What is it about the word “date” that makes boys say “um?” and girls say, “pass the dictionary.” In the olden days, dates were the staple of American male-female courting. Young men and women across the country were awkwardly sipping on chocolate malts and getting to know each other over rare hamburgers at the local drugstore.

Today, it seems as though the whole date aspect of dating has been thrown into the lost and found pile, getting trampled by students running through frat houses looking for bedrooms, rather than conversation, to help get them acquainted with a new interest.

As I walked into the lounge of my sorority floor just last week, I interrupted a bizarre conversation. My friend was announcing to the girls on the surrounding couches something about a date, and Saturday night, and a restaurant, and a boy and sweet.

I dug through my brain, trying to piece together these seemingly disjointed ideas. I admit I have always been bad at sentence and word scrambles, but this puzzle was just too much. I found I was not alone, however, as a fit of pandemonium broke out.

Some girls in the lounge looked on fearfully, biting their nails and staring. Others said things like “You’re kidding” and “Oh my god this must mean you are going to get married, I’ve heard about this sort of thing before!”

We gawked at our friend as if she and her freak-of-nature-boy were extinct animals come back to earth. This odd duo needed to be handled with care and then meticulously studied. We feared this rare token of insight into pre-historic times – an era when a date was not just a waxy brown fruit – would vanish as quickly as it appeared.

An emergency meeting was called and a plan of action was drawn. Our primary concern was that our fellow sister was about to embark upon an extra-terrestrial journey with an unusual life form. We coached her on emergency procedures and other necessary cautions.

After about an hour of panic-driven conversation, it occurred to one of us – maybe this creature wasn’t so weird after all, but unusually normal. Had we all gotten so caught up in meeting guys solely through hooking up at parties that we had forsaken the true essence of the beginning of a healthy relationship?

Why is it that, to girls today, the thought of going out on a date evokes either marriage or sheer terror? Has dating been drowned in a sweaty sea of frat-party hookups, replacing going out to dinner with making-out?

Permutt is a member of the class of 2008.

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