In my senior year of high school, I turned to my mother and told her that I didn’t understand the concept of love. Shocked and a little bit disturbed, she turned to me and insisted that I did, in fact, understand love. I loved her, right? I quickly reassured her that I did love her and that I did feel the emotional love, but I pointed out that I might love a boy in AP Biology class just as much. I wasn’t sure that I was fully grasping the concept of love yet. The next day, when the boy in my AP Biology class officially started dating a different girl, I revised my previous statement. I did, in fact, understand love and I certainly didn’t love the boy in my biology class. I also solidified my belief that I was great at forming concrete opinions in academic settings, but had a hard time forming concrete opinions on topics of life and love.
In high school, it was easy to separate the different areas of my life. Academics and unchanging opinions were reserved exclusively for school, and outside of class, I was free to watch my opinions morph, change, and develop. However, things got messier when I arrived at Wesleyan—a place where academics constantly converge with all other areas of life. I’ve never been ashamed of the changing nature of my opinions, but I suddenly felt as if it was finally time to form some concrete opinions on life and on love. College was the time you were supposed to start figuring things out, right?
The topic I’m currently trying to broach is hookup culture. Before arriving at college, I had no idea that the phrase “hookup culture” even existed, let alone what it meant. But I thought that if I did some research and learned a little bit more, I’d be able to form a concrete opinion on the subject. My “scholarly” research revealed that hookup culture referred to a lifestyle that promoted casual romantic encounters. But the various psychology articles and dictionary definitions I skimmed still left me unsatisfied, and I knew that even the word “hookup” was vague, thanks to my high school health class. I definitely didn’t feel like I had enough information to form an opinion, so I turned to personal experience.
I found myself examining every emotion I had ever experienced regarding romance. In doing so, I found that when I thought of romantic feelings, everything was a muddy “like.” I rarely felt like my feelings were strong enough to fully make a commitment to another human being, which prompted me to think that I was for hookup culture. But hookup culture immediately reminded me of the phrase, “I don’t want a relationship right now,” which in turn evoked a little bit of sadness and a whole lot of discomfort. And the casual, laid-back nature of not defining a relationship could be exhausting. The possibility of anything happening on a Friday night was exciting, but also stressful. I found myself back in my old habit of indecisiveness. However, I wasn’t defeated. There was still hope that I could form a concrete opinion on this pertinent subject.
This time I turned to my friends. Subjects relating to romance are topics we discuss regularly, so it wasn’t so unheard of for me to turn to my dinner table and ask, “How do you feel about hookup culture?” My friends are all intelligent and mature with opinions I respect, so I thought they would finally provide me with the information I needed to form an opinion. However, I was met with the same indecisiveness I had seen in myself. There were a few, “I don’t know”s, an “I don’t have enough experience with it,” and even one shrug. I had been operating under the assumption that the adult thing to do was to form a definitive opinion, to take a stand. I thought I had two options; I could be either for or against hookup culture. But as I ate dinner and noticed my friends were still figuring everything out, just like me, I realized that the opinion I formed didn’t have to be black or white. My judgement could be that I didn’t have a fully formed opinion, that I was still figuring it out.
In my search for an opinion, I did learn a lot about the mysterious “hookup culture,” that the Wesleyan student body seems to constantly be talking about. Most importantly, I learned that we all approach the subject from a different perspective, which ultimately allows our opinions on the subject to be as elusive, mysterious, and as complicated as hookup culture itself.