tale for academic types, it might be the story of second-years Colin Pesyna and Meghan Daly, a pair of amorous biology majors with conflicting reading habits. The first time they met, Daly, a fiction lover, gave Pesyna, who prefers science articles and history, a copy of Catcher in the Rye.
Though Pesyna didn’t fall for Salinger—“I probably would’ve gotten more out of it if I had been younger when I read it,” he said—he did fall for Daly. Now that they’re a couple, Daly and Pesyna spend weekends visiting museums and the symphony, editing each other’s essays, and helping one another with biology homework.
“We’re able to bounce ideas off each other for class,” Pesyna said. “[Academically], we know what the other one has to deal with. Like when [one person] has a midterm, the other is aware and can make them dinner.”
Though Pesyna and Daly make finding love in the academic world sound easy, many students haven’t been so lucky. Some report that work demands and a perceived minimal dating scene make finding love at the U of C difficult. Even the oft-quoted statistic that 50 percent of students marry a classmate turns out to be false: The real number is closer to 10 percent, according to a 2004 article in the University of Chicago Magazine.
But many students aren’t giving up on love just yet; analyzing the problem and attacking it, much as they might approach an essay or a problem set, some are seeking innovative solutions to overcome the hurdles of dating.
Friday’s speed-dating event at the Graduate School of Business sought to facilitate romance for those with busy schedules. The event allowed singles brief conversations with potential mates, and then required that the participants move on to talk with new people. Students secretly marked cards to indicate their interest in participants. Organizers used the cards to identify matches afterward.
Caroline Cottrell, a third-year med student, said she attended because academic demands make it hard to meet people in conventional ways. “Unless you meet people in classes, you have no chance,” she said.
Though she said she had fun, Cottrell may not have met her soulmate. “I did meet some cute guys, [but] for every one I met, I also met about three guys who were…to put it nicely, a little too far out there for me,” Cottrell said. “One physics guy tried to impress me by naming all the bones in the body…for the whole three minutes.”
The Flint House Council sought to tackle another problem for daters: shyness. The Council arranged blind dates between Flint residents and students from outside the house.
According to first-year Kathleen Monaghan, the setup provided a “comfortable” situation for even the shyest students. “When someone else sets them up, they just have to go and be themselves,” she said.
Flint house organizers used Facebook to match couples based on looks, hobbies, partying habits, and academic interests. Monaghan professed faith in this matchmaking system. “I foresee some second dates,” she said.
Social ineptitude may be another romance obstacle for students, or at least the Office of the Reynolds Club and Student Activities (ORCSA) seems to think so. The problem is addressed annually in the ORCSA–sponsored lecture “Flirting For Nerds.”
This year, the event attracted students who confessed to some very nerdy impulses. One woman admitted to organizing a Quidditch team at her middle school, while a man said he named his pet kittens “Krypton and Xenon, because when I got them they weren’t bonding well.”
Donning a “Reading is Sexy” T-shirt, first-year School of Social Service Administration student Rebecca Steinmetz, who works at Early to Bed, “a feminist sex shop on the North Side,” lectured students on basic social decorum, like smiling and asking friendly questions. She said that “nerds,” with their peculiar interests, could have an advantage on the dating scene because passionate people are more interesting.
Steinmetz also recommended a creative way to find love: online dating. She said she had a long-term relationship with someone she met on Craigslist. “The key is to sift through the creepy folks,” she said.
Sociology professor Linda Waite, who is on the Scientific Advisory Board at online matchmaking site eHarmony, said online dating is not unlike conventional dating. “The way people meet other people is that they’re introduced through family or a mutual friend. Online dating is an extension of that, especially if there’s a system that matches interests,” she said.
Online dating is often presented as the alternative to clubs and bars, where you can’t meet “the kind of people you see yourself in a relationship with,” according to Cottrell, the speed-dater. Nevertheless, some students’ relationships have blossomed on the party scene.
Fourth-year Sixto Munoz met his boyfriend, second-year Eddie Wysocki, at a frat party, paving the way for their year-and-a-half-long relationship.
“It was kind of backwards the way we ended up. We had our first kiss at a frat party, really before we had ever had the chance to talk and get to know each other,” Munoz said. Later in the week, the pair “met back in our dorm, and we just stayed up talking for hours. That’s when we decided to go on a date.”
Whether or not romance is hard to find at the U of C, no student has to leave the University without some knowledge of love. Professor David Orlinsky’s Big Problems course, “Romantic Love: Cultural and Psychological Perspectives,” provides the chance to analyze love in light of authors such as Plato and Freud.
Orlinsky addressed the question of whether being academically oriented makes romance more challenging. “It probably makes it a little harder if a person thinks too much. If you’re dancing and you’re looking at your feet…that’s not going to make for very graceful dancing,” he said.