Ah, Valentine’s day. While gorging yourself on chocolate roses and handing out kitschy kitten valentines can be fun, the day’s emphasis on couples can leave us singles feeling a bit… awkward. It can be difficult to ignore the emphasis the holiday seems to put on the fact that we are single, and thus, an annual chorus of “I just wish I could be in a relationship” echoes throughout the world.
And even though singles everywhere feel awkward about this day and their single status, I’ve noticed the desire to “just have a boyfriend/girlfriend” is particularly strong at Calvin, and not limited to Valentine’s day, either.
All throughout the year, jokes about the “Mrs. degree,” “freshman frenzy,” “senior scramble” and “ring by spring” echo throughout the campus. They may just be jokes, but humor always has its roots in an underlying truth.
From first setting foot on Calvin’s campus for orientation, I found myself being indoctrinated with the idea of coming to Calvin single and being expected to leave with a husband. Nearly every session, someone would make a joke about how the person sitting next to you could be your future spouse, and then later on they’d, joke about the “freshman frenzy” and the ridiculous marriage-crazed underclassmen. But how can you expect the culture and mindset to be any different when every session suggests that every person you happen to run into at Calvin could possibly be “the one”?
This phenomenon isn’t just restricted to freshmen, either. How else would you describe the explosive popularity of “Like a Little” a few years ago, or last semester, “Match made in Calvin”? The majority of conversations I’ve found myself in at Calvin almost always veer off into talking about relationships or, more frequently, how much it sucks to be single.
You see, all the talk and expectation of marriage creates a highly unhealthy culture for single Calvin students. Which is unfortunate, because it’s been my experience that I’ve encountered far more single students here than those in serious relationships. When students aren’t in these kinds of relationships, they begin to start asking, “what’s wrong with me that I don’t have a boyfriend/girlfriend?”
This is unhealthy. I promise you, there’s nothing wrong with being single. And there’s nothing wrong with you if you aren’t in a serious relationship. In fact, there are a lot of things about single that are actually really nice. However, rather than enjoying the freedoms that bless singledom, at Calvin we spend most of our time wishing that “we could just be in a relationship.” But that isn’t healthy either. In fact, that mindset just creates more problems; you should enter into a relationship because you deeply care for that other person, not just because you feel you should be in a relationship.
Any relationship that isn’t entered into because you care about and want to be with that particular person is a relationship doomed to failure. And this kind of failure cycles back to prompt the “what’s wrong with me” mindset all over again.
Beyond re-evaluating our personal views on young marriage and relationships, I think Calvin could go a step further and stop reinforcing the student marriage culture. I’m not talking about the lectures and sexuality series panels — those offer great discussions and perspectives on these issues.
Rather, I’m saying that we need to stop joking about it. We need to stop allowing ads that reference the “Mrs. degree” in Chimes, we need to stop insinuating that “the one” is sitting next to us at all campus-wide events, we need to stop joking about marriage in student news, etc. Most importantly, we need to stop sending the message to incoming freshman that they’re expected to find their spouse here. Because it gets the idea in their heads that there’s something wrong with them if they don’t find “the one” while attending Calvin. And there’s not. There is nothing wrong with graduating from Calvin as a single person.
Changing culture is a big task, and it’s not easy to clear this mindset from our heads. It’s taken me three years to recognize all the nonsense I’ve been thinking about dating at Calvin. But once you recognize it, it’s easy enough to dislodge. And once you’ve dislodged it, you can become an agent of change.