At Stanford, as at many elite universities, there tends to be a predominant view that dating here is somehow flawed. We’re working too hard, we claim, we don’t have time to develop meaningful relationships. There’s no middle ground, others complain, where’s the route between frat party flings and near-obsessive-already-planning-the-wedding-in-Mem-Chu couplings?
And sure, there are more people who want to be in relationships than actually are. Depending on your metrics, that might be sufficient data to prove the there’s-no-dating-at-Stanford hypothesis.
But I don’t think that dating at Stanford is fundamentally flawed. I think that many of us are just going about it the wrong way.
Like… only a little?
We Stanford students like for things to be effortless. High school valedictorians, sports stars, musical prodigies – you name it, we’re used to things coming easily. We focus on our academics and extracurricular activities and often assume that the rest will fall into place without any additional work on our part.
Cue LikeaLittle.com, the very definition of half-hearted, lazy pursuit of meaningful relationships. Oh, sure, it’s much easier to confess that crush under the guise of anonymity of the Internet. But that post took you, what, 30 seconds to write? With relationships, as with any other meaningful pursuits, you receive according to the effort you put into something. So if your admiration for someone is really only worth a 30-second post, go for it. And watch absolutely nothing happen. Don’t accuse flirting of failing you – pin the blame on the sad excuse for a flirt medium in which you engaged.
In real life, there are no fairy godmothers to make your wishes come true. If you want something to work out, TALK to the object of your affections. Yeah, it’s difficult and potentially awkward, but we’re all too busy to assess the intricacies of chance meetings. If you’re actually interested in someone, you really “need to be bold, need to jump in the cold water” and put yourself out there. If you don’t put forth at least that much effort and interest, why should they? And for the hesitant out there: honestly, what’s the worst that could happen? The math is in your favor. If it doesn’t work out with crush #1 or #2, there are over 15,000 other Stanford students to choose from. There are plenty of fish in the sea.
Rethinking the “trophy” in trophy wife
Perhaps I’m over-extending the qualifications of my freshman year Psych 1 experience, but I think that another problem with our attitudes toward dating derives from our very nature as overachievers. Stanford students looove validation of our efforts. We’ve been conditioned to maximize our performance in expectation of being rewarded with trophies, titles, and test scores. I’m an engineer, and I love numbers. The more you can quantify your success, the better, right?
In the absence of an absolute metric for winning-at-life-ness, it’s easy to construe the presence of a “significant other” as a human validation of your accomplishments and self-worth. “Look,” you say, “I have a boy/girlfriend. That must mean I’m awesome.” Sure, maybe you are pretty cool, and sure, maybe that’s why your boy / girlfriend is dating you. But if you derive all your personal meaning from your interactions with one person, you’re doing it wrong.
Stanford students are blessed to be surrounded by a wealth of incredible people. This may sound hokey, but at the end of each Stanford tour, we tour guides close with a little one minute plug for why we love Stanford. And my personal tilt is always the people – the amazing, world-renowned yet personable professors as well as the wildly accomplished yet friendly students. Your friends and classmates are awesome! And so what if your friends don’t hold your hand or take you out to movies? Their respect and platonic love for you are truly the only validation you need.
Screw the glass slipper
So despite what may be your instinctual urge to stress about finding that romantic spark in time for Valentine’s Day, I’d like to recommend an alternative. Surround yourself with the oneS you love. Fountain hop, go exploring in San Francisco, watch a movie marathon, walk the Dish – do whatever it is you love to do together, and you won’t even need to stress about whether you have spinach in your teeth. College is our last big chance to relish the freedom of friendships without the pressures of long-term commitment.
Enjoy the company and conversation of excellent friends, and leave the Prince Charming daydreams to Cinderella.