By Alana Bremner
Nausea pulls her out of her sleep. Why did she drink so much? She props herself up on her elbows and stares at the wall until the feeling subsides. She sees her small Burberry bag open on the floor. Frantically, she checks its contents. Phone. License. Debit card. No cash. Waking up with cash is rare when after a few drinks you think it’s vital to generously tip every bartender that hands you a weak vodka soda. At least she didn’t lose anything. The Maryland flag hanging from the wall catches her eye. The gaudy colors of the flag offend her, and it makes her dislike the strange boy asleep next to her in bed.
Maryland Boy shifts, and she wonders if he’s awake. She dreads the inevitable interaction that is about to take place. They’ll spend an awkward half-hour together scrolling vigorously through their phones to avoid conversation. The few words they’ll exchange will only be to exclaim how drunk they were the night before: a disclaimer. They’ll never touch. Neither of them will ever indicate that they have any memory of what happened just a few hours ago. Eventually, when it becomes clear that none of her friends are going to respond to her text messages, she’ll ask him for a ride home. He’ll say yes. He’ll throw her an oversized t-shirt with his fraternity letters plastered on the back, and they’ll be on their way. She’ll never speak to Maryland Boy again. At least she got a shirt, right?
This is the new normal in college. Two people drunkenly meet in a bar or at a house party. They have mutual friends. Maybe they’ve seen each other around before. They stumble home together. They hook up. They never speak again. Not only do they never speak again, but they do everything in their power to avoid each other. The thought of an encounter is uncomfortable. Blatantly ignoring the other person’s presence or avoiding a situation altogether is easier than a cordial conversation. They will never get to know each other. Their relationship will never blossom into everlasting love or end with a blowout fight where inanimate objects are smashed. They will remain strangers. This is the hookup culture that is so prevalent on American college campuses today.
Hookup culture has inspired countless media stories and research studies. The questions surrounding the topic are infinite, and the answers are often unclear. Why is hookup culture thriving? Are young adults benefiting from it, or is it hurting them? Who, if anyone, is to blame? What are the implications? And, maybe most importantly, when does it stop?
Hookup culture emphasizes being casual, nonchalant and carefree. Effort is not expected and is often viewed as desperate. Romance and love are no longer goals, and a relationship is no longer the endgame. So, when does the cycle break? Maybe hookup culture is left behind with college. Maybe, faced with death or conversation, two people will be forced to get to know each other and they will fall in love. Or maybe young adults will be waking up next to Maryland Boys for the rest of their lives.
Bremner is a senior studying public relations