Dating Comes to Deerfield
Deerfield can offer its students many things–excellent academics, wide-ranging co-curricular options and exposure to friends and teachers from all over the world–but it has not typically been able to offer normal high school dating experiences which are an important part of adolescent and personal development.
Admittedly, I may be a little “old school” when it comes to dating. I picture a young man or woman borrowing the family station wagon to pick up a special friend from home, taking the time to meet Mom and Dad, before heading off to dinner and movie, returning just in time for an 11pm curfew.
That notion of dating is informed in part by the John Hughes movies of the 80s and some of my own experiences as a student in public school. And it’s in stark contrast to more recent “hookup” culture that has made its way onto campuses like ours. In that context, a boy or girl gets a text that another student is interested, and arrangements are made to meet up–either directly or through mutual friends. Sometimes romance follows; Sometimes… not so much.
I lamented the absence of dating at a school meeting in December, joking that knowing how to ask someone on a date should be a graduation requirement for all Deerfield boys and girls. I’m all for text messages and tweets, but neither should replace the valuable skill of direct, face-to-face communication, even for something as awkward as teenage romance. Those comments to the school reignited some of the conversations we had about healthy relationships when Cindy Pierce joined us in September, and The Scroll ran a story on the viability of a dating culture at Deerfield. Was our parietals/visitation policy to blame? Isn’t dating really awkward? Where would DA students even go if they were interested in spending time together like that?
Doing our best to simulate a dating experience within the constraints of a boarding school environment, we offered our first Date Night at Deerfield in February. A section of the dining hall was arranged with tables for two, replete with tablecloths and flowers. The staff there stayed late, set up a buffet, and served sparkling cider and a wide array of finger desserts. Fifteen couples (and the Scroll photographer) attended and offered rave reviews! Our second Date Night took place on the weekend of April 15th.
Looking ahead to next year, I expect we’ll offer two Date Nights each term with a range of activities for couples. Combined with our Open Dorms, when girls and boys are permitted to visit freely throughout designated dorms with faculty on duty, and campus configuration that deliberately pairs boys and girls dorms, I’m confident that we’re fostering healthy relationships among Deerfield students. These initiatives may not fully replace hookups with meaningful, long-term commitments, but I’m hoping they’ll continue to move us in the right direction. While there won’t be a final oral exam, I hope seniors will leave Deerfield with the confidence and ability to ask someone on a date!
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