October 27, 2009

Granite in their hearts

Over homecoming, campus was aswarm with alumni braving the rain and nasty weather to watch Dartmouth win its first football game since 2007, and to reminisce and visit their old campus haunts.

At Phi Tau, the co-ed where I'm a member, a bunch of alumni came back for our annual meeting. We had some members going as far back as 1978. The truly amazing thing to me, though, is how many Phi Taus come back with rings on their fingers -- and have married other Phi Taus.

The cliche is that there is no "dating scene" per se at Dartmouth -- there's a hook-up scene that seems to satisfy no one. The notion of a dinner-and-a-movie date is almost mythical. There are also those who treat romance and relationships during Dartmouth as a fast-food kind of endeavor. I'll get the burger and fries to go; it will satisfy the hunger for a few hours, but I'll regret it later and get hungry all over again.

But saying that this wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am routine is the extent of "dating" at Dartmouth is patently false. The hackneyed lamentation that there's no dating at Dartmouth overlooks the fact that an eerie number of Dartmouth alums marry each other, after dating during their undergraduate careers. So clearly, someone's going out somewhere.

It's almost absurd. This article interspersed a real wedding announcement among farcical ones to see who could pick out the true one. The utterly fake sounding Dartmouth announcement read:

The bride and bridegroom met in 1999 during a five-day hiking trip for members of the incoming freshman class at Dartmouth, from which they both graduated, he magna cum laude. People on those excursions refer to each other as “trippees,” Ms. D’Elia said. “We had 50- to 60-pound backpacks and set up tarps in pouring rain. We hung out and hit it off and started dating a month into school.”
Now Ms. D’Elia loves to tell other Dartmouth alumni, “I’m marrying my trippee.”

Trustee Sherri Carroll Oberg '82 Tu '86, and CEO and founder of Acusphere, Inc., married Curt Oberg '78. He was the captain of the football team and in recent years has acted as assistant coach for Dartmouth Football. Both high-powered alumni, both still in the area -- makes sense they'd get married.

The Tri Delt website's "where are they now" page has this to say about one of their alumnae:

"Cathleen Thomas '93 says that after 8 years in advertising and marketing, most recently at Ofoto, she is now a stay-at-home mom. She loves it! Griffin Henry Thomas was born in November 2001. She and Chad Thomas '93 got married in 1998, after dating since their freshman year. They have been living in the Bay Area since graduation."

Apparently, these people saw something they liked, in some cases as early as their freshman year, and they hung on to it. But with all the chaos of college -- courses, off-terms, even just the natural process of discovering who you are and what you want from life beyond Dartmouth -- how is it that so many Dartmouth folks end up hitched?

Dartmouth is a pressure cooker. It's a small community, so you're in constant contact with the same people day after day. And the time constraints of the D-plan mean that you have to make friends, fast -- and decide quickly whether you want to make enough of an investment into that friendship for it to survive an FSP apart or an off-term internship. Plus, with the accelerated tempo of coursework in the quarter system, and the intensity with which most of the type-As here approach everything in life, it's no surprise that the dating scene would reflect this. From my own experience, the kind of "dating" that happens here is more like an insta-relationship. There's no courtship period, no wooing; you go straight from singledom to changing your facebook status to "In a Relationship".

Another reason we apparently find each other irresistible is that Dartmouth students are a rare breed. We're a strange mix of high intelligence, base humor and an affinity for booze. It's hard to find kindred souls out there in the corporate world, or even at other colleges. We're among equals here, and equals end up being much more attractive mates in the end. This is especially evident in Phi Tau. The fact that it's co-educational means that not only does it attract like-minded people, it attracts like minded people of both sexes. I'm not saying that some sorority girls and frat boys don't marry their sisters and brothers, respectively -- I'm just saying that throwing a bunch of mostly heterosexual men and women together in a house might spark relationships that last a while.

Especially if they're living in the physical plant at the same time. It's like a test-run of what living together on your own would be. Sharing a house with fourteen of your close (or not so close) friends tells you a hell of a lot about how much time and patience you're willing to spend on that person; if, during your undergraduate career, you find that you can stand sharing a bathroom and kitchen with the person you're dating, and that you still like them even after they've been off in Barcelona for a term, chances are pretty good that you've got the makings of a decent relationship.

And if that's too deep for you, take this comment from IvyGate on this video:

"see this is why dartmouth students all marry each other. because i, as a dartmouth girl, am both repelled and yet strangely impressed"

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