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Redefine What's Romantic

By Eva Shang, Crimson Staff Writer

The media added another fatal flaw onto the current laundry list of Generation Y’s maladies: Besides smartphone-obsessed, narcissistic, and incapable of human interaction, Generation Y is inept at romance.

In the past few years, New York Times editorials and Daily Beast articles have chronicled and lamented the prevalence of hookup culture. Most recently, Andrew Reiner wrote in the Times of the newly formed need to “teach a generation how to love.” He cites workshops at Duke and University of Kentucky with names like “How to Be in Love” as solutions to Generation Y’s incompetence when it comes to romantic intimacy. (Perhaps, Reiner muses, a grade-based seminar would aidthis resume-obsessed bunch.)

While hookup culture certainly plays a prominent role on college campuses, it’s a blatant and almost laughable fallacy to think that an entire generation of young adults has absolutely no idea how to go about courtship. Romance, as a human tradition, has survived millennia of changes in form and tradition. Surely it can withstand the rise of Snapchat.

There’s no reason to believe that just because previous generations followed certain patterns of courtship that are now growing obsolete, our generation is doomed to emotional unavailability. Even if the customs of dinner-and-a-movie have faded, the emotions behind love and dating remain the same. In judging based on superficial traditions, critics of Gen Y are prioritizing rituals over actual connections. Even if the label then was “going steady” and now is “not-quite-Facebook-official-we-should-DTR-soon-though,” changing customs don’t have the power to erode the need for human connection.

Romance is simply changing form. The average marriage may take place later in one’s life than it used to, but modern young adults still have the same emotional and physical needs that they did in millennia past. Romance is simply adapting to more egalitarian gender roles, faster forms of communication, and a greateremphasis on career-building. Just because guys aren’t pulling out chairs and kissing ladies’ hands doesn’t mean romance is dead—it’s only different. Just because couples are splitting the bill evenly to account for the closing wage gap between men and women doesn’t mean that the coffee wasn’t a building block to growing romantic intimacy. And lastly, just because we spend less time on traditional forms of dating in favor of resume-building activities doesn’t mean that meaningful connections can’t be formed over Model UN conference tables or research magazine drawing rooms.

Perhaps this change in form seems like a regression to an older generation who didn’t grow up with the new tools of communication that today are so much a part of us. But there’s a layer of intimacy even to Facebook chat, measuring the spaces between the times your conversational partner hits enter, picturing the typing and deleting as it appears in your chat box. We may have new tools and methods of communication, and yet the feeling and intimacy remains the same. Previous generations had love letters. We have Snapsterpieces. Who’s to say which is better?

If we gathered all of the adults currently fretting about the dating lives of Generation Y into a room and showed them a brief film reel of how dating has morphed over the ages—from furtive romances in the Middle Ages between adolescents before girls were traded for a cow as dowry, to drive-in dinner in the 1950’s, to casual college romances now, perhaps we could assuageeveryone’s fears about dating. It’s normal for romance to change over time. We will probably have successors who date another way—perhaps they will revert back to typewriters and formality.

Now hold on while I go Snapchat my crush.

YingYing Shang ’17, a Crimson editorial writer, lives in Canaday Hall.

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