Navigating love

It’s not everyday that you’re asked to read Romeo and Juliet “with passion” in your English class. But for Simi Prasad (’15) and Cameron McClure (’15), who have been together for more than a year, experiences like this are a daily occurrence.

And this is only one of a number of things that have changed in Prasad’s life since she started dating. “It’s like you know if you have a really close best friend and you just go everywhere together, or you spend every conference time and lunch together. It kind of becomes like that. So, I think it does change things quite a bit,” she said.

Having another close friend, though, isn’t the only thing that defines these relationships. Oliver Chene (’16) – who was in a relationship for his freshman and sophomore years – found that being in a relationship provided a best friend, and more. “I think it’s just to add another level of intimacy to a relationship,” he said.

THE PRESENT

As Chene walks through the High School, he sees a major change in the dating culture over the years he has been at ASL.

Chene has found that because there can sometimes be a gray area on whether two people are in a serious relationship or not, it is less discussed and more accepted. “When you get up to higher grades it’s more common, and it’s less talked about because there are a lot of people who you don’t really know if they’re a thing, or if they’re dating so I think it’s just accepted; people kind of just deal with it,” Chene said.

Kjersti Anderson (’15) has noticed similar changes within the High School. Specific to this year, she has found that more students seem to be entering serious relationships, making the concept less foreign. “It’s a little more serious than a lot of the past relationships I think some high school students at ASL have been in,” she said.

This sense of maturity is also visible due to inter-grade relationships. “For instance with people … dating through different grades that’s just showing us there’s this new level of maturity,” Chene said.

In Prasad’s mind, a culture has developed where “people are constantly looking for someone to date.”

That may be true. In a Standard survey of 203 students, 42 percent of respondents said they were currently in, or had been in a relationship in the last 12 months. While it may not be that everyone is “constantly” looking for someone to date, a significant dating culture does appear to exist at the school.

THE PURPOSE

Explaining why students seek to enter relationships, though, requires looking at both psychological factors and the school’s social structure.

For Counselor Stephanie Oliver, students’ desire to be in relationships is down to several factors. While Oliver thinks a lot of motivation is “completely sexual,” she also sees several subconscious factors as playing a role in students’ desire to be in a relationship with another individual. “Well, one, it’s modelled for us. It’s modelled for us [that] part of growing up is getting into a romantic relationship with somebody… And then, I guess two, feeling needed, feeling wanted, feeling validated, is an important part of it,” she said.

Attachment theory – an idea that all humans need someone who they can rely on and trust to succeed – is also a big factor in Oliver’s eyes. “Teenagers, they’re looking to detach from their parents in a lot of ways. They want to prove [themselves] and be independent on their own without having to turn to their parents for everything. And sometimes they do want to go back, but they kind of want to figure out life and the world on their own. But through that, I think there’s a desire to get a primary attachment figure that’s outside of their family unit,” she said.

It’s not all about psychology, though. Over 60 percent of respondents to The Standard survey said their primary motivation to enter into a relationship was simply because they wanted to be more intimate with someone. “I think obviously there’s some sort of need as a teenager to have some level of intimacy with other people. Like there’s some caché to having a counterpart. I mean, for me specifically, I just met someone that I really liked and got along with,” Caiohme Mesch (’18), who is currently in a long term relationship, said.

Although having learned a lot from being in a relationship, Chene understands why some people question the purpose of being in one. “Obviously we’re not getting married – a lot of us aren’t – so there’s that question of like why bother,” Chene said.

For her wanting to be in a relationship has never made sense. “It’s not going to last forever. And there’s a lot better things you could do with your time. I mean I understand why people are in relationships, it’s just like, personally for me, I don’t really see the point,” she said.

High school students’ lives are busy; full of academics, sports and other extra-curricular activities. Because of her busy schedule, Anderson has chosen to not pursue a romantic relationship – she would “want to do it somewhat right.”

Anderson would like to give her full attention to someone, something that she currently feels she is not capable of. “I don’t have the time, or really the interest, and I don’t think I personally have the maturity level to be in a relationship that I would want to be in. So, like why do it [halfheartedly]?” she said.

Although Anderson has chosen to not be in a relationship, she does understand why some students choose to be in one. “I think some people see being in a relationship as being like [an] end goal kind of, and they’ve achieved that, and it’s just like they enjoy having someone that they can call theirs,” Anderson said.

THE IMPACT

The impact on a culture, though, is more difficult to measure. Whether it be changes in a social group or the presence of public displays of affection (PDA) in a community, relationships have an impact on multiple facets of the High School.

For some students in relationships, their social life changes, while for others it remains the same. Having been friends with her boyfriend before they started dating, Prasad’s social life hasn’t had to change. “I think the nice thing for me is that we’re kind of friends with the same people to start off with, it’s not like we come from different friendship groups,” Prasad said. “I don’t have to split my time, because I can be with Cam and be with my friends at the same time.”

For some, though, things do change. Chene still spent a lot of time with his friends, but he also spent more time with his girlfriend. “[My friends] always told me I never hung out with them, but I did. I hung out with them all the time. It was more just I shared equally,” he said.

Because students can be so “loved up” in relationships, Anderson has noticed that at times they can forget about their friends. “In a lot of situations, your friends are going to be there more than boyfriend [or] girlfriend,” Anderson said.

In addition to changing friendships, relationships also at times impact the rest of the community in regards to the presence of PDA.

Social Studies Teacher Sana Shafqat has experienced uncomfortable situations where she has had to ask students to separate because of the affection they displayed. “It borders on the inappropriate and inconsiderate, because we are sharing a space, and because we have such a large age range in the school,” Shafqat said. “I think what people do in their private space and their private time that’s fine, but this is not really the private space that people are showing this kind of public display of affection.”

Sometimes, though, the impact is far greater than a label such as PDA or a social life, with relationships affecting even the most basic things for an individual. “I mean it does change because you see them all the time, and at least for me, I come out of my class and I’m like ‘oh, where is he? I’ve got to go find him’,” Prasad said.

For Prasad and others who share her situation, an intimate relationship grounds their schooling experience. Even though there are those who may avoid dating, relationships are omnipresent within the High School.

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