Some senior couples buck the 'hook-up' culture

by Karla Kingsley | 6/9/02 5:00am

Many Dartmouth students complain of a "hook-up" atmosphere and a lack of date-conducive activities on campus, but some '02s have learned from experience that serious relationships are possible.

Many students who talked with The Dartmouth recognized the difficulties of dating at Dartmouth, like dealing with the D-Plan, but they also cited positive aspects of the dating scene at the College -- indeed, for some, dating here has led to engagement and marriage.

Kristin Bellanca '02 and Jeffrey Pauker '03 have been together for six months and have no plans to change their status because of Bellanca's graduation.

The two will spend the summer living together in New York, but come fall, Pauker will be on campus while Bellanca stays in the city. In spite of being apart in the months until Pauker graduates at the end of Winter term, Bellanca said, "I'm almost positive that we'll still be together." She added that the attraction between her Pauker is "definitely the strongest bond" she has felt in a relationship.

The couple has already weathered separation. Last Winter term, Pauker interned in New York while Bellanca studied on campus. Although the two had decided not to stay together during Pauker's absence, they quickly learned that breaking up would be even more difficult. According to Pauker, the two have "matching personalities."

"We have both similar and very opposite eccentricities," he said. "We are goal-oriented but very laid-back. We are neat freaks."

Pauker remembered that when they met, "it just felt like the speed with which we grew comfortable with each other was expressive of the fact that we should be more than friends," he said.

Bellanca mentioned similar reasons for the relationship's success, but added another.

"He is a good dancer! I love to dance, and every other boyfriend I've had has always been a horrible dancer," she said. "I didn't think that would be important, but that makes it fun."

In spite of the difficulties of the D-Plan and the couple's busy schedules, their relationship has not been placed on the back burner.

The pair often study together, but sometimes make time for more romantic gestures.

"Jeff randomly brought me cake in the reserves when I was there writing a paper during finals," Bellanca said.

Now, instead of complaining about the lack of activities for couples, Pauker and Bellanca come up with their own ideas.

"Since we both love to cook, one night we decided to make sushi together. So we went to buy all the ingredients and spent an evening cooking and eating and dancing in between," recalled Bellanca. "There are a lot of people in relationships; it's not impossible."

Another couple, Mike Payette '02 and Sierra Moldovan '02, recently got engaged after dating for two years and eight months. The two first met in a train station on their way to a Language Study Abroad program in France. During their first few days in France, all the students "kind of stuck together," Payette said.

Payette and Moldovan started talking to each other more and more. But when Moldovan asked Payette if he would like to date, he declined the offer -- because he already had a girlfriend.

A few days later, after breaking up with his girlfriend, Payette changed his answer to yes.

Yet after dating for nearly three years, Moldovan has not forgotten Payette's initial answer. When he cooked a French dinner, complete with the engagement ring nestled in the sugar rose of the dessert course, the first thing she said was no -- "just to reminisce about when we started dating," Payette said.

He didn't have to worry, though. "She was totally kidding. She said no with a smile," he said -- and then changed her answer to yes.

The two haven't decided on a date for the wedding yet, but Payette said they plan to wait one-and-a-half to two years. Both plan to work in Hartford, Conn., for the next year, after which Payette will attend medical school and Moldovan hopes to go into forensic science.

Even though the wedding is still far in the future, the couple wanted to make sure they would be able to celebrate their engagement with their friends, Payette explained.

"There will never be an opportunity quite like this," he said -- when all their friends are still together in the same place.

Payette and Moldovan, who changed their D-Plans to coincide, found that dating at Dartmouth was not as difficult as it is perceived to be.

Of the impression that Dartmouth is a "hook-up campus," Payette said, "It's very easy to escape that -- you just have to do it differently."

Both he and Moldovan are affiliated with the Greek system, but he mentioned that meeting in France may have made it easier for them.

"You shouldn't go to a frat basement if [a serious relationship] is your aim," he said.

Although many would agree that fraternity basements aren't the place to look for deep relationships, at least one couple who met in a fraternity are now planning their wedding: Michelle Gauvain '02 and Matt Walker '01.

During Gauvain's sophomore year, Walker took a break from his internship in New York to visit the campus for Winter Carnival. Two of their mutual friends, who themselves happened to be dating, played a part in getting the pair together.

"They said, 'You guys have to dance at the '80s party at Sig Nu,'" Gauvain remembered. "So we danced all night. It was fabulous."

After the initial meeting, however, it wasn't all smooth sailing.

According to Gauvain, the two didn't talk much during the spring, when Walker was dating someone else, but in a chain of events Gauvain called "scandalous," Walker came up to visit Gauvain during her sophomore summer, staying the night in her room even though she had a boyfriend.

Finally, during Homecoming weekend that fall, Gauvain broke up with her boyfriend and started dating Walker.

"We did a year of long distance, and I'm excited that the long distance is ending," Gauvain said, adding that "the distance isn't always an evil."

She explained that relationships take a lot of time, much like an extracurricular activity -- time that a Dartmouth student doesn't always have.

She mentioned that spirituality is central to the relationship, and while she described both Walker and herself as spiritual people, they do not practice the same religion.

"He's Baha'i and I'm Christian, so it is hard to work out, but also a bonding experience," she said, describing how each attempts to learn about and understand the other's religion. For now, they plan to maintain their separate faiths.

With their June 29 wedding in Rollins Chapel fast approaching, Gauvain said that during freshman or sophomore year she never would have thought of getting married, but "now it's very natural."

"I've got a wedding to plan here!" she said.

Walker, who is currently working in San Francisco, will arrive the day before the wedding, after which the two will return to California together, where Gauvain will begin teaching fifth grade in Marin County.