When a young man wants to show a special lady how much he cares for her, he gives her his pin. Maybe he gives her his letter jacket after the sock-hop to show her that he wants to go steady. If he’s lucky, they might neck in his backseat atop Lookout Point.
Yeah, back in the 1950s – this is a whole new century. Now, he invites her up to the top bunk of his shag-tastic dorm room. If he’s lucky, his other five roommates will be occupied elsewhere. Maybe he’ll give her a call in a couple days to see if they will be meeting again under similar circumstances or maybe “the hook-up” was just a one-time thing.
A casual hook-up culture has replaced the days of milkshakes and T-Bird jackets, most students interviewed said. Students defined a hook-up as anything from kissing to sex with little expectations afterwards.
“Hooking-up has taken the place of dating,” junior Courtney Brooks said. “It’s not as formal (as a relationship) and it can be a night to night thing.”
The Thurston experience
What better place to start a chronicle on dating than what is rumored to be the second-most sexually active dorm in America? In a place where one thousand young men and women are living under one roof and eager to kick off their first year away from home, it is only a matter of days before they start pairing up.
“Freshmen come here with a relationship or with the intent to hook-up, “freshman George Spears said.
Before committing themselves to another person, most freshmen said they would rather find out what this school has to offer.
Unlike being in a relationship, hooking-up is not a commitment and many students interviewed said they are not ready to be tied down to a single person.
“Some people regret jumping into relationships because they limit themselves too soon – they didn’t look at their options,” Spears said.
“Everybody’s into hook-ups because you’re still meeting people,” freshman Akeem Samuls said. “You’re free to explore like Christopher Columbus.”
For those who come to school with a relationship from home, exploring the social scene in the freshman residence halls can be tough. Gabrielle Pretto said she thinks she might be missing out on some of the excitement.
“Because I have a boyfriend, it inhibits me from being as social as I want to be,” she said.
Beyond freshman year
As much as some people would have liked, staying in Thurston for a full four years isn’t an option. The move away from freshman year also brings a change in lifestyle and different dating/hook-up habits. Brooks’ met her boyfriend, junior Rae Quevedo, while living in Thurston Hall and has been with him ever since. Quevedo said one of the biggest changes from freshman year is the pool of people to meet.
“GW is big, but it’s not,” Quevedo said. He said after freshman year, people are more likely to know the person he or she is hooking-up with. “Everybody knows everybody.”
Hook-ups aren’t less likely, but as groups of friends solidify and students find their place on campus, the likelihood of random hook-ups decreases. Freshmen are more likely than upperclassmen to go to a party where they don’t know very many people because they have not yet found their social scene on campus. Upperclassmen tend to socialize in circles of people with whom they are they’re more familiar.
“People still hook-up, but with people within their social proximity, not just the random dude at a party,” said senior Lacey Soslow, who has been dating junior Dan Morse for two years. Hook-ups, she added, tend to be with people outside a person’s tightly knit group of friends. Nights at clubs and bars aside, hook-ups are more likely to occur with a friend of a friend.
Senior Deborah Hurwitz said she thinks people are more formal about relationships as they get older.
“(As a freshman) you tend to get drunk in dorms, now people ask for dates,” she said.
With age comes more liberties. Being of age to drink and having a job also help, because students can meet new people outside their classes or residence halls.
In addition to different dating patterns, upperclassmen have life after GW to think about. Whatever their plans (or lack thereof), seniors have plenty of fears about leaving college.
“(As a senior) you think about the future because you are close to being on your own,” Hurwitz said. “You are considering the fact that you have responsibilities in the future, but when you are a freshman, you don’t think about these things.”
When was the last time anyone said they were going steady?
A single hook-up can either lead to “hooking-up,” which usually means non-exclusive, or sometimes to an actual relationship.
“The only relationship that I’ve had at GW started with a hook-up at a frat house,” sophomore Whitney Schaffer said. “Post hook-up, you decide if you want to be serious or just hook up.”
“Monogamous dating is (called) ‘going out,'” Quevedo said. He mentioned that he and Brooks met and got to know each other a little bit before hooking-up, which led to their relationship.
“I think there has to be a point where you say, ‘we are together and there is not going to be anyone else,'” Brooks said.
Often, the lines between hooking-up and being in a relationship become blurred. Some people are happier with something in between.
“A lot of my friends aren’t primarily interested in intense romantic relationships or just hooking up – they want a middle ground,” Soslow said. “I think they want to be dating someone, but not something serious where they have to worry about when school is over.”
The “L” Word
Saying the word “love” can be a big step once in a relationship, but sometimes the “L” word is mentioned before the time is right.
“Within the first two weeks, we were hanging out and she said ‘I love you,’ and I just kind of looked at her,” Quevedo said.
“It totally slipped,” added Brooks, who sent a friend to talk to Quevedo to clear up the situation.
“I wasn’t freaking, but I thought it was a little odd,” Quevedo said. “I didn’t hold it against her.”
The couple turned the incident into a joke, saying things such as “I’m so in like with you,” to each other. Two months into the relationship, they started saying “I love you” to each other regularly. Now they both agree that the word “love” is a heartfelt and valuable aspect of their relationship.
Other times, the word can be tossed around too easily.
“Sometimes you say ‘I love popcorn’ and then when you are in bed, you might say ‘I love you’ but you don’t really mean it,” Hurwitz said.
“Yeah,” her boyfriend, senior Josh Cohn adds, “you mean it like you love popcorn.”
So what happens when the party is over?
Seniors in serious relationships face the dilemma of planning their future while trying to keep their significant other in mind. Some people have definitive plans while others’ are still up in the air.
“We know friends who are planning on living together,” Hurwitz said. “I think a lot of our friends think about careers, but those in a more serious relationship take (living together) into account.”
Many seniors said they feel uncertain about what will happen after graduation.
“The game plan has been to stay together, but I just don’t know where the hell I am going to be,” Soslow said; she will be graduating a year before her boyfriend.
“I don’t think either of us is the kind of person who would compromise what we’re going to do next year to be in the same city,” she said. “Regardless of where we both end up, I think we’ll be able to deal with it.”
Whether it be hooking up, dating, “going out” or just eating popcorn together, one thing hasn’t changed since the 1950s – people still want each other, they may just have a different way showing it.