This is the first in a series of articles about relationships. Now, before I lose my entire male readership (whatever of it may exist), allow me to qualify that statement. I can be an unconventional relationship columnist for two reasons: the first is that most newspapers’ relationship columns are far too narrow to encompass the vast implications of a “relation.” The second reason is that, judging by its reputation, the intellectually rigorous and academically superior College of William and Mary has a serious problem with relationships. Let me break it gently, for those of you still harboring remarkable visions of self exile and creative epiphany, ascetic nirvana or incendiary philosophical revolution: the world is full of people. And being such as it is, there are few places one can go, where one’s actions do not in some way influence or affect another person. Thus, a relationship. And where there are relationships, there are relationship problems, and there are people who analyze and evaluate these problems. Thus, a relationship columnist. It’s a process, hardly less magical than an angel getting its wings, and far more scandalous, for relationship problems are just that because it’s often a social taboo to even mention them, much less unravel them in a popular forum.
I warn you: there will be no mention of sex in this series. There are plenty of those types of articles floating around campus already, and if you need more help than they provide, you may solicit a specialist more equipped to advise you in such personal decisions. There is a time and place for everything, but this isn’t it.
This is not a series solely for romantic relationships. I’d prefer to take my swim in the Crim Dell rather than deal with scorned lovers on a weekly basis. My opinion is that it’s better to befriend a toad lurking in the depths of who-knows-what than to waste word after word on vapid princes. And that’s even without the fairy tale.
Finally, and most importantly, this is not an “advice column.” I’m not pretentious enough to claim to know your life better than you, nor arrogant enough to force you to conform to my vision of life at the expense of the conceptual variety that fills human interactions with passion and devotion. Rather, this series is about observation and careful reflection. Most of the problems that arise in our interactions with one another originate through ignorance of what we want from a situation, of what is the most expedient approach to obtain a social end, of the kind of atmosphere necessary to facilitate desired interactions. One would think that at an institution accustomed to analysis and evaluation, it would be a simple matter to turn the lens to our own habits of fellowship, and if this were the case, perhaps we could shake that shady reputation.
So, with this purpose, I simply request your attention. I’m going to tell you why your classes aren’t engaging, or why your friendships fail, or even, if I’m feeling particularly slimy, why girls won’t date you (yes, I’m talking to the guys again. The girls I’ve met don’t seem to have as many problems with this). Soon enough, I imagine, you’ll realize that you’re even more qualified than I am to examine your own life; to understand yourself and what motivates your interactions with others beyond common biological processes; and ultimately, to learn how to understand other people and create the relationships that are most mutually beneficial. To borrow from the playwright Bertolt Brecht: “the smallest social unit is not the single person but two people.” It is with this concept that we must begin.
Jessica Miller is a DSJ staff columnist. Her views do not necessarily represent those of the entire staff.