Love is in the air, or so we’re led to believe.
Each year on Feb. 14, many people from kids to adults exchange cards, candies, gifts and flowers for their special “valentine.” In recent years however, it seems Cupid has been taking his sweet time to shoot his arrows of love as Indiana Wesleyan University students are waiting until their late 20’s to consider serious romance.
Single and ready to mingle?
To further celebrate singleness at IWU, the IWU Game Room staff developed a Valentine’s Day UNO tournament to foster fun and community. The event took place Friday night, and provided a cheerful and welcoming atmosphere for IWU students not particularly interested in dating relationships.
Game Room desk attendant Jake Doll (jr) explained the event, based on the popular card game named after the Spanish word for “one,” is a satirical metaphor for single students on Valentine’s Day who wants something to do.
“The game room exists because we want opportunities for students to stay on campus” said Doll. “We want them to have fun, so we’re just going with the idea that if you’re not dating anyone that’s totally OK. Just come here by yourself or with friends, no one needs to be alone on Valentine’s Day.”
Participants in the event were treated to red and white décor which lined the windows and walls. Classy nostalgic love tunes livened up the atmosphere as the sweet smell of sugar cookies and colorful frosting enticed both the nose and eyes. 30 singles packed out the event, enjoying their Friday night, and for those participating, they wouldn’t have it any other way.
But why are IWU students and millennials so content with singleness?
International Relations student Rachel Abrego (jr) attended the UNO tournament with friends, sporting red lipstick and a unique world atlas top. Abrego said she believes millennials are content simply because of the complexity of the student situation.
“For Christian students that attend IWU, we have these strict values that are idealized,” said Abrego. “When it comes to dating, if someone doesn’t meet our preconceived standards we set in our minds, we automatically shut the idea of dating down. Serious relationships freak people out because we don’t always know our future, and we don’t want to limit our paths.”
Statistics from the United States Census Bureau prove professional security and financial stability are two major reasons why millenials are waiting. According to the most recent research in 2013 from the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green University, the marriage rate is at the lowest it’s ever been in more than a century.
The current rate is 31.1 percent, which means as of 2013, there were only 31 marriages per 1,000 unmarried women. This number is averaged out of the over 2 million marriages that took place in 2013. Compare that to 1920, when the marriage rate was at 92.3 percent. The current National average age for women to wed is 27, while men are patiently waiting until age 29, according to the United States Census Bureau.
IWU Professor of Sociology, Dr. Kersten Priest explains the current marriage and dating statistics for IWU students and millennials are completely reflective of current societal norms.
“Marriage is no longer the only option,” explained Priest. “There are so many options available because culturally, marriage no longer defines success and security, independence however, does.”
Priest leads a course directed towards family and sexuality and has spent time looking into the changing patterns of sexuality and marriage. She highlighted education as a factor discerning the reasoning behind why women are (prolonging their desire) extending their patience to wedlock.
“Women have been getting more education, and there’s a sense that this education means marriage may not be the only option,” said Priest. “So from that standpoint there has been a bit of a shift in the thinking of women. There’s this idea if women have an education, maybe they should be getting into the workforce and having a sound professional career before settling down.”
IWU men’s soccer standout Sam Kane (jr) also participated in the UNO tournament, attending the event with friends. Kane said he thinks relationships are hard work and believes students are just too busy to date, which is why he has decided to remain single.
“I have a lot of homework to focus on,” said Kane. “If a relationship happens it happens, but I just need some good grades and I think other people are in the same boat.”
Societal norms also provide an extension for opportunity, explained Priest. It’s now culturally acceptable to cohabit an apartment and partake in sexual relationships outside of marriage. While this is not always reflective of Christians in dating relationships, this non-permanent commitment means couples can sample compatibility and further delay marriage.
A 2013 report from the Pew Research Center in Washington D.C. says marriage encourages a partnership which shares a plan for the future, shares assets and builds wealth. Men who completed the Pew survey stated that following a college education, men would much prefer to launch their careers, so they can financially provide for a family before getting married.
So where are we headed?
According to a post from the Wall Street Journal in September 2013, the U.S. is gradually shaking off the effects of the 2007-2009 recession. This means Americans are paying off debts and freeing up cash to spend, insinuating millenials are beginning to trust the market and leverage the idea of marriage.
President of the Population Reference Bureau, Sam Sturgeon sees modest increases in fertility rates for millennials in 2014 and 2015 linking the low averages from marriages and births during the recession to the current stability of the economic market.
Perhaps times are changing once more, and the familiar term “ring by spring” will be in full effect for students across campuses nationwide in the next few years.
UNO enthusiasts Lydia Schumick (fr) and Michelle Biehle (so) believe the dating scene at IWU is basically non-existent, giggling in between shuffles of “reverse” and “wild” playing cards.
“I’m just trying to figure out my own life,” said Schumick collecting nods from Michelle as she swapped cards with the top deck.
“I just want to figure out where I’m going; there’s no need for someone else to help,” Biehle said. “Everyone is different, so we’ll just see what happens. College is busy as it is.”
In the end, UNO night was a success. Single students gathered, conversed and enjoyed their time in fellowship, sarcastically taking advantage of culture’s praise of Valentine’s Day.
“Maybe it’s just time to make fun of ourselves,” reflected Doll. “There’s a lot of pressure to date, so maybe it’s just time to sit back, cut the pressure and enjoy life.”
For some single students at IWU, they would not argue with Doll’s philosophy. But let’s not forget, “Uno” is the loneliest number that will ever be.