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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Standardized relationships are passé

Dear Grinnellian singles, takens and in-a-complicated-relationships,

Valentine’s is over. The campus was making every effort to make Valentine’s just a little bit pinker and fluffier—and for you to have a chance to experience some pinkness and fluffiness. You could be buzzing around, giving gifts, tabling for Haiti, getting chained with someone special, buying heart shaped cakes and roses, all for the concept of Love. You may be perfectly apathetic about the topic. You may be still searching for it, or may already have found it. Love is one thing and there have been millions of thoughts about it, but the next step is the dating part. Why do most romance stories end at the point where they get together, and never show what happens next? Do they get married, have children, then grandchildren? Do they ever argue? Did they break up in the end, and find something truer in someone else?

Now that Valentine’s is over, and Grinnell is gray again, I want to ask you: have you ever thought of the next step, on what does “being in a relationship” mean, for real? Can outsiders tell you that “you two there are spending too much time together, you must be dating”? Can anyone else define the term other than you, for yourself? I believe no. The only people who have the right to decide if you are dating are you and your partner. There is a constant push from the outside world, from movies and music, and simply other couples, to adhere to the certain conventions of dating. What is important, however, is that you, and only you are to define it for yourself, and it is dating, just as strong in sense as if you followed an outline. The truth is, as long as you feel it and decide so, no matter what you do convention-wise, you are in a relationship.

For some people, it begins with changing your Facebook relationship status, or, in the pre-Facebook times, it meant letting others know about it (or sometimes, keep it secret). But what’s next? Does dating consist of holding hands, and sharing kisses, maybe something more? For some, it is not love without sex, and for others, they are two separate, and still somewhat related entities. You can make love without love, but some would claim that still, with love is nicer. Where is the line between dating and a friendship with benefits? Are you supposed to see each other in an organized, x-times-a-week way, or you should practically live together in your dorm single? Does living together mean that you are “more” in a relationship? Is there even such a measure? I would say no.

There are millions of conventions in the art of dating. We could even apply our favorite term here, saying that dating is a “social construct.” You have the very general route of meeting, talking, texting/calling/IMing, adding as a Facebook friend, meeting again for a varying number of times, first kiss, first make out session, introduction to friends, introduction to parents, first sexual encounter, and maybe marriage. Can you break the rules or the order? Is it less of a relationship if friends or parents do not know about it? Is it less because you do not even touch each other for some well-defined reason?

Then there is the question of what do you do together when you are meeting. This makes me think of the Moldy Peaches song saying “and besides, you’re probably holding hands with some skinny pretty girl who likes to talk about bands, and all I want to do is to ride bikes with you, and stay up late and watch cartoons.” Is it a more “serious” relationship if you are, just like in movies, holding hands and talking adult-like? Is it less serious, then, if you stay children together and manage to never grow up, in the positive sense of the word?
So again, what is the definition of “being in a relationship”? Let’s come up with your own ideas about it.

-Que’nique Newbill ’11 & Mai Ha Vu ’13

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