Sounds far easier than a research paper, right? A lot more fun, too.
But when Cronin first gave this assignment, she says her students talked a lot about asking someone out but didn't follow through. (Later, she tweaked the assignment to give a two-week deadline.) "I realized at that point that the social script of dating was really long gone," Cronin said over the phone recently. Because hookup culture has become so dominant on college campuses, Cronin says, going on a date has become "a weirdly countercultural thing to do."
Cronin still gives a version of this assignment, which used to be mandatory but is now just for extra credit. On campus she's become known as the "dating professor," but you don't need to be a Boston College student to reap her wisdom: There are numerous YouTube videos of her preaching her relationship gospel, and a documentary about the campus phenomenon she's created is showing in select theaters on Tuesday.
How did going on a first date become "countercultural"? That may sound bonkers if you're older than 22. But to many college students, Cronin acknowledges, meeting for a cup of coffee and sober conversation with someone you're interested in on a Sunday afternoon can feel more intimate than getting naked with them on a Friday night.
"Even students' parents are telling them: 'Don't get caught up in a relationship now; you need to get your career set and on track before you even really start thinking about that,' " Cronin says. She adds that our "hypersexualized" culture focuses more on having sex than on "the foibles and the hard work and the joys and the despair of just casual dating."
Cronin's dating project is an attempt to nudge young people to embrace those foibles - the nervousness of asking someone out and the rejection that can result. She created the assignment after learning that many of her seniors were about to graduate and had never been on a first date. (Our own Washington Post Date Lab bears this out; the column recently set up a 24-year-old woman with a 23-year-old man who'd never been on a dinner date and didn't know how to engage in conversation with a stranger.)
Plus, even in the real world, there are no dating rules anymore. Plans are frequently broken or rescheduled; dating apps create so many options that people are often treated as if they're disposable. The person who asks someone outdoesn't necessarily pick up the check anymore. All of which are why students are so intrigued and clueless about how to go about this assignment.
Cronin is a philosophy professor. What does learning how to date have to do with Plato and Aristotle? She sees conversations about dating as part of the big questions her classes tackle, such as: How should I live my life? What kinds of relationships help me to become the kind of person I want to be?
If students don't learn how to date while they're in college, while surrounded by thousands of peers all in a similar stage in life, Cronin says, it only gets harder to build those skills after graduation. One skill that comes with practicing asking people out and inevitably experiencing rejection: Learning that your "ego strength" doesn't come from someone else, Cronin says, citing a Freudian term, but that's it's natural to seek that ratification from other people.
Cronin has received all sort of pushback to her dating project - from super-Catholics, from super-feminists and from students who'd rather focus on getting a job than getting a date. Her defense? "Not everybody is called to romantic relationship, not everyone is called to marriage," Cronin says. "But everybody's called to relationships - that what it means to be human."
However, some of her students do meet their soul mates as a result of this assignment.
For example, when Erika Pena took Cronin's class in 2008, she asked one of her guyfriends, Jared, to join her for ice cream not far from campus. The two of them knew each other through mutual friends and would frequently see one another at parties, but hadn't spent one-on-one time together - until the dating assignment. It was the first time Pena had asked a guy on a date. "It leapfrogged us into having an actual conversation that didn't revolve around a Jager Bomb," Pena recalled recently. They went out a few more times, but graduation was nearing and Pena had a job lined up in New York City. "At 20, I wasn't necessarily thinking I'm looking for something serious."
But they continued dating for several years before getting engaged back at the ice cream shop where they had their first date. When they got married in 2014, Cronin attended their wedding. They now have a son, Adrian, who's 15 months old.
If it hadn't been for the dating project, Pena says, that date might have never happened. "At graduation, we probably would have gone our separate ways."
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
Click for more trending news