A few days before spring break, I received a letter from a group of first-year women called SSFF, which stands for Several Sexually Frustrated Females. The women expressed a concern I've heard many times before: the absence of the dating scene at St. Olaf. To quote them directly, "The dating scene at St. Olaf is an outrage." Every year a group of students write a letter or article on the subject, which is then printed in the Manitou Messenger. I've read them for four years, and though I exclaim "Right on!" upon reading each one, none offer any new theories on why this happens.
But the SSFF letter was different in that it offered innovative ideas as to why there is essentially no casual dating at St. Olaf. We've all heard the same arguments, it's the church influence, or the marriage statistic or that people are too busy to date. However, SSFF offers the following theories: "Do guys lose their nerve after they leave the protective womb of high school dating? Are the females at St. Olaf that jaw-droppingly gorgeous that the majority of men lose every shred of daring in their bodies when they are faced with the opportunity of approaching one of them?"
I'd never thought of the dating problem at St. Olaf as related to intimidation, but the women of SSFF have something. There are beautiful women at St. Olaf. Then again, there are also beautiful men. While I agree that intimidation has something to do with it, it's not just women intimidating men, but also men intimidating women. And, of course, there are feelings of intimidation between gay, lesbian and bisexual students. Because the SSFF wrote to me as straight women, I will address dating in the heterosexual St. Olaf community. But the problems are just as rampant in the homosexual community, and are often more complicated.
The women continue, "Honestly, we're just normal girls, down-to-earth chicks, just looking for someone to have fun with. Why don't the guys notice that [quality] in us, and then go for it?" I wish I had an answer. My only thought is that many Oles approach college with an attitude of severity and seriousness, i.e."I'm going to triple-major" or "I'm going to make it to Nationals." St. Olaf isn't a particularly casual place. Fun is not a virtue we value, at least not as much as a good work ethic or a perfect grade. St. Olaf pushes for commitment -- to studies, to Christian values, and to one partner -- which can equal the death of casual dating.
SSFF's concern is particularly amplified by their statuses as first-year women. In my first-year dorm, while the women diligently studied, the men were throwing spitballs at each other and making farting jokes. First-year men are often mentally younger than first-year women. I know a number of St. Olaf underclass women who date older men because they're frustrated with the immaturity of the underclassmen, and I applaud them. In fact, I make that suggestion to you SSFF ladies.
Their letter closes with the following: "Something has to change. Dating has to be more accepted, less awkward, and way more celebrated. And if this radical overhaul of the outdated system does not in fact take place, the admissions office should at least alert the incoming first-years to the crushing blow that their love lives will endure after setting foot on "The Hill." I couldn't agree more.
These girls have voiced what so many of us voice every year: the need for a "dating revolution." In defense of St. Olaf dating, I know a number of people who go on dates with various people -- myself included. It does happen, but we have to make it happen. We have no one to blame but ourselves.