Looking at love at the U of C

By Jay Patel

It pains me to acknowledge the fact that there are many University of Chicago students who find themselves obligated to enter into long-term relationships. The frustration of this captivates my entire being. Why do students here rush out for lifelong soulmates and an everlasting commitment to a future spouse? Why do so many frown upon those who seek enjoyment through short-term commitment? Is it so wrong that intellectuals be fun-loving spirits with a need for adventure and excitement, as opposed to mature adults who want to marry and settle down? Something puzzles me about the hypocrisy on campus, as some “kids” who assume that just because they have reached the legal age of adulthood, they are ready to take the next step into marriage. This is college and although most would not stoop so low as to admit it, fun and games is what college is really about. I realize that I, myself, make it the highest priority that my coursework gets done and other business gets taken care of. Time is truly of the essence, and it is essential that I make the most of it while I’m here at this university. Despite this note, there is some room left on my list of things to do for leisure. Basically, my question is this: Why have so many students forsaken what it truly means to be a college student in this premature quest for a long-term relationship? In order to gain a wider perspective on this all-important issue and not merely that of my own, I have decided to present some case studies.

My first case study involved a bright, scholarly young woman who described herself as somewhat of a disguised introvert. She is someone who is always active in campus events, but serves as more of a behind-the-scenes agent in most organizations she’s a part of. She has been exposed to a vast range of students, although only allowing herself to become personally involved with a few. This Jane Doe is looking for someone who is also a silent worker, a guy who dedicates his time to his academic pursuits and areas of personal interest and concern. She described her ideal date with this college student to be an “adventurous love affair.” Jane added this description minutes before she headed out to the Reg for the intense five-hour study session that she engages herself in on a daily basis. Some adventure that ought to be.

But anyway, this young woman believes that brief, secretive acts of passion are necessities, especially for living a college life here at the University of Chicago. With the rigor of academia, the demand for volunteerism, and the myriad extracurricular associations, there is a need to allot time solely for the purpose of temporary infatuation with another. This led me to another question. I asked, “Do you feel that students here are actually worth the relationship, no matter how long it might be?” Jane responded, “The guys here are wild in their own way. They know how to throw the books away at the end of the night and just enjoy what it truly means to be a college student.” In reply to the much-debated question of whether or not long-term relationships have any validity to them on this campus, she stated, “Considering the fact that I am more of an intellectual type, most people would expect me to disapprove of immature games and foolery. Instead, I am all for the laughs and the childishness of a short-term relationship.”

My next case study disagreed with Jane Doe. This young man, let’s call him John Doe, believes that we learn a great deal from the accumulation of short-term relationships. John describes himself as an outgoing, ostentatious athlete who loves to form terrible first impressions by making girls cry. He calls himself the “typical male jerk,” who knows how to adjust to contrasting social atmospheres. His severe reactions to the questions I posed proved his severity and thought in evaluating relationships at the University of Chicago. John has been involved in many relationships, since he was a young seventh grader learning how to shove girls in the mud more easily and pull their hair without hurting his fingers. He remarked to me, “I feel that you learn a lot about the broad spectrum of the female population as you go along. You realize that by testing women, you can actually have them make a sacrifice as opposed to having the guy do everything.” According to the pattern in most questions, it can be suggested that John Doe disapproves of long term relationships. He refused to comment on this, probably because he has never been involved in one that has lasted longer than a few days. From his focus, that the male population has to surrender themselves to the female population, it can be concluded that long-term relationships are considered evil in his book. The deeper and more personal it becomes, according to John’s implications, the more comfortable a woman is with bossing her guy around.

The third case study focused heavily on a tone of bitterness towards all relationships in general. This subject, who happens to be a classmate of mine, believes that society’s views are major factors at the decisions made by University of Chicago students. She describes herself as an ambitious, pragmatic lesbian who spends most of her time watching The Simpsons and reading Agatha Christie mystery novels. Her dedication to studies, unlike the subject of the first case study, is nonexistent. And unlike the study of the second case study, she is certainly not outgoing. Let’s call this classmate of mine Petite, since she’s very small. She believes that by analyzing others around her, she can learn more about herself, particularly what not to do. Her views on her own relationships were unclear, maybe because of the fact that she is too critical of other people. In describing long-term relationships at this university, she agreed with me that many students are throwing themselves out onto the street, wearing a blindfold, with a sign that says “Marry me!” According to Petite, the fact that many here do not wait before jumping into a long-term relationship suggests that students at the University of Chicago are susceptible to outside factors and try to conform to adult society’s standards. She exclaimed, “The students here are so confused socially that they have no idea whom to really follow. They are just coming out into the real world just now and are like two-year-olds imitating Sesame Street characters on TV!”

The final, not to mention less bitter and derogatory, case study is a first-year already in a three-year commitment with someone whom he loves dearly. After hearing what these others had to say about long-term relationships at the University of Chicago, he stated, “The students here don’t receive the credit they deserve. A reason as to why this is one of the world’s most renowned universities is because the people here actually know more about life and the world around us than students at other universities.” Let’s call this case study Optimist. Optimist believes that all long-term relationships have some potential and that there should be more people trying to find love and an entryway into marriage because that is what most students will end up doing. He told me that “the reason many students here are engaging themselves in long-term relationships is because students here think ahead and have their eye locked on long-term goals. That might seem to be an act of blindness to others, but it is truly ingenious.”

How many out there are out there for the fun of dating and how many are out there for the never-ending commitment? Can it be assumed that the Jane Doe theory on passion is the way to go or is it time to settle down for Optimist’s point of view? Or should we be so testy and quick-to-dump, as our John Doe is? Or is it possibly a better idea to avoid relationships altogether? You know what I think. Now it is time for you to decide.

Jay Patel is a first-year in the College concentrating in economics. He can be reached at jaypatel@uchicago.edu.