Letter from Campus: Love, Notre Dame Style

Author: Joe Muto '04

There’s always been a lot of talk about the battle between the sexes at Notre Dame. But for insight into the gender wars at Notre Dame, one need look no further than dorm décor during the first two weeks of February. Female dorms plaster the walls with construction-paper hearts and run pink streamers from the ceiling. The residents write notes on their friends’ dry-erase boards and pin cards to their doors. Compare this to the three years I lived in the dorm. One time my RA left a bowl of candy hearts in the TV lounge. That was it for three years. This year, living off-campus, I didn’t even get that.

Valentine’s Day at Notre Dame can leave a bit to be desired. As a second-semester senior, I’ve already seen three V-Days come and go, and I have to say I’ve been underwhelmed every time. Despite the enthusiasm with which the women bedeck their dorms, this enthusiasm rarely translates beyond interior decorating. One would think that any college, what with the heady mix of raging hormones and lack of parental supervision, would be a hotbed of activity on the day devoted to love. Alas, such is not the case at Our Lady’s university. Don’t get me wrong, the holiday has its true believers, but a majority of Domers greet the day with what can only be described as apathy.

I’d opine that at least 90 percent of this apathy is due to the weather. As I’m sure alums can attest, South Bend in mid-February is barely habitable. Nothing dampens the youthful fire of the loins like wind chill in the single digits. Also contributing to Domers’ apathy on the 14th is the distinct lack of a healthy dating scene on campus. Some strange combination of parietals and deeply ingrained Catholic guilt has combined to produce a student body that views romantic advances with suspicion if not outright hostility.

The lack of dating does not stem from lack of encouragement. Efforts are always under way by campus events programmers to encourage dating. In the week before this Valentine’s Day, Legends (the new, improved Senior Bar) hosted a round of what’s known as “speed dating.” Basically a man and a woman chat at a table for five minutes. When time is called each person rotates to another partner. After several dates, a scorecard lets you rate each potential partner. At the end of the evening the organizers gather up and tabulate all of the cards. If a man and a woman are mutually positive about each other, the organizers e-mail out phone numbers.

This may seem like some sort of bizarre social experiment, but according to a buddy who tried it out, the participants actually enjoyed themselves. Legends may have stumbled onto the perfect dating experience for my short-attention-spanned generation; speed dating is the romantic equivalent of channel surfing. For those lucky enough to actually have a special someone before the Big Day the Glee Club offers a simple service that’s especially good for the perennially cash-starved college student. For a mere $3 a quartet of singers will telephone your beloved and sing a song. And as much as your girlfriend would like to be serenaded by the hauntingly beautiful “Thong Song,” the Glee Club insists that you stick to one of three classics: “Wild Irish Rose,” “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” or “Passing By.” But the fun doesn’t end there. For a mere $2 extra, the quartet will not only deliver the serenade live and in person at the lucky lady’s dorm room but will sing a second song and present her with a rose to boot. That’s a lot of brownie points to score for a measly five bucks. For my fellow seniors who happen to be in serious relationships, February 14th is another layer of added pressure. “Ring by spring” becomes the unofficial mantra for dozens of ND and SMC women, and many of their boyfriends are plenty obliging. It’s only fitting that the Grotto is the most popular proposal site, even with the chilly South Bend weather. The candles in front of you, the lake behind you and Mary’s watchful eye surveying the whole scene; it’s a fitting cap to a Notre Dame career. Personally, I won’t be getting engaged this Valentine’s Day. But I may follow the cue of a friend of mine who faked a proposal in the dining hall our sophomore year. He stood on his chair and screamed his proposal for all to hear. His female accomplice pretended to be overwhelmed by the moment and burst into tears while the stunned lunch crowd clapped and cheered around them. This to me is the most encouraging aspect of Valentine’s Day here at Notre Dame. Though not every undergrad will find love with a fellow Fighting Irishman or Irishwoman, they all at least possess the good grace to be happy for those who do find love. For those who’re still looking for that special someone, well, there’s always next year. You never know when that next round of speed dating will put you across the table from your future soulmate.

Joe Muto is a senior double majoring in film and English.