Exploring American’s small world of dating and answering the age old question: is high school dating important?

Ananya Balaji

Staff Writer

     “W Rizz.” “Pulling ‘female dogs.’” “Got no game.” If you eavesdropped on some conversations around American’s rotunda this past Valentine’s Day week, I can almost guarantee you had heard at least one of these phrases.

      If there’s anything the frequency of these phrases says about dating culture at American, it’s this: there isn’t one. And even if there is, it seems fair to say the majority of us think of it as a joke.

     Akshera Paladhi (11) interprets the usage of those phrases and says, “I think the people who aren’t in relationships usually think it’s immature and stupid. But the people who are in relationships think it’s cute. Some people outside of relationships also find it all cute too, though. But from what I’ve seen, the majority of American gets no b******. Not in a mean way, like, it’s just a fact.” 

    A senior in a relationship, who remains anonymous due to parental pressures against dating, says, “Genuinely, I think [those phrases] just belong to people who can’t find someone to date. Or they’re just using it frivolously, like as a joke.”

     According to some, the seriousness of the dating culture at American has more to do with the individual couple we’re talking about. The anonymous source explains, “It depends on who the two people are. If you’re just coming in and you’re not emotionally mature enough or have enough going on for you outside of just focusing on dating, that can end up being sort of bad for both people involved.”

     The seriousness of dating also depends on age, even in the meager four year gradation in high school. Anonymous describes, “In our grade, it’s honestly really pleasant. We have some long-term couples who are some really, really nice people who are together.”

     The anonymous source’s partner reflects on that maturity lacking in some of the younger grades. “I know of some freshmen who really idolize Andrew Tate, and it’s not a joke. They were talking about how many girls they had in their DMs like it was some game.” 

     He adds on the dangers of some people’s mentalities towards dating, saying, “I think it only takes one bad experience [with dating], if you’re really young, to fall down that rabbit hole of this ‘culture of masculinity’ movement. And I think that really indoctrinates some kids to view women less as partners and more as trophies.”

     Given the large volume of people not in relationships, there begs one obvious question: why? Do people just not want to be in relationships? And why not?

     Paladhi answers by saying, “I think a lot of people have this highly romanticized view of dating and that I think people do want. That sort of perfect relationship idea they have in their head. But I don’t know if people actually are interested in the realities of dating.” 

     The parental pressures against dating and high academic rigor also intersects with American student’s desire to be in a relationship. Paladhi describes how, “I can’t speak from personal experience, but some people I know who are dating have told me how it can be a little difficult at times to manage, with school and all. I mean, it’s just like adding anything else to your plate. You have to decide your priorities and how you’ll manage them.” 

     Paladhi adds on saying, “A lot of parents here, at least maybe South Asian parents, don’t really come from a culture where dating is normalized, like even as an adult. A lot of parents here are from arranged marriages and the whole culture surrounding relationships is different for them. So I think that makes them only view dating as a distraction from studies or something dirty.” 

      Some students even agree with these contentions from parents. The anonymous male source argues, “I think we got really lucky because we were both able to actually really grow with each other in our relationship. We had a lot of classes together so we got to help each other be better academically and even help each other improve with our extracurriculars. But honestly, if you’re in high school, it most likely is a bad idea to be dating. Because dating is not the most important thing to be doing. It can be a defining feature, but what really matters is how you develop as a person, the friends you make, and really just using the time to learn as much as you can.” 

     Paladhi agrees, saying, “I feel like high school is such an important time to focus on self-love, and learning more about yourself, and building confidence. And I don’t know if dating always works with those things, at least if you’re in a toxic relationship or one that’s kind of immature.”

     But some believe that the importance of dating, specifically when it comes before a romantic relationship, may be under-emphasized in today’s society. 

     Mrs. Thorsen, an English 9H and English 11 teacher, says “Sometimes I’ll make a joke about ‘this is what happens when we get into a relationship with someone we don’t know’ [when teaching Romeo and Juliet]…Decades ago people used to date more than they do today…You would have an activity to get to know each other and develop a relationship. We seem to have reversed that in today’s society, where we jump into relationships without necessarily doing the dating.” 

     She adds on the potential learning that can happen through being in a relationship, saying “Part of the ugly of being a teenager is learning how to manage interpersonal relationships. That includes friendships, family relationships, and also relationships with potential romantic partners. And in some ways it’s better to get out a little bit of that in your teenage years than to suddenly find yourself in your twenties or thirties having never had a romantic relationship and wanting one and making the mistakes you would’ve made as a 14 or 15 year old, but instead you’re 26 or 32.” “So yes, some dating is okay,” she cautions, “if it is culturally appropriate and your parents are cool with it.” (From this caveat to the anonymity of sources in this very article, it seems like the parental dismay of relationships never lurks far behind here at American.)

     Ultimately, it seems as if dating at American is anything but a joke. It’s defying parental expectations, it’s learning to balance priorities, and perhaps it’s even learning about yourself. So yeah, pull “female dogs.” Show you have “W Rizz.” But there’s an awful lot of space that’s left between the frivolous jokes and bouquets of roses. And that space is filled by something else: the maturity you grow.

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