Dating in college is hard. Meeting new people is hard. Coming to college with a previous relationship that has turned into long-distance is hard. Forming new relationships is hard, said Stephen Gray, known as the “Dating Doctor.”
The University of South Dakota hosted Gray on March 3. A colleague of David Coleman, who inspired the movie “Hitch”. About 15 years ago, Coleman hired and trained Gray to assist him in speaking at different colleges about the ins and outs of dating and he has spoken on the topic ever since.
“You are dateless, you are romantically challenged and that is why you are here,” Gray said in his opening statement. “You are a group of people who have so much energy and are so creative, yet you are lazy.”
After his opening statement, Gray began his program by talking about finding a partner to compliment, not complete.
Gray said there is great importance in being complete with oneself and that one cannot find the right person until they become the right person.
Gray then went on and had everyone in the room repeat, “I would so date me,” and continued the exercise until he believed the statement being said.
“Hey baby, I’m the love pirate so give me all of your booty,” Gray joked to the audience.
This was only one of the many “worst pickup lines” that students have been shared with Gray throughout the years. Everyone was asked to submit on a notecard either a good or bad pickup line they had heard, which Gray shared throughout the program, usually to laughs from the audience.
Gray used humor to share his dating advice.
“What does a fat penguin do?” Gray asked, “He breaks the ice.”
Gray would follow up humorous statements with practical advice.
“You have to be that fat penguin and it doesn’t matter who breaks the ice as long as both of you are standing in the puddle,” Gray said.
First-year Lindsey Staab said meeting new people and breaking the ice isn’t as easy as it sounds.
“It’s hard to meet people unless you go out,” Staab said. “But it’s so cliche saying ‘I met a guy at a bar.’”
When it comes to meeting others, Gray said he has a simple plan called the Five-Minute Find. This entails using what he calls the ABCs: attraction, believability, chemistry and desire. All of these can be felt in five minutes, and if it doesn’t happen then it’s time to move on, Gray said.
The next step after meeting someone is establishing or finding interest. For this, Gray gave different ways to decipher interest based on gender.
Gray said men tend to turn to “moosh brain,” they are not deterred by barriers (i.e. six girlfriends standing around) and they ditch the player tactics. Women on the other hand, maintain eye contact, smile and laugh and break the touch barrier.
“You get the respect you deserve, demand and desire,” Gray said, leading into the controlling aspect of relationships, to which he said the person who has the control in the relationship is the one who is the least invested.
Gray said healthy relationships should involve mutual trust, respect, intimacy, passion and commitment.
“There are three types of love: one that contains physical passion, heartfelt love, and companionship,” Gray said. “I have been with my wife for 31 years, and having that companionship and a friend to come home to means more than anything, even sex.”
For students like first-year Kelsey Ruden, who is in a long-distance relationship, Gray introduces the idea of creative dating.
“Dare to be different,” Gray said. “Be romantic and spontaneous.”
Ruden said long-distance relationships can be difficult.
“It’s hard not being able to see him every day,” Ruden said, “I worry sometimes, and I miss him.”
Gray continued to say how important keeping that romance is. Gray defined romance as performing ordinary acts of love or kindness at unexpected times.
“Give your significant other flowers on Feb. 13, because they are too special to wait another day,” Gray said, receiving an ‘aw’ from the crowd. “But never give them something on Feb. 15.”
The safety aspect of dating was something Gray addressed firmly.
“Consent is everything and no means no every single time,” Gray said.
Gray also turned the “walk of shame” around to reflect the men in the situation, which he called the “walk of fame.”
“Since when did going home with a girl mean you let her walk home alone at night afterward?” Gray said, “Man up. Walk her home.”
Gray said the most vulnerable population among college students is first-year women, because they have little college experience and a new freedom of being away from home.
Eighty percent of sexual assaults on campus happen in the first six weeks of the fall semester and particularly to these women, Gray said.
Gray said all-in-all, dating in college should be a fun and safe experience and in the end it is about being happy and finding joy.
There is no timeline, there is no specific age in which to get married, he said. It happens in good time and there is no need to rush. That being said, there is absolutely no reason not to step up the dating game and enjoy what comes along.