It’s hard to read the news this weekend. Today’s NY Times story about the rise of a hookup culture in college http://nyti.ms/1aBZakL makes me sad for them and mad at us. Several accomplished and talented young interviewees detail daily lives that are “too busy for relationships”, making hooking-up for casual sex a new normal for women and men alike. The counter argument, offered to women in particular, by Princeton Alumna and mother Susan Patton in the Daily Princetonian last March is summarized as follows: “For most of you, the cornerstone of your future and happiness will be inextricably linked to the man you marry, and you will never again have this concentration of men who are worthy of you.” Her anti Lean-In views were so provocative that a division of Simon and Schuster gave her a book deal.
Is this really where we’re at? College is either about padding your resume and hooking up (= so-called progress) OR finding a husband (= the old-fashioned way)? And we try to move forward by fueling and funding the debate at these extremes? No wonder our children are so confused.
Let’s bring humanity back into all of this.
We live fully when we learn. We live fully when we are in authentic relationships with other people. We are built to do big, positive things in collaboration with each other. In an ideal world, we practice all of this within our family, then in school with our family at our side, then in college, and then we evolve and leverage our talents within the working world. If college becomes a fierce competition by day and a series of emotionally empty and often drunken hook-ups at night, something is going very wrong. When do we practice those things which build our creativity and our empathy, as well as our resumes? When do we practice those things which align with our humanity? How will we ever grow changemakers, capable of steering our rapidly changing world toward a more abundant future?
How about this: tell young women and men that college is a time to study hard, learn a lot, find your passions, understand how those passions intersect with what the world needs and values, support each other, and build authentic relationships. That’s what my parents told me. Did I study hard and learn a lot? Yes. Did I find some passions? Yes. Did I leverage college into graduate school and a career? Yes. Did I make some mistakes? Everyone does. Did I have a boyfriend? Yes. Did he become my husband? No, but he was a good man and our relationship was a template for more relationships with mutuality and ultimately, marriage, with the right person at the right time when we were both capable of investing in each other and then children.
This is not a feminist, anti-feminist, or even old-fashioned approach to college. This is simply a human approach. Our children should not be pressed into anything else.
Photo credit: Elizabeth D. Herman for The New York Times