The College Hookup: Reconciling our Dependence and Independence

Parties suck.

Well, unless you’re drunk and find someone really hot to grind on. Actually, if you’re drunk enough, the “really hot” part doesn’t matter much. What does matter is that a lot of college students go to parties scouting for someone to take back to their room that night.

That’s not news, but what I want to add is that the hookup culture isn’t just the result of alcohol and horny young adults. There’s a conflict college students face: how do you reconcile your need to be independent with the desire to be with a significant other? It’s been something haunting me for quite a while. I say that I love being single, that I love the freedom, that I love the lack of commitment. And then I spend the twilight hours between consciousness and sleep wondering why I can’t be happy with someone.

We know we’re supposed to be happy by ourselves. We can be. I am. But then why do we spend so much of our time looking for someone else?

Maybe part of it is some sort of societal norm. I mean, when most movies aren’t complete without a romantic subplot, we’re taught to want that. We’re made to believe that “happily ever after” always happens for two. We grow up thinking that we’re all going to get married and spend the rest of our lives with one person. That’s the thing—human life has somehow become a search for that one special person.

Whether it’s external or something intrinsically human, everyone seems to have an obsession with being in love. Yeah, I know, we’re in college, but that force still acts on us. There’s a ridiculous hookup culture on campus, but I don’t believe that all people go out to parties hoping to not return to their dorms until morning for purely physical reasons. For a lot of people, it is just physical, but for others, it’s to fill an emotional void. At a campus where “romantic” connections seem largely shallow and fleeting—and often drunk—finding physical contact with another person is a temporary fix for something more meaningful. It’s a compromise between having that sort of connection with someone and the desire to be free from commitment.

As young adults, most of us feel the need to be independent. We’re learning how to stand on our own and many of us know all too well how a relationship can hinder you from having experiences—especially certain kinds of experiences you can have at college. The hookup scene will suffice for now.

And yet, it isn’t enough. There’s a reason they call it the “walk of shame.” There’s a reason short-lived physical interactions aren’t fulfilling. There’s a reason you end up feeling slightly embarrassed and disgusted in the morning.

I think there’s hope in that empty feeling in your stomach after hooking up with someone whose face you can’t remember. Even if we’re not ready for more right now, we’re only human. It’s somehow natural for us to crave deeper relationships.

Just give us some time to be young and stupid. I promise, we’ll be better when we’re older.

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