Courtney Laird ’13 and Carly Rushford ’13 had had enough with dating at Colby. But it wasn’t because, as seniors, they had eliminated all the eligible bachelors. They were disappointed because the dating scene, they said, seemed stuck in binary—with people either single in the party hookup scene or involved in serious relationships.
“The idea of going on a date has become so romantically connoted, and so scary because of that, that just the idea of taking someone out to dinner or coffee in the Spa has become so much more than actually just sitting down and getting to know someone,” said Laird.
Both Laird and Rushford wanted to get to know other seniors and to get some practice for the post-Colby dating scene. Last fall they spread the word, and the result—thanks to organizers Jonathan Kalin ’14, who has been active in the campus group Male Athletes Against Violence, Keith Love ’13, and Omari Matthew ’14—was “Take Back the Date,” a weeklong program intended to show students how to ask someone on a date without romantic pressure.
The week in April was packed with events aimed at both the casual dater and those in serious relationships. With restaurant deals in town, a relationship advice panel, a wine tasting, a ballroom-dancing class, and a jazz dance with live music, students had plenty to choose from.
Most popular were the steep restaurant discounts off campus, which provided an incentive for students to date in a more intimate or private manner—or just to eat out with friends.
Colby students—from small-table pairings to groups of friends—packed Riverside Café in Oakland Friday and Saturday night. Rushford dined with a group of six, spending more than two hours sitting, eating, and chatting. “At the end of the night we got twenty-five percent off our bill,” she said. “It was great.”
At the relationship panel student “experts” in the art of dating fielded questions and facilitated discussion with hilarious results. Panelists were a diverse group with different kinds of experience, from long-term long-distance relationships to shorter commitments.
The panelists kept the crowd entertained with funny anecdotes, but also doled out more serious advice for questions like “How do you prepare for a date?” and “What was it like meeting the parents?” and “What was the most romantic gesture you ever made?”
Archie Adams ’13, one of the panelists, said his most romantic effort was building a candle-lit igloo for his girlfriend of three years. Patrick Adams ’13 described a sunset picnic on the beach with his boyfriend.
“It felt much more like a discussion, rather than the end-all-be-all of romantic advice,” Archie Adams said after the panel.
“I really liked the setup because it felt more casual,” said Leah Walpuck ’13, another panelist. “I think that made all kinds of people comfortable asking questions.”
Even those with two left feet had a shot at impressing someone new. Though their sessions are always open to the Colby community, members of the Ballroom Dance Club saw new faces at their session Wednesday night. “Ballroom dancing was sort of a throwback to dating and also just a really fun event,” Love said.
With so much success, Kalin, Love, and Matthew plan on repeating “Date Week” every year or every semester. They have more ideas, like speed dating, a fashion show, or coordinating the week with Valentine’s Day. Said Love, “It’s a fun, normalized way to have noncommittal dates.”
And the actual dating advice? Everyone involved advocated taking a leap of faith: “My biggest piece of advice would be to risk it,” said Laird. “If you don’t take that risk, then what are you going to get out of it?”
“Be bold and have fun,” said Love.
“Just go for it,” Matthew said. “The worst thing that can happen is that they say no.”
Said Rushford, who, like Laird, spent her dinner-date night with a group at Riverside Farm Market and Café, “If there’s someone you want to get to know, you think is cool, you think is awesome, ask them out on a date. It doesn’t have to be a romantic thing, but it can just be a, ‘Hey, I think you’re a cool person, I want to know more about you. Let’s get dinner sometime.’”