It was about 10 or so years ago when Kerry Cronin, a professor at Boston College, noticed something was up with the way her young students were dating – or, rather, not dating.
It was the end of the year and she was talking to a group of bright, charismatic students who were full of plans for their future. Cronin asked her students if graduation meant some difficult conversations with their boyfriends or girlfriends – and she got blank stares.
“(They) were just really stellar people, beautiful inside and out, and had all kinds of charisma and everything and almost none of them had dated at all in high school or college,” Cronin told CNA. “And I thought wait, what? What’s going on?”
Further conversations with students proved to her that this group of seniors was not an anomaly, but the norm.
“I started talking to them about hookup culture and how that had impacted dating, and what I realized was that the dating social script was sort of gone,” she said.
And so, like any good professor, Cronin turned the problem into an assignment that she gave to her senior capstone class: ask a legitimate romantic interest out on a date. In person. Keep the date 60-90 minutes. Go out to ice cream or coffee – something without drugs or alcohol. You ask, you pay – but a first date should only cost about $10 anyway. The only physical contact should be an A-frame hug.
The idea caught on, and pretty soon these “Cronin dates” were the talk of Boston College. Today Cronin travels the country, speaking to college students about how to date, and continues to give the dating assignment in her classes.
Her renown as the ‘Date Doctor’ reached the ears of Megan Harrington and her colleagues, who were looking to create a documentary about dating in today’s world. Harrington and her team decided to feature Cronin’s dating assignment in their new film “The Dating Project” – part dating how-to, part dating documentary. [trailer here]
Besides Cronin’s dating assignment, the film follows five single people of varying ages and backgrounds who are looking for love – two college students, Matt and Shanzi; Cecilia, a 20-something living in Chicago; Rasheeda, a 30-something living in New York; and Chris, a 40-something from Los Angeles.
Uncertainty and ambiguity is a constant thread in every storyline. Cecilia wishes her Tinder date would tell her what he wants, Rasheeda can’t remember the last time she was on a real date, or what that even means. Chris is so overwhelmed by online dating he’s not sure where to begin.
Two of the three production companies involved in “The Dating Project” are Christian companies – Paulist Productions and Family Theater Productions. Most of the single people featured in the film end up talking about their faith and values at some point, some more explicitly than others.
Harrington, herself a Catholic, told CNA that faith wasn’t necessarily meant to be a central theme of the film, but faith and values are a topic that inevitably come up during the dating process, and each person in the film talked about it to the extent they felt natural.
What the film does show, Harrington said, is that Christians are not really any better at dating in the modern world than anyone else is.
“It’s very apparent that even in the Christian world, in this area of life – dating and relationships – we’re just as lost as anyone else, we’re really not leading the way,” she said. “I think it’s just as difficult for Christians as it is for anyone else.”
“The Dating Project” will show on April 17 in select theaters throughout the country. More information can be found at: https://www.thedatingprojectmovie.com/
Full story at Catholic News Agency.