Kiss My Sass: Singing the Valentine’s Day Blues

Sophia Ottoni-Wilhelm, Opinions Editor

Valentine’s Day has come and gone, thank goodness. It’s a day when the happily coupled among us cook meals and stare deeply into each other’s eyes with Peter Gabriel playing softly in the background. Ugh, I just made myself throw up. No, seriously, congrats if this is you. I’m as much a fan of over-sized teddy bears as anyone.

For the rest of us, Valentine’s Day is always kind of a weird day. If you’re lucky, your mom sent you some candy. If you’re less lucky, she told you finding a mature guy or gal probably won’t happen until grad school. How wonderful. There’s only one solution: We round up our single friends — the ones who are similarly grumpy about being forced to think about their aloneness all day — uncork a bottle of wine (or seven) and play Cards Against Humanity until the butt crack of dawn. There’s nothing like a good dead baby joke to make things better. Throughout the course of the night, everyone becomes progressively worse at pretending they’re down with their singleness.

Don’t get me wrong, I am super down with being on my own. Yes, I really do mean that. I don’t have it all figured out by any means, but I do know how important it is to devote yourself to what you love. Right now I can’t imagine anything that could possibly excite and scare me more than climbing in the Himalayas and working for a nonprofit that rescues girls from the sex trade. Unsurprisingly, doing these things isn’t conducive to having your mind blown by college-aged boys. There certainly are a couple of incredible ones out there, but they have all either dated your best friend, are dating your best friend or they are your best friend.

The latter definitely works for some people, like my housemate Megan, who casually discusses having the children of her equally-brilliant partner over breakfast. The exciting thing about our generation is that we don’t have to worry about finding someone to marry. My grandma went straight from being a daughter to being a wife at the age of 20 — this simply isn’t the case anymore. The Institute for American Values reported that the median age of women marrying for the first time increased from 20 to 25 between the years 1970 and 2000. I’m a huge supporter of this change: It gives us more freedom to travel and take career risks in the five years following college.

Ernest Hemingway wrote in For Whom the Bell Tolls that “the Earth moves” for the lead character Robert Jordan when he is with his love interest Maria. When I woke up with the sun at Everest base camp, I knew exactly what this meant. I saw the snow-capped mountains glow orange and pink, and the Earth moved for me. It seems so simple — wait for someone who makes the Earth move for you. But the college environment does its best to throw us off. The stress of balancing classes and extracurriculars while trying to have a social life and get a full night’s sleep is overwhelming. It’s hard to keep yourself healthy and happy under these circumstances, not to mention someone else. Then there’s timing, personal lives, future plans and discrepancies in interest to further throw a wrench in the mix. No wonder so many of us are failing so spectacularly at being with someone.

As if these things weren’t working against us enough, we don’t even know how to go about getting to know someone romantically. Do you ask the person you’re interested in on a date? To hang out and “watch” House of Cards? Do you make out with them at the ’Sco? Ask them to dance? That would certainly be the classy route. I’ve seen all these go down successfully and, more often, I’ve seen them fail. The aforementioned report states that fewer than one third of college seniors have been on two dates throughout their college career, while 72 percent have “hooked up.” Ah, hooking up — the appropriately vague term our generation uses to encompass a number of sexual activities while conveying a relative lack of seriousness.

Hookups are common everywhere, but I believe that at Oberlin they are caused by the number of strong, outgoing women on campus and the length of summer and winter breaks. The first explanation is obvious — just look around you. I have had so many female friends who throw down and make the first move on people they like. After talking to my friends at other colleges, I’ve learned how rare this is elsewhere.

The second explanation has to do with the fluctuation of relationships throughout the course of the semester. At the beginning of the semester, people arrive back on campus excited to see all their friends and get a little crazy. It’s simply impractical to start a serious relationship at this point, so everyone sticks to hooking up. Near the middle of the semester dates happen, people have settled into their schedules and have gotten the chance to become friends with whomever catches their eye. As finals approach, hookups start happening again because people aren’t interested in getting seriously involved with someone before peacing out for months on end.

So there you have it — my post-Valentine’s Day musings on relationships in college, for better or for worse. I hate that there is a holiday that forces you to think about these things. I might eat my words one day when I receive baskets of puppies from the love of my life, but probably not.