Dating at Dartmouth

by Paul Marino | 10/5/01 5:00am

I haven't been on a single date since I got to

school," says '04 Leo Twiggs. "I always figured it was because girls find me difficult to approach."

I know the feeling. It seems that since I've been at Dartmouth, I have hardly gone on any dates -- namely, zero. Many of my female friends complain that there is practically no dating at this school. All these young, attractive, interesting people living in close proximity -- why no dating? Disquieted, I've put it upon myself to find out.

I asked Allegra Love, '03, what she thought. "Umm I sort of have other plans, but maybe some other time if I'm not too busy. I have to go." For some students, the demands of the classroom are simply too demanding. I can relate. Mature relationships are time-consuming, and who has free time to spend? No one. I was curious if students turned to one-night stands as an alternative to dating. So I went out on the town to observe such behavior firsthand and ask some questions. Last Friday, in an unnamed frat basement, I observed an '04 female interacting rather closely with an '03 male, a brother of the house. They were talking, flirting, laughing. I approached the two for questioning.

"Excuse me, Miss. Are you two dating, or will you just be going home together?"

"Are you kidding me?"

The gentleman cast a look of disapproval, and I was escorted from the house and relieved of my personal items. Apparently, it is not customary in such sociocultural environments to address women as "Miss." I took my questions elsewhere.

I asked '04 classwomen Anne Bernard and Eleanor Pessin what they thought of the dating scene here at Dartmouth. Anne Bernard commented, "Paul, if you're trying to ask me out, I have a boyfriend. You know that." She explained to me that since she has been at Dartmouth, she has seen little dating and more "hooking up." "Paul, I appreciate the flowers, but I am through being polite about this. Now, get out of here."

Eleanor was equally displeased with the situation. She explained that dating at Dartmouth seems to be looked down upon, even, as if male students would be embarrassed to have serious girlfriends. "Look, Paul, I think you're really sweet and all, but it just wouldn't work out. Your hair is brown and mine is red." Eleanor was right: Dartmouth students seem to avoid relationships that involve commitment.

Perhaps I shouldn't be asking only students, I thought. Professors and staff have been observing student interaction for long periods of time, in many cases, and might offer me a more broad-scaled opinion. I asked Professor Susan Gofman, a 46-year-old and member of Dartmouth's English department for nearly 10 years, if the lack of dating was something new at Dartmouth.

"Paul, not only are you obnoxious and far too young for a woman of my age, but dating a student is against Dartmouth policy, and even if a student of respectable hygiene came into my office and asked me that same question, it wouldn't be worth risking my job. Now, I'd like you to leave my office." Professor Gofman explained that the teaching staff at Dartmouth is generally separated from such social interactions. She did, however, comment that it seemed strange that students at Dartmouth date so little, Gofman having taught at other institutions where the percentage of students in serious relationships appeared much higher.

The question that still lingered in my mind was how all this came to be in the first place. What kind of history between men and women does Dartmouth have?

I ate a sandwich.

If I wanted to get to the bottom of this question, I would have to go straight to the source. I knew that the parents of Max Brooks '04 met and began dating at Dartmouth and were later married. I decided to give them a call at their house in Maine.

"It's four o'clock in the damn morning. Who's there? Is this Max? Look, I know someone's there. I can hear you breathing That's it -- I'm hanging up. If you call this house one more time, I'm going to call the police." While the Brooks may not have been the norm in their day, dating each other for almost all four years spent at Dartmouth, they certainly prove that it can be done -- and successfully!

Though dating at Dartmouth may be uncommon, it still occurs. I once asked Michael Martinez '04 how he would feel about having a girlfriend at school if it meant spending less time with his friends and having less time to study.

Perhaps young people our age, especially college students, do indeed have more important things to worry about: grades, picking a major, making the varsity team, figuring out who we are, and so much more. In the long run, it might just be a good idea to wait till college is through to explore the world of dating. After all, college is expensive, and we want to get our money's worth. That's why I never date.

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