Dating Down

With college admissions coming to a close, Senior Spring has fully descended upon campus. Senior Spring brings a certain relaxation to campus, at least among the graduating class. They no longer feel obligated to complete all of their homework each night, stay in the library on sunny days, or confine their time in Ryley Room to watching “The O.C.” Nor do they limit their sexual exploits to upperclassmen. Boys and girls alike begin to look for underclassmen with whom to share their final PA Spring, before entering the world of older (and much anticipated) COLLEGE girls and boys. Perhaps Seniors look beneath their grade for younger companions (even freshmen) in order to revel in the immaturity of one last high school relationship before embarking upon more serious relationships with their counterparts at college. Seniors want to have fun in their last term of high school – who better to enjoy spring with than a freshman, who has the least work and no stressful or time consuming board positions? Seniors are probably also drawn to underclassmen because they are simply easier and less stressful for them to obtain. Underclassmen (at least two years younger) tend to be less critical of upperclassmen both because upperclassmen are inherently cooler than them and because the two groups operate in different social spheres. Therefore, underclassmen will almost certainly have a completely different, and more flattering, image of a Senior or an Upper than someone closer to their age. Of course, Seniors are also just bored with their grade after three long years. Often it is much more difficult to find people romantically appealing after an extended friendship or simply after hearing about and witnessing their character flaws for years. However, this trend is not confined to Seniors; all grades are tempted from the boundaries of their class during the Spring. There are many mixed-grade couples on campus, however students hold boys and girls to separate standards. Most boys are expected to date beneath them at some point during their PA career, yet many make fun of upperclass girls in the same situation (although the underclass boy in the relationship is not usually teased). Upperclass boys may ridicule these girls because they are jealous of the underclassmen for stealing dateable girls from their sphere. Or maybe they are just angry that a girl can date across a range of grades for her entire high school career, when boys usually find success in the upper grades, as there are more options below them (i.e. a freshman girl can date a Senior boy much more easily than a freshman boy can date a Senior or Upper girl). Regardless of their reasoning, it is an unfair standard. However, I do think that PA is more receptive to inter-class relationships than other high schools, though not necessarily other prep schools, across the country. However, dating down involves complex rules and there are varying levels of social acceptability. For example, it is much more acceptable for an Upper to date a freshman, but for any Senior (regardless of sex) it is considered weird, and even creepy. However, a Senior dating a Lower is more respected than an Upper dating a freshman simply because of the stigma associated with freshmen, although the age difference is the same. Also, if an upperclassman kisses a freshman or Lower it is more important that the underclassman be “cool” than if that same upperclassman were to kiss someone in their grade, or older. Why date below you if not for the best? These unstated rules are superficial guidelines for inter-grade dating at PA. Although most students do not feel compelled to abide by them, and more may not even be aware of their existence, they – at least subconsciously – guide students in the Academy’s dating game.