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The only way to know if he or she is your type is to go on that nerve-wracking first date. But, where do you go? The answer is simple: grab a coffee.


T he national media regularly runs stories on decaying university culture—the liberal arts are in trouble, universities have become mere credentialing factories, the faculty are cultural ideologues, and so on.

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But what is social life on college campuses actually like? Students have basically three options: quasi-marital relationships, hooking up, or opting out. Most choose the third. Out of 16 seniors, three raised their hands. So I gave them an emergency dating asment.

Bring back the coffee date

They had two weeks to ask someone out on a date and write about it. A third student asked a woman who thought he was joking. Asking you. On a date. The ask has to happen in person. Students report sweaty palms, beating chests, stuttered speech. They report that once on the date, there are some awkward silences, of course, but so many write about how refreshing it is to get to know someone in this unusual way—on a coffee date.

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Many students try this asment once and then return to their regular patterns of social life. But for some it changes the way they walk through college. One student asked a colleague of mine to thank me.

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In a culture awash in sexual images where nothing is left to the imagination, many think we need to control or suppress our erotic longings. Both hooking up and opting out attempt to control a desire that is at the heart of who we are as human beings.

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The first reduces eros to sex, and tries to control one of our deepest desires by turning it into something mechanical and transactional porn sites, of course, have the same effect as a hookup. But those who hook up and those who opt out are both actually reducing the desire for love to the desire for sex. This confusion about the relationship between love and sex underlies the reigning romantic chaos and loneliness on college campuses. For Plato, eros is a profound longing wrapped up in everything we come to know and do. Eros invites us to look beyond ourselves and into a wider world waiting to be known and loved.

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The key is to learn to direct this erotic longing toward people and things that will make us more—rather than less—human. Eros is a fundamental force in human living. Eros builds cathedrals. It writes music that moves our souls.

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It le us to create and connect. It makes us more of who we are. It makes us fall in love. Eros can involve intercourse.

The dos and don’ts of first date conversations

But it must first involve discourse. College students need to rehabilitate a social script that helps them get to know each other with the lights on, in real and not digital relationships. They need to be encouraged by the adults who care about them to take that risk and ask someone to go out for coffee. She and Dr. First Things depends on its subscribers and supporters. the conversation and make a contribution today. Our year-end campaign is underway. Please show your support today!

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Intellectual Retreats Erasmus Lectures. Video Podcasts. Twentieth-century American novelist James Baldwin echoes this Platonic insight when he writes in The Fire Next Time that many are terrified of sensuality and do not any longer understand it.

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I am referring to something much simpler and much less fanciful. To be sensual, I think, is to respect and rejoice in the force of life, of life itself, and to be present in all that one does, from the effort of loving to the breaking of bread.

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