Ask a Wesleyan student about the dating scene on campus and most will respond pretty quickly with “What dating scene?” Mostly because at Wesleyan, we like extremes. To put it simply, you’re either WesMarried or you’re not.
And apparently this is no recent development. Back in 1999, the WSA commissioned a survey to the entire student body asking them for their biggest gripe about Wesleyan. “By an overwhelming majority it was dating,” WSA Vice President Jenny Ma ’01 told the Argus. To address the problem, the WSA went so far as to set up a date line called GALS (x4257) to help singles find compatible dates.
Anyway, Ask Someone Out Day originated with Chuck Legere ’00 and Jesse Divine ’98, apparently based on a previous event called Get the Balls to Ask a Girl Out Day. According to Legere:
“Dating should not be such a huge, super-serious deal. You should be able to go out on a couple of dates with somebody and see what they’re like and have it not be a tense thing. If we need to have an official week to get people to do that, then that’s what it will be.”
The WSA liked the idea so much, they began to sponsor the week in 1997 and gave out prizes for the most creative date proposal and for the person who asked the most people out on a date.
However, the week quickly evaporated to the annals of Wesleyan history.
Brian Edwards-Tiekert ’00, Hermes Editor, back in 1997 described some possible reasons (which are scarily still very relevant) as to why ASOW failed and why dating at Wesleyan just doesn’t work:
The most common critique of romance at Wesleyan it that’s it’s incredibly polarized. Students popularly identify two kinds of relationship at Wesleyan: intense, long lasting monogamy (WESMARRIAGE), and random one-nighters (WESFLINGS). Frustration centers around the perception that there is no middle ground, no gray area where two people interested in each other can have a good time and learn more about each other.…
With ASOW we collectively acknowledged the miserable absence of dating on campus. The campaign itself demonstrated that we have the time and energy to do something about it. So what is it that still stands in our way? It seems that there’s some irreconcilable gap between the conventions of dating and the nature of the community we have here.…
Many claim dating began as an urban phenomenon in the 1920’s. Men and women were segregated enough in the course of their daily lives (at work, at school, etc.) that they had to make appointments to see each other socially. The lack of community in the growing cities left people alienated enough from one another that they had to formalize even casual interaction.
Compare that to Wesleyan, and you might see why dating seems out of place here. We’re a small enough community that it’s hard not to get to know each other. There’s no great divide between the sexes: we go to class together, eat together, live together; we even share bathrooms. What’s more, our conception of romance has broadened to include same-sex relationships as well.
We often go on what could be considered ‘dates’ under other circumstances. Think about it, when was the last time you spent time alone with someone you could be attracted to? Did you have coffee in the campus center? Go to dinner together? Walk through Wadsworth? Catch a play? Call it a WESDATE. The only substantive difference between that and a ‘date’ is that calling something a date confirms you’re attracted to the person you’re with. A WESDATE’s a little more ambiguous. Yet when compatible people can get to know each other in the normal course of the day, it leaves conventional dating without a pressing gap to fill.
So rest in peace, Ask Someone Out Week. You were a cute idea at the time, but as the quick and sudden death of Wesmatch ultimately proved to the next generation of Wesleyan, dating is just not likely to catch on any time soon.