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Romance According to Patrick

Patrick Ehlers

(Brent Schwert)

Dear Patrick,
Why do people date?
-Stefany SitThat is a truly excellent question, and one that I’ve asked myself time and time again. Do we date because our souls are searching for their cosmic mate? Or do we date because we’re all too horny for our own good? Maybe there’s a little yes from either side, but I like to believe there’s a set of far more complicated answers.
First, I think we date because people have always dated in some form. It’s a tradition thing – we really don’t know what else to do. And if you trace the institution of the date too far back, you start to say, “But Patrick, people weren’t always dating, they were just getting married.” Then I’d slap you in the face for showing me lip and lovingly explain that our current dating system is a little like having trial marriages.
Think about it. For the most part, we date monogamously and we worry about things “being official” and even have to ask people out. It’s basically a half-assed marriage. Well, maybe that’s too generous, let’s say a 3/7-ass marriage. More than a third, but less than half, is what I’m getting at. The point is, our relationships don’t feel like temporary marriages because we don’t carry through on what most of those old-timey marriages actually intended – consolidation of wealth.
I don’t know about anyone else out there, but I’ve never had a date that started with a movie and ended with opening a joint checking account. Also, doesn’t it seem like a huge step to buy something with someone? I’m not talking about a pizza, but a futon or nail clippers or a punch bowl. I have so few monetary resources as it is – and I imagine that most Lawrence students can relate – that the thought of going halfsies on something real absolutely terrifies me. Especially considering the second half of my answer to the “why we date” question.
We do it because we like the impermanence of the whole thing. Deep down, we recognize that we’re taking a trial marriage for a spin and pretty much everyone expects that relationships will end. Dating is a really convenient way to get to know someone, get some action, feel loved, and then move on. You can call this assessment what you will – callous, shortsighted, pessimistic, blah, blah, blah. That’s the way it is. We kinda like having the free out. Breaking up with a friend doesn’t really work very well, not to mention not that it make much sense, but end a relationship and you have an excuse not to see them for basically as long as you want.
We love the idea of “moving on” so much that we label each occurrence of “moving on” as a right of passage and herald our resultant personal growth. Many of you recently graduated from high school. Congratulations (though, come on, we all knew you would). Some of you will soon be graduating from Lawrence. I offer a preemptive congrats. Having accomplished both of these feats and living through both the celebration and the aftermath that follows has taught me that we’re expected to move on.
At Christmas dinner I had a hell of a time explaining to my grandmother that I did, in fact, graduate from Lawrence, but I’m still living on campus, still employed by the university. I didn’t move on and cultural expectations show us that this is a form of failure. But, for better or for worse, and whether we want to or not, we can all move on from a relationship. We date because we have the power to stop dating.
That and as you get older, it becomes increasingly hard to find friends that will cuddle with you. God, cuddling is great.
Come to think of it, I once went halfsies on an Xbox with Scott Sandersfeld. It currently resides in his custody, but it comes to visit me two weekends a month, though it usually spends that time taking advantage of my guilt complex and making me buy things for it.

Still waiting on a name that suits the column. Send in suggestions and questions to ehlersp@lawrence.edu