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Student Survival 2009: Red roses optional

Believe it or not, there is an alternative to the simple hook-up on campus. It's called dating

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You wake up to the buzz of your cell phone at 2 a.m.

"Hey still up?" the text reads.

"Nope," you think, "but apparently you are."

For many in college, the concept of "dating" has given way to late-night texts and drunken fumblings.

"Hooking up has become so entrenched in college culture that dating has become abnormal," says Kathleen Bogle, author of Hooking Up: Sex, Dating, and Relationships on Campus and assistant professor of sociology at La Salle University in Philadelphia. "The idea of asking someone out on a date is considered out of the norm now."

Bogle attributes the campus hook-up explosion to the convergence of several factors. Dorm rooms provide a convenient location. Plus, many college students plan on marrying later in life, and aren't looking for a potential spouse yet. And then there are college students' notorious drinking habits and hormones.

It's not that people don't form relationships while in college. Many do. But researchers have found that relationships on campus tend to be of the serious, all-encompassing variety.

"Several researchers have found that there is no in-between between casual hooking up and the type of relationships in which people stay over at the other person's place all the time and are in constant contact because of cell phones and texting," Bogle says. "It's become a system of extremes."

And even those who embrace hook-up culture whole-heartedly can tire of the system. Lena Chen began writing her blog "Sex and the Ivy: The Bleeding Heart Nympho's Guide to Harvard Life" (sexandtheivy.com) during her sophomore year at the prestigious university. Chen's full-frontal descriptions of her experiences with one-night stands and friends with benefits earned her freelance work with the Boston Globe Magazine and Hustler, among others.

Yet celebrating the hook-up, feelings be damned, proved unsustainable even for Chen. In a July 17 blog entry titled "Reminiscence," she sounded decidedly turned off: "Because I believed in the best in people, I wrote naively and with abandon. ... Strangers felt justified in calling me a 'slut,'" she writes. "I'm turning 22 next month and I'm getting too old for this."

"Women tire of the system sooner," Bogle says. "The cons stack up sooner for women than for men."

Enter that old-school alternative.

"Dating?" you scoff. "Who dates anymore?"

Exactly.

College kids shy away from dating because it's no longer considered normal. Plus, it requires more risk and effort than making out with drunk freshmen (especially drunk freshmen at high altitude).

The thing about dating, though?

It's really fun.

The exciting, sweaty-palmed process of getting to know someone need not consist of flowers, dinners and movies. It can be anything you want it to be. The only necessary factor to make a date a date is the presence of someone you're into. And who is hopefully into you.

College students, usually great champions of all things fun, are missing out. Here are a few ways to change that:

• If the object of your affection is athletically inclined, take him/her hiking at the Manitou Incline (Ruxton Avenue, Manitou Springs). The combination of heavy breathing and rushing endorphins may just set the mood.

• Not comfortable wheezing and pouring sweat in front of your date? Try browsing at The Book Sleuth (2501 W. Colorado Ave. #105). Maybe you'll rediscover a childhood love for the Hardy Boys while perusing the massive selection of mystery novels. The black cat that greets you at the door guarantees to spark conversation even among the shiest of bookworms.

• Indulge your crush's inner (or not-so-inner) nerd by taking him/her to Prince of Blades (1641 W. Colorado Ave.). With a wide selection of "battle-ready" weapons, you two can re-create LOTR scenes to your hearts' content.

• If you own a vehicle, take your date on a scenic ride along Highway 24 west or around Cheyenne Cañon. If you don't, take him/her to Sportique Scooters (523 S. Tejon St.) for a test drive. You're not allowed to leave the parking lot, but for a first-time rider, it's still a thrill.

• In the current economic climate, being frugal on a date will make you look clever — not cheap. Drop $1.50 per movie ticket at the Picture Show (901 N. Academy Blvd.), or win extra points for going on a 75-cent Tuesday.

• Escape from dull dining hall food by taking a trip to the Asian Pacific Market (615 Wooten Road #160), which specializes in hard-to-find exotic groceries at reasonable prices. Pick out something you've never tried before and cook it in the dorm kitchen.

• People bond when they share a frightening experience. Freak out your date with a "lantern tour" at Cave of the Winds (100 Cave of the Winds Road, Manitou Springs). Bryan Bonner of the Rocky Mountain Paranormal Research Society claims it's the most haunted place in Colorado Springs.

Click here for the complete Student Survival 2009 table of contents!

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