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Unearthing the truth about dating and relationships at Carleton

Part of the excitement of Screw Your Roommate is that it may be the only date Carleton students go on all year. Although experiences are obviously varied, when it comes to dating at Carleton, the student stereotypes are clear.

Relationships are polarized into two scenarios. In one extreme, this is a serious relationship. A couple is considered to be “married” in this case. On the opposite end of this spectrum, students engage in “random hook ups” that have little significance beyond the moment they occur. However, it seems that this impression of the dating scene at Carleton is widespread. Annelise Lawson, ’09, observes, for instance, that relationships at Carleton are almost uniquely serious.

“I think the people that do end up together become like married couples,” she observes. The polarity between those in a relationship and the singles crowd is apparent on the most trusted of social measurements. The Carleton Facebook network page states that the part of the campus that declares its relationship status is evenly split at 21% between those who are single and those who are in a relationship. The Carleton community exists as a sort of relationship polarity, it would appear.
Indeed, a Carletonian survey revealed a similar divide in Carleton students, with approximately 43% claiming a Carleton relationship, and an additional 9% claiming a relationship with someone outside of Carleton. Of these relationships, 55% have lasted at least 6 months. One third of Carleton students would characterize their relationship history as mostly long-term relationships. It seems, then, that relationships are pretty serious at Carleton. Lawson suggests a rationalization for this.

“People feel like they have no time, so if they do commit their time to someone they want it to be something serious,” she says. Lawson seems to think that there is no time for dating at Carleton. This is certainly possible. 50% of those students not in a relationship do not date at all, according to the Carletonian survey, and 29% of Carleton students have no relationship history at Carleton. Only 19% said that they would characterize their relationship history at Carleton as mostly brief dating relationships. It seems, then, that casual dating does not exist at Carleton.

Perhaps the Carleton community is so busy and over-stressed that they have no energy left for dates or the courting of their parents’ age. Sarah Crump, ’10, offers an interesting depiction of casual dating at Carleton.

“Being open to hookups on the weekend at Carleton is like casually dating in the real world,” she suggests. “It’s just like a different system…Things happen in a weird order where the first step to a relationship is a drunken hookup.” The percentage of Carleton students who characterize their relationship history as mostly random hookups is the same as those with mostly brief dating relationships, suggesting that the two points in the relationship process hold similar sway.

Yet even if students date, it is not particularly easy to start a Carleton relationship by doing so. Of those surveyed in a relationship at Carleton, none responded that it had started with a date. Crump’s theory is that dating has become stigmatized by their infrequency.

“Dates don’t happen that often, so when they do, it’s a big deal,” she observes. “It’s devolved to the point that hooking up with someone is less of a big deal than going out to dinner.” Other students suggest that Carleton’s problem is timidity.

“Maybe it has to do with the personality of Carleton students…because at a Sayles dance you’re more likely to be asked to dance by an Ole than a Carleton student,” says Katelyn Donisch, ’09. While 48% of Carleton students claim to have been on dates with at least two people in the last year, it seems that for some reason, there is a perceived lack of dating at Carleton. Ultimately, it is apparent that there is somewhat of a disconnect between those in relationships and those are not, where it is apparently impossible to get in a relationship, even though almost half of Carleton students are in one.

For those on the prowl, though, there are some routes to success. 78% of those in a Carleton relationship said that it started by transitioning from a friendship to a relationship. So have a look at your friends, because chances are they’re not dating, so the path is free. Although it’s possible they just don’t have the time. It’s hard to ever tell what the dating situation at Carleton really is.

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