The Collegian
Tuesday, November 29, 2022

The Richmond dating culture: settling for anything but the best

Guy: "Hey, [girl's name]! How are you?" (Ye olde Richmonde tip-of-the-hat gestural question, which more than certainly does not require an answer other than...)

Girl: "Good, what about you?" (Naturally, he's --)

Guy: "Good." (Action complete.) "So, do you have a lot of work to do tonight?"

And then, in what I would have thought would be taken as an irresistibly Michael Cera-ish way, "Just because, you know ... I just wanted to know if you had any plans because ... well, me and a few people were talking about maybe hanging out for a little while."

His line here continues, but I just want to stop and note that to complete the visual of the situation, you must know that he stood in one spot and pivoted in place in order to maintain eye contact as she continuously sidled around him toward the library entranceway.

Despite her impressively rapid sideways movement, I was able to catch her eyes rolling from my seat on the library bench as he tried to find the right way to ask her to chill with him.

Guy (cont.): "Anyway, I'd love if you came and hung out, too." (Phew -- right as she got her first foot in the door.) "I mean, if you don't have too much work, or whatever."

Girl: "Uh -- now I do." (I'm not kidding. She said that.)

Guy: "Oh ... uh, ok, tha --"

Girl: "K. See ya." (And ... that's a wrap.)

As the guy turned to walk down the library path, I saw his face get a bit distorted.

I'm no Miss Cleo, but his face looked exactly like that of the 2-year-old I babysit for when he's trying to put a star-shaped toy into a circular tube; this guy had just been faced with a puzzle so complicated that hindsight embraces the inevitability of defeat from the initial step past ritual greeting.

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What, exactly, had he done wrong -- and more disturbingly, what would doing it "right" entail?

I watched him disappear into darkness and music began playing in my head -- it wasn't emo to match his loss, nor was it a love song to mock what that interaction could have developed into given time.

Instead, it was a rather brilliant song by a less-than-leading but applicably savvy band, and the words that distinguished themselves within my mind's ear at this particular moment go as follows: "I make them good girls go bad."

Except at the University of Richmond, it's not the girls who are destroyed.

No guy wants to be "the nice guy." That guy doesn't get the girl -- we all know that.

This is often explained through the idea that "girls like a**holes," but this is misled by our tendency to see things in pairs of opposites - we all know that a-hole appeal is the No. 1 sign that a lengthy relationship is not a future possibility, as one key distinguishing factor of an a-hole is his noncommittal attitude.

"Nice guys" tend to be unworkable in their own way, but "good men" are really what ladies seek. A-holes are consistently involved in game series in which the winner walks away with his or her self-esteem, and most women (and men) tend not to enjoy games where the stakes are so high for the loser.

The problem at Richmond is that the notion of a-hole lovin' is an actuality. A-holes are respected, even revered. They really do get the girls, creating a paradox between methods and outcome -- the methods by which male-female connections must be established are also the methods by which the possibility of standard long-term romance becomes void.

The result? Goal compromise, on both male and female sides.

Men change their goal so that it becomes more quantity and less quality-oriented, while women change their relationship standards so that a "standard" relationship is still possible in given circumstances.

So we hide the stain by throwing a blanket on it, but the conflict is solved only on a very superficial level.

Neglecting to deal with it directly gives rise to its transformation rather than its elimination, and thus a new problem arises instead: a-hole perpetuation.

The a-hole standard for dating behavior is perpetuated by both genders to encourage higher levels of "success," as it has been redefined by both stagnantly discontented parties. This guy outside the library was just another one, biting the dust.

Most of you probably agree that I don't need to run around campus collecting survey results to see these problematic patterns. They are observed and discussed by a significant portion of us on a daily basis.

In fact, the a-hole conflict on the love scene seems to pop up more than any other topic in conversation.

After a week or so of some heightened observation, I believe I have pinpointed the most repetitive points of date-talk (and these findings seem consistent with my more intensive past experiences with fellow Richmond students):

Female:

-whether one should go against what she indicates are her stronger instincts by accepting a sexual invitation from someone who has expressed the likelihood of lost interest in her altogether if she declines

-whether directed vulgarity and intentional condescension can actually imply feelings of intimacy and cherished love

-which specific sexual acts should be counted as grounds to break up with someone when performed with an outside party

Male:

-which girl is hotter

-which girl is easier

-whether one is better off "going for" the hot girl or the easy girl

Hark, reactionaries. He or she who does not believe me should prove me wrong by running around taking those aforementioned surveys. Even better, conduct interviews. I can only imagine what a video recording would reveal.

In fact, various studies have been conducted at the university on various topics within this field. While those pertaining to the psychology department are kept strictly confidential, the rhetoric and communications department prefers to put significant findings on the radar for students to dissect at will.

A student conducted an experiment a few years ago on a self-chosen topic for a communication class. She wanted to find out whether male or female students have a harder time recovering from a break-up from a significant other.

Her theory was that men have a tougher time because of various emotional factors of social circumstance, such as the pressure to keep descriptions of feelings at the bare minimum.

She was surprised by the results. Despite all the whining and moaning associated with the female coping technique, it was still women at Richmond who suffered more than men during the recovery period following a split.

The student took the experiment further and set out to find out exactly why the results were what they were.

This is where it gets more interesting. After gathering more information from subjects and analyzing patterns in subject response, the answer was clear. Men felt that the mating pool on campus was virtually limitless.

Break-ups weren't too devastating for them because finding another woman was not something they perceived to be problematic in any way.

Women, on the other hand, perceived the loss of their respective boyfriends to be absolutely irreparable; they felt that finding another guy like their lost loved one would be utterly impossible.

Before my time at Richmond, I had never heard a woman simply refuse to break up with a guy she felt to be in many ways substandard on the basis that he was still better than anyone else swimming in the gene pool -- that "no one will be this good to her" again.

While I'm sure it did happen from time to time, the majority of female Richmond students with whom I regularly interact have stated a reason along those lines for choosing to pursue or maintain such a relationship sometime during their time at the university.

It appears we are confronted by a chicken-or-egg dilemma.

Which came first, a-hole or a-hole lovin'? Did women at Richmond create the a-hole ideal and reward the men who encompassed it best, or did men begin encompassing the a-hole ideal on their own accord and leave women with no choice but to accept it?

Most importantly, how do we stop the a-hole perpetuation cycle in its tracks? Sure, we're college kids and our romantic sentiments are fated to be as distorted as the inevitable "hook-up culture" suggests.

Regardless of our flawed romances, we aren't a student population that readily accepts less than the highest standard for anything we can measure.

If we can refuse any one of the available D-Hall desserts in favor of another, pull all-nighters to study for midterm exams then give class presentations the following day and step in place for over an hour on the elliptical, we can find it in ourselves to comply with only the highest standard in the dating field as well.

Our relentless quest for perfection is characteristically so unyielding, and thus it is difficult to explain why the aspect of our lives which we choose to neglect is one of the few with the very real potential to make us happy.

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