What happens when your sister starts dating your close friend?

By: Niko Haloulos, Contributor

When my sister started dating one of my closest friends, I felt like I was looking into a kaleidoscope. I was distracted by the twisting shapes of my emotions, thoughts and feelings, but as time went on, I decided to look at their relationship as a full, unified pattern and it changed everything.

When we were allowed to see a few friends outdoors, I hosted a 19th birthday party. As smoke and laughter filled the air, I peeked over to see that my friend had snuck into the chair beside my sister. I guess they had been talking the entire night, even though they had never met before.

I woke up the next day and realized that my sister was acting giddier than normal. When I asked her about it, she simply said, “You know, if your friend there ever asks for my number, you can give it to him.”

Suddenly I realized that my friend and my sister had begun to develop something that they both thought was special. I couldn’t hinder that so when I met up with my friend a few days later, I offered to give him my sister’s phone number. He accepted.

I did not think much about the consequences of setting them up. It seemed like pretty standard procedure, just passing along a phone number and encouraging my friend to ask her out on a date.

At the time of the party, my sister was only a few months removed from a gruelling breakup so this felt like a good way for her to meet someone for whom I had the utmost respect, trust and love. For my friend, it was a chance for him to meet someone who would help him become a better man. So why did I have such a problem with it?

My sister was only a few months removed from a gruelling breakup so this felt like a good way for her to meet someone for whom I had the utmost respect, trust and love. For my friend, it was a chance for him to meet someone who would help him become a better man. So why did I have such a problem with it?

I began to close myself off from the two of them and I felt myself disliking my friend for a few weeks. I constantly reminded myself that I had offered to share my sister’s phone number and that I had known that he would be a really, really good match for her. Even though I knew this deep down, on the surface I could not help but feel like they were pulling themselves away from me.

I knew I could trust my friend but suddenly, like the flip of a switch, I went into protective brother mode. I couldn’t look at my friend without wondering how he was going to treat my sister poorly and though I know she can stand up for herself, it felt necessary.

Whenever my friend would come to the house, it felt like my sister and I were fighting over him. I would only be allowed in the basement for a certain amount of time because eventually she would ask to be alone with him.

I would throw the “Well, he was my friend first. Why can’t I talk to him?” and my sister would become frustrated. I said passive-aggressive things about their relationship and got angry whenever she said he was coming over.

Soon enough, my sister became worried that I had a problem with their relationship and the anxiety in her expression when she asked me was devastating.

I didn’t own anybody. My sister is strong and knows her own worth, but for her to suddenly think that she would be offending me was a wake-up call.

My friend, too, became worried that he had crossed some kind of line. He asked my sister if I was truly unhappy about them being together and said he wished I would talk to him personally. When my sister told me what he had said, I was saddened.

I had been blinded so much by my pride that I forgot to consider one thing: happiness. Being with my friend had brought a sparkle to my sister’s eyes that had been absent for a long time. My friend, too, slowly began to change, becoming more mature.

I had been blinded so much by my pride that I forgot to consider one thing: happiness. Being with my friend had brought a sparkle to my sister’s eyes that had been absent for a long time. My friend, too, slowly began to change, becoming more mature.

After long talks with my sister and my friend, we reached a better place. We still had some small riffs, but the instances of disagreement became more lighthearted, rather than rooted in jealousy and regret.

When he came over to see my sister, I knew my only role was as the brother. When my friend and I planned to hang out, I didn’t discourage him from saying hi to my sister.

I’ve realized that all three of us have become stronger emotionally by sharing this love that propels itself in different directions. My trust in my friend has grown exponentially because of how he has treated my sister.

While we’ve always been close, I have been able to communicate more openly with my sister since her relationship with my friend started.

The awkwardness took time to clear and I had to communicate very openly about how I felt. Now I’m still standing in the middle ground, figuring out how to equally distribute my time between my friend and my sister and not get in the way of something truly special.

Their relationship is not a violation, but more of an invitation for me to explore just how appreciative I can be about something that is so genuine, pure and beautiful.

How the Aphrodite Project and similar projects have changed dating

As the pandemic continues to surge and COVID-19 regulations remain in place, many are finding romance and fun. From dating apps to newly-designed matching algorithms, students are being matched by the thousands from the comfort of their beds. This is especially true when it comes to university students in Canada, including at McMaster

Rates of online dating usage have increased since the beginning of the pandemic. Tinder, Hinge, OKCupid and many other apps have all reported increased use.

However, in addition to a rise in online dating app usage, there have been many innovative projects seeking to help students bound to their homes and laptops find a match. 

Perhaps most notable among these projects is the Aphrodite Project. The Aphrodite Project is an algorithm that matches students based on their responses in a long questionnaire.

The project was designed by two University of Toronto exchange students, with the first trial of the software having been trialled in Singapore in 2019. After it was clear the algorithm was a success and full of promise, it was adapted to Canadian universities, starting with U of T and the University of Waterloo.

The site is now open to students across many universities, including McMaster. For many, this algorithm was a success and a way to find love and happiness amid the pandemic.

Among students who found love through this algorithm last year is Karin Lie, a fourth-year student at the University of Waterloo studying psychology. 

“I was very impressed,” Lie explained. “We did get along very well.”

The first batch of matching in Canada was completed in 2020, with thousands of students being matched prior to Valentine’s Day. The developers of the Aphrodite Project even opened up a special version of their algorithm, Aphrodite Project: Pandemic Edition.

This targeted students amid the onset of the pandemic, which hoped to offer students an opportunity to meet someone and be distracted from the gloomy times of 2020. 

In addition to the Aphrodite Project designed by students at U of T, there are similar projects that have been designed specifically for students at Mac. Among these are Match At Mac, which was run over the summer of 2020 and Mac Aphrodite Project.

These operate similarly to the Aphrodite Project designed at U of T in which Mac students fill out questionnaires and are matched with what is calculated to be the best possible option. Students participating in the Mac Aphrodite Project received their matches on Feb. 13, 2021.

These projects are important this year, as the transition to online learning at universities has presented challenges to many, with fewer opportunities available for socializing and romance. For many students, these algorithms offer a more thoughtful and personalized way to meet potential matches that involves more than swiping right or left.

Although romance and love are obviously never guaranteed, these platforms offer a new and unique way to meet people. As an alternative to conventional dating applications, more personalized platforms like Aphrodite Project have the potential to become pivotal to online dating and match-making.

Among the students frustrated with dating apps during the pandemic is Abby Liznick, a second-year health sciences student at McMaster. 

“At a time when we are all longing for a connection and the ability to spend quality time with others, many turn to dating apps to find instant companionship,” said Liznick. “While these connections temporarily fill the social void left by the pandemic, they are just that — only temporary.”

These matchmaking projects are a testament to the adaptability and innovation people have come up during the pandemic. They offer a glimmer of hope for those who are unable to otherwise experience romance or socializing due to the social restrictions, especially those who are hesitant to try online dating apps. 

Marzan Hamid, a second-year health sciences student, took a chance over the summer of 2020 and completed the Match At Mac questionnaire, eventually to be matched with someone later that year. 

“I think it’s really great that students are taking the initiative to connect others, especially during these unique circumstances,” explained Hamid. “It’s nice to find out that there are still creative ways to meet new people even during a pandemic. I’m sure this will benefit many of my peers!”

“I think it’s really great that students are taking the initiative to connect others, especially during these unique circumstances,” explained Hamid. “It’s nice to find out that there are still creative ways to meet new people even during a pandemic. I’m sure this will benefit many of my peers!”

Thousands of people have been matched by recently-made dating algorithms. This is in addition to the huge rise in usage of dating apps like Tinder since the pandemic began. The future looks bright for dating among university students stuck at home.

Artist: Edwin Thomas, @edwinthomas__

Title: his last valentine

Medium: single-line digital drawing with watercolour

Description: A first glance, the drawing appears to portray a man giving his girlfriend flowers. However, the details show both individuals with tears leaving their eyes, trying to keep themselves composed in front of each other. It depicts a failed attempt at saving a relationship by making an effort for Valentine's Day. While the flowers appear to be a nice gesture, both individuals know that their relationship is not going to last for much longer. In a way, the flowers are an apology to his girlfriend for his lack of effort in the relationship.

Artist: Jenna Iacobucci, @jennaiacobucci

Title: Pose me (1-5)

Medium: Ink illustration

Description: As with many, growing up with a conservative mindset brings a lot to overcome. But why should we be so scared to appease others? Each person offers a different experience, different backstory, different perspective, different strengths and different struggles — and it's wonderful. If only everyone could appreciate the beautiful composition of shapes they are.

Artist: Jenna Iacobucci, @jennaiacobucci

Title: Comfort (1-2)

Medium: Photography

Description: Do what you need to do to make yourself feel confident. From personal experience — turtle necks, baggy sweaters, long pants and censorship has only brought me delayed anxiety and stress in relations. I truly push for everyone to understand themselves. Don't hide.

Artist: Steffi Arkilander, @peachlily.png

Title: love is domesticity

Medium: Digital

Description: 2SLGBTQIA+ love is often fetishized and over-sexualized. However, 2SLGBTQIA+ love is so much more than how it’s stereotyped — it can be soft, gentle, kind. In this piece, I wanted to highlight the importance of soft, domestic 2SLGBTQIA+ love. I took inspiration from watching and reading about 2SLGTBQIA+ in media and also from my own life experiences to come up with this piece. “love is domesticity” highlights a queer couple watching television together and cuddling during a night in.

Artist: Emelia Da Silva, @emeliainbloom

Medium: Photography

Photo C/O Cecilie Johnsen

CW: Biphobia, transphobia

Friends, Romans and countrymen, lend me your ears. For too long I’ve had to put up with the same bullshit. This little bi is here to set the record straight. Biphobia and bisexual erasure are a daily reality for bisexual and pansexual people alike. Even amongst the LGBTQ2SIA+ community, biphobia runs rampant. While I have noticed an improvement in recent years, there are still a number of myths about bi folks that remain. Let’s bust them.

Myth I: Bisexuality is transphobic 

There is a common misconception that bisexuality is transphobic because it refers to attraction to only cisgender men and women. There are a number of reasons that this is wrong, but to begin with, trans and non-binary people can be bi.

“But Lauren, bi means two,” you say. “So you must only like men and women.”

Listen buddy, you’re being pedantic. Yes, technically the bi in bisexuality is meant to indicate an attraction to two genders. However, bisexuality was first recognized back when the idea of being transgender or non-binary was mostly rejected by Western society. At the time (and still, sometimes, today) society only recognized two genders. Our understanding of gender has evolved over time, and so has the definition of what it means to be bi.

It’s easy to say that bisexual folks are attracted to cis men and women, whereas pansexual folks are attracted to everything in between. It puts us into neat and tidy boxes. It’s easy to do that, but oh boy is it ever wrong. In my experience, the only difference between bi and pan is whatever label feels more comfortable to you. Personally, I just feel more comfortable with bi. 

My sexuality isn’t limited to the definition of bisexuality, but it feels necessary for me to have that label in order to exist in a society that is defined by labels. My romantic and sexual orientation is messy and complex and trying to fit it into a neat and tidy box is like Cinderella’s stepsisters trying to fit their feet into the glass slippers. Just because it’s easier for you to say I’m only attracted to men and women doesn’t mean it’s true.

Myth I: BUSTED!

MYTH II: Bisexuals are confused

On one side of the biphobia coin is the idea that all bi folks are one step away from coming out as gay or lesbian. Yes, it’s true that some people will use bisexuality as a way to experiment with their sexuality and branch out. Hey, coming out sucks, and I absolutely understand people who want to get comfortable first. That doesn’t mean all bi and pan people are just deluding themselves, it just means that some people may not be comfortable coming out without a transition period. 

The other side of this coin is the idea that bisexuals are actually just straight and are either confused or looking for attention. For a long time, I thought that I was just confused. I’ll be honest, I actually went back into the closet because I was convinced that other people were bi, but I was attracted to men so I guess I must be straight. I doubted my own damn sexuality, which is nonsense and ridiculous. No one should be made to feel that way.

Myth II: BUSTED!

Myth III: Bisexuals are promiscuous

Disclaimer before we get into this: I am NOT saying that it’s a bad thing to have sex. Have sex with as many or as few people as you want, I support you wholeheartedly! The thing that I do take issue with is people thinking that someone’s sexuality means that they want to sleep with you.Bisexuality is an identity, not an invitation. 

Have you ever tried navigating a dating app as a bi person? There are three main camps of people you’ll run into. First, unicorn hunters. As a rule, this is a heterosexual couple looking for a threesome. As I’ve mentioned, it’s gross to assume that someone’s sexuality means they want to have sex with you. Buddy, it is not my fault that you can’t please your girlfriend on your own. Buy a vibrator and leave me out of it.

The second group is biphobic people that think that bi folks aren’t queer. I am so tired of the “you must be this gay to ride” trope. It’s a relationship, not a rollercoaster. I can’t believe I need to say this, but bi people aren’t inherently more likely to cheat on you than anyone else. Just because we’re attracted to more than one gender doesn’t mean we can’t commit to one person.

The third and final group is decent human beings who actually want to date you, bless their hearts.

Myth III: BUSTED!

Myth IV: Bisexuals in relationships have chosen a side”

There is an assumption that bi people in committed relationships have “decided” that they are gay or they are straight. This is so unspeakably invalidating. It makes me feel like I’m right back in the closet again. Not everyone is out here looking for a polyamorous relationship (although if you are, more power to you), some people just want to settle down with one person. That shouldn’t and doesn’t invalidate their identity. Your relationship status doesn’t define your sexuality.

Myth IV: BUSTED!

Sometimes I feel like people have forgotten what the B stands for in  LGBTQ2SIA+. It’s not bananas, folks. A part of common human decency is to respect the way that people identify. I don’t need to justify my sexuality to anyone, and I shouldn’t have to. Neither should you. Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk.

 

This article is part of our Sex and the Steel City, our annual sex-positive issue. Click here to read more content from the special issue.

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Photo by Matty Flader / Photo Reporter

By: Alannah DeAngelis, Contributor

Dates can be a fun way to get to know your partner better and try new things together. Between school, catching up on all your Netflix shows and hanging out with your friends, it can be tough to make time for date nights. Try out these five date ideas where you can stay on campus and avoid breaking the bank! 

https://www.instagram.com/p/BcsJ1rAnxk_/

Planetarium Show

The W. J. McCallion Planetarium, in the basement of BSB, is an out-of-this world date idea! Shows run Wednesday nights and there is a new theme each week. Learn about outer space, stars, planets, comets and more. For more information, check out the McMaster Planetarium website.                                                                         

Cost: $7 per person.

 

Photo by Matty Flader / Photo Reporter

Video Game Room in Lyons New Media Centre 

Get your game on in the Video Games room on the 4th floor of Mills to find out which of you is the “Mario Kart” champion! There are five game consoles that you can choose from: Wii, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3 and PS4. They offer many games to play, all of which are available to rent for free. Bookings for this space can be made for up to 2 hours per day for all McMaster students.

Cost: Free! Just bring your student card to rent the controllers and games.

 

https://www.instagram.com/p/B2mcPb2HV0q/

McMaster Museum of Art

Check out some cool art with your partner at the McMaster Museum of Art right on campus. The museum is recognized internationally for its European paintings, drawings and prints. It is also known for its specialist collection of early 20th century German prints. This highly notable museum is just steps away from the Student Centre.

Cost: Pay what you can (suggested donation is $2).

 

 

Silhouette Archives

Trivia Night at the Phoenix

Test your knowledge at the Phoenix Bar and Grill’s Trivia Night, which happens every Tuesday at 7 p.m.. The theme changes each week, so you are sure to never be bored. Top teams will win gift cards to the Phoenix; perfect to use for another date night! 

Cost: Free when you purchase food or drinks.

 

Silhouette Archives

Hike at Cootes

McMaster is surrounded by beautiful hiking trails with breathtaking views. Go for a hike at Cootes (start at the trail behind the Alpine tower) and explore what nature has to offer in McMaster’s backyard. Notably, the Sassafrass trail includes a lookout platform onto Lake Ontario. Who knows, maybe you will even see some deer along the way! 

Cost: Free! 

 

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Photo C/O Madeline Neumann

By: Anonymous contributor

I never imagined that I would date my teaching assistant. I also never imagined that I would have a “W” on my transcript from dropping their class. Dating my TA was probably one of the worst decisions of my undergraduate degree.

When I got into a relationship with my TA last semester, I didn’t think it was too big of a deal. Dating your TA is much more socially-accepted than dating your professor or course instructor.  

For one, the age differences between you and your TA aren’t always that big. My TA was two years older than me, but I’ve had TAs who were my age or younger. In that case, it’s hard to impose a ban against two consenting 20-somethings dating.

But what a lot of people don’t recognize is that there’s a power imbalance when dating your TA. Even when they’re the same age, or a bit older, there’s the fact that the TA is in a position that can strongly influence your academics and career.

When I had talked with my TA about our relationship, he told me that the department frowned upon student-TA relationships but there was no strict rule against them. While he was “required” to fill out a conflict-of-interest form, nobody forced him too. As long as he gave my assignments to another TA to grade, nobody batted an eye at our relationship.  

I don’t think that’s enough. Especially in classes where TAs are asked to deliver lectures or hold review sessions, it’s not enough to require TAs in relationships with their students to not directly grade their work. Their presence alone influences their students’ marks.

Even when I got out of the relationship, I still felt ashamed and embarrassed every time I had to see him in tutorial or lecture. When I found out that he had marked my midterm, I was angry but didn’t know what to do. It’s difficult to tell your professor the reason you want to switch tutorials or have your test remarked is because you slept with your TA.

In the end, I ended up dropping the class and dodging questions from people asking me why. I still see my TA around campus, however, and I’m scared that I’ll be assigned to his class again. I’ve been so anxious that I’m even considering switching programs to avoid him.

A conflict of interest policy is not sufficient. I reviewed Mac’s conflict of interest policy for employees and there is a section that states that a conflict of interest is present when an employee of the university engages in an “intimate relationship with a person who relies upon them for opportunities to further their academic or employment career”.

However, the only actions an individual must take when this conflict arises is to report to their direct supervisor, who can then decide if the “conflict is confirmed”. If it is, then the case is moved to higher-ups who decide what sort of actions need to be taken to remove the conflict.

But by the time that decision is made, it’s probably too far into the semester to make any changes. In my case, my TA didn’t bother disclosing our relationship since he knew the only action that was required was that he didn’t grade my work.

Even though it states in the policy that failure to report will result in “appropriate disciplinary procedures”, I’m not confident that the university enforces this.

McMaster University should protect their students by banning student-TA, or any student-faculty, relationships altogether. These relationships have harmful power dynamics that blur the lines of consent, and can sometimes be considered sexual harassment or assault.  

I’m not saying that all student-TA relationships end poorly. Sometimes it really is just bad timing when two people happen to meet. But if a relationship is meant to be, it can wait till the end of the semester to begin.

Dating your TA seems like a fun and sexy experience. In reality, this kind of relationship can be complicated, embarrassing and act as a huge stress on your academics and your mental health. Honestly, that cute TA isn’t worth it.

 

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webonly3

The bar you’ve never heard of date

So you’re going out with a cool cat, eh? But you’re feeling a little scared that they’re going to find out that you have a tendency to talk to your cats for too long and you have an active relationship with the cast of New Girl? Well, first, tell them all of that because you sound like a dream. Second, dare to show them that cat lovers and New Girl diehards are cool too.

What screams “I deserve to be at this underground music show?” Culottes (Alice & UO Enalle Tie-Waist Culotte Pant, $82)! Topped with a bow. Like the present you are.

Amp up the sexy calf action going on with some sleek leather heels (Kelsi Dagger Brooklyn Lexington Heel, $145), and make sure they have a thick heel because you’re gonna be dancing like you know all the lyrics. Complete your otherwise black outfit with a blush tank featuring daring crochet work (Project Social T Andi Side-Tie Tank Top, $42).

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webonly4

The Netflix and chill date

Hopefully this date was posed ironically, with the unintended consequence that the most notorious date of them all was born. Societal expectations for Valentine’s Day plans be gone!

But just because you’re breaking the Valentine’s norm, doesn’t mean you have to break every norm. Gettin’ sexy, for example, is a great norm. So what to wear?

Well, because you two are being so cheeky, go with the obvious route here: match your undies to your mood with cheekier undies (Everly Lace Cheeky Boyshort, $10), and then slip into a Parisian-looking bra (Kimchi Blue Serena Applique Bra, $49) that won’t sacrifice the comfort promised with Netflix and Chill evenings. Top the look off with some over-the-knee socks (Lightweight Button Thigh-High Thermal Sock, $16) and the fuzziest pair of slippers (UO Fluffy Slipper, $14.99) you have.

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webonly5

The “I’m going broke” dinner date

You’re pulling out all the stops this Valentine’s Day, opting for an over-the-top traditional candlelit dinner at a restaurant where you will be the only ones who aren’t thirty or forty something. It’s fun pretending to not care about money, isn’t it? Yes, it really is.

Tonight, start with something that makes it look like you boldly accept all traditions that go along with Valentine’s Day – an elegant red number (Keepsake Interlude Lace Bodycon Dress, $219 or a shorter option, Silence + Noise Mekka Strappy-Red Dress, $109). But then bring out that twenty something rebellious nature and throw on a denim jacket that boldly displays your nineties roots (Kimchi Blue Woodstock Embroidered Denim Jacket, $129), a pair of ankle boots (Isabella Buckle Ankle Boot, $104) and some whimsical anklets (Polka Dot Anklet Sock, $16)!

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webonly6

The you-suck-a-lot date

So your date is taking you to Hawaii? Fuck you. Wear this though: (Out From Under Printed Longline Underwire Bikini Top, $54 and Out From Under Printed Flat High-Waisted Bikini Bottom, $54).

Accessorize!

No outtift is complete without a few pieces of jewelery. Your date might have a piece waiting for you at your date, but it’s better to be safe than sorry, so don’t leave with an incomplete outfit. These small details can really tie your outfit together and take it to fashion-blogger level. Depending on your personality, it can be small and subdued, like a ring, but can also be a statement piece that’s big and sparkly.

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“Do you only date people from your own background?” my friend asked. I’d like to think the answer to that question is no. My partners have all been radically different from each other — in personality and appearance — and I’ve never been accused of having a “type,” but one thing I had never really thought about was that most of my partners so far have been white.

I’m not alone in my apparent habits. OKCupid data from 2009 to 2014 shows that the vast majority of members had either a preference or indifference towards dating someone from their own race. However, the data also shows us something a little bit nastier: 82 percent of heterosexual non-Black men said that they weren’t interested in being matched with Black women, and Asian and Black men were significantly less popular among heterosexual female users. This may be information from only one website, and for a set number of years, but it is indicative of wider trends in the way we approach our relationships.

It’s not terribly surprising that racism seeps into all aspects of our society, including our romance, but you might be wondering why your preferences are a big deal. Discriminating against someone in a job interview most likely has a larger impact on them than deciding not to ask them to dinner (also, if you aren’t interested in dating someone because of their race, I’m willing to bet that person isn’t all that interested in getting a meal with you anyway). However, we can’t say that racial preferences in romance have no effect whatsoever. In her article for Vice magazine about the experience of being a Black woman on Tinder, Eternity Martis talks about the impact that racism has on a user’s self esteem. Being hypersexualized, tokenized and fetishized from all angles when looking for a relationship understandably takes a toll on one’s feelings of self worth.

Martis is not alone in her experiences, which are unfortunately not uncommon. This begs the question: if our preferences are not random, and are instead part of larger societal trends, where do they come from? Some explanations might include evolutionary psychology, but if humans are programmed to be attracted to physical prowess and symmetry, why should this exclude People of Colour? Another explanation might be that we are interested in people from our own racial background, but if this was the case then we wouldn’t see specific discriminatory trends in dating patterns.

Instead the answer is exactly what you would expect: ubiquitous White supremacist beauty standards. We can see the ways this manifests in media representation. How often do we see Asian men as romantic leads in Hollywood blockbusters? On television shows, how often are Black women described as “the one”? When you can count the number of interracial couples in contemporary media on one hand, it starts to make sense why racism might make its way into our dating lives.

At this point you may be feeling insecure about your preference for brunettes, or wondering if you have been fetishizing that tall guy you see in the student center based on his height. Don’t fret. Having preferences is not the same thing as discriminatory dating. I’m not proposing that we should all date people we aren’t attracted to in order to prove a point, nor am I demanding that you change something you may have no control over such as what features you are attracted to. People in interracial relationships are not necessarily more enlightened than the rest of us, and people who date those from their own backgrounds are not necessarily more racist. What I’m asking instead is for us to take a step back, and look at our race-based preferences critically. Let’s demand better representation in our media, expect respectful interactions on dating websites, and think twice before we dismiss someone as “not our type.”

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal

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Does it seem like everyone is getting into relationships these days? You may be witnessing the social phenomenon referred to as “cuffing season.”  SHEC is here to answer questions you never thought to ask.

What in the world is cuffing season?

“Cuffing” describes the supposed biological urge to find romantic or sexual partners (or both) when the autumn season commences. The intention is to “cuff” a companion to stay with throughout the upcoming winter months.

Is it real?

On its face, the theory does seem reasonable — as days get shorter and leaves begin to fall, the autumn season can put a damper on the fun and carelessness of summertime. Some may feel lonely on increasingly dark nights and seek the company of a special someone. Why wouldn’t we seek out the company and closeness of others with the impending frigidity of a Canadian winter? In fact, a study in the journal Emotion published in 2011 purported that humans associated colder temperatures with increased loneliness and solitude. Nonetheless, cuffing season remains to be verified as a real, scientifically based theory.

What biological reasons can explain the phenomenon of cuffing season?

It can likely be explained from an evolutionary perspective. Since the term “cuffing season” does not sound very scientific, and no research has been done on the subject, I can only invent an argument to explain it. For example, it would surely be advantageous for a primate to share body heat with a partner in the cold fall and winter months.

Those are interesting physiological theories. Are there any possible strategic explanations?

Yes, certainly. A relationship may facilitate the acquisition of resources, mainly food that the couple can share. Also, going on romantic dates might mitigate the effects of the oncoming Seasonal Affective Disorder that results from the bad weather.

But really, how healthy are relationships, with two people drawn together by the cold?

I would not jump to the conclusion that these relationships are necessarily unhealthy. Every relationship has a unique starting point or a trigger, some more romantic and perhaps warmer than others. However, to the individuals who are feeling the desire for some warm romantic cuddles, I would proceed with caution. Be honest — first to yourself and then to your potential cuff mate — about what you want out of this relationship. Perhaps a good test to see if you’ve fallen into the cuffing trap is to ask yourself if you would want the same relationship in the summer. Once successfully cuffed, make sure to check in with your partner every so often to ensure everyone is still on the same blanket, especially as the days get warmer. A last word of advice for those feeling colder and lonelier as the days get longer and darker: friends can offer some lovely cuddling benefits too, without the risk of heartbreak!

Photo Credit: Arno Burgi/Getty Images

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By: Beth Barr

One of my favourite family stories is how my grandparents met. They, literally, bumped heads over a microscope during undergraduate biology in the 1950s. Their story, although beautiful, is far too romantic and spontaneous for my over-stimulated brain. So I beg the question: where do we meet men and women to date?

It would seem that app developers around the world have leapt to our rescue. Why not put dating where we keep our music, schedules, alarm clocks, games, and light reading? For a generation dependent on cell phones for daily function and comfort, it only makes sense to tie dating into our virtual world. Right in your pocket, people across campus are using apps to “see” multiple people, changing the very nature of the dating game. Hook-up apps aside, the expediency of the dating app world puts hundreds of other people at the mercy of your swiping thumb — people you may have never interacted with otherwise.

It is a beautiful thing – opening your horizons and meeting new people can never be thought of in a negative way. But when we look at the quality of these interactions, what do we find? Quick and easy hook-ups are great; but how do you really get to know someone through a screen? What happened to the face- to-face struggles of dating and conveying who you are in the span of a date? When did our generation decide that the ease of detachedly sitting on the other end of a phone or computer was worth more than making a long-lasting, quality connection?

Let’s address an interesting question: can we, as intelligent young adults, successfully make the transition from a semi-detached virtual connection to an in-person one? How would we go about doing this? Might we chuck our phones out the window and run to the person with whom we’ve been sharing details of our lives? What if that person isn’t who they made themselves out to be? We’ve all heard of “Catfishing” over the Internet— heck, there are entire TV series on this topic.

Can we, as today’s youth, be comfortable and unashamed about using these apps? Most importantly, can we make these connections strong enough to sustain a new generation? Or will the next generation be the product of divorced/separated parents, whose love story is a lie conjured from the embarrassment of meeting on Tinder?

Okay, fine, maybe I am exaggerating in my anti-Tinder tirade. Perhaps these so-called hook-up platforms are nothing more than a silly game people play in their spare time. Maybe Tinder and similar mobile apps could be a platform for love at first sight? A medium that could facilitate the happy relationships and marriages of couples that were just meant to be? I am doubtful, but cannot say for sure. There are some people who dismiss apps like Tinder and other dating sites like OkCupid as not viable options for real relationships and we have all heard online dating horror stories, but maybe, there is a possibility to find love in a hopeless place.

Dating apps have been around for a while but they’ve become increasingly popular on university campuses. Only time will tell whether our generation will be the one of simple, spontaneous love, or just love for things that are overly simple and spontaneous.

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