Romance in the rain

Feb. 15, 2011, 3:02 a.m.

There’s something about winter quarter: the air chills, clouds loom, rain showers and blankets bundle. Generally considered the quarter of stress, the middle quarter is typically characterized as a time when Stanford students pile on the units, actively seek out summer internships and embrace quasi-hermit-like behavior.

Others, however, paint quite a different picture of campus life from January to mid-March, deeming it a ten-week period filled with romance and compassion. Following the excitement of autumn quarter and preceding the sunny jubilance of spring quarter, many feel that despite the cold, hearts may actually warm on the Farm during this middle quarter. So the question still stands: is winter quarter the quarter of love, or is winter romance an unfounded myth?

Human biology professor Anne Murray, who teaches a Sophomore Introductory Seminar entitled “Love as a Force of Social Justice,” encourages her students to use kindness and compassion to help others and enact change.

“I do believe in the power of love,” Murray said. “People can use all the good will and loving kindness that we can offer because a lot of people are in very hard situations.”

Although it is offered only during winter quarter, Murray’s class promotes care and kindness throughout all seasons and quarters at Stanford.

“One of the goals of the class is to provide students with some knowledge of the literature of love, as well as a sense of the importance of love as a key phenomenon in creating community, connection and functional societies among humans,” she said.

Alongside biological, psychological, religious and social perspectives of love, Murray’s seminar also discusses the kind of love college students are most concerned with: romantic love, or eros. On the subject of eros love at Stanford, Murray has observed that relationships bud in the winter but truly flourish in the spring.

“People get down in the dumps when it’s darker and there’s not as much sun,” she said. “In spring…people walk around arm and arm, hand in hand. [That] kind of eros love blossoms in the spring, just as the blossoms come out.”

Some students agree with Murray’s assessment that romance flourishes noticeably as the temperatures rise, citing winter quarter as the time to settle down.

“I’ve noticed that a lot of relationships start when the weather starts getting nicer…and spring starts in the winter [quarter],” said Pauline Santos ’12, Castaño’s Peer Health Educator. “Wintertime is when people are looking for companionship.”

“In the fall, people are just starting to rekindle friendships…and still getting back into the swing of school,” Adrian Fernandez ’11 agreed. “Over the winter, people take heavy course loads, so sometimes they want to just have something more constant that can give them support as opposed to something that they can’t rely on.”

Additionally, Fernandez commented on the “test” that occurs over the three-week break between fall and winter quarter. If two people pass and the romance persists despite the geographic absence, the relationship might move to the next level.

“Sometimes you can tell whether or not you like somebody and whether or not they like you if you maintain contact over winter break,” Fernandez explained.

With an abundance of cozy chilly days and the unavoidable festivities of Valentine’s Day, it’s not hard to detect spells of romance on campus in the winter. Carrie Levy ‘11 remarked on the comfort of cuddling, noting the contented feeling of “hav[ing] someone to stay in with on Friday night when it’s rainy outside.” With at least of quarter of Stanford life under their belts, students may be less anxious about the beginning of the school year and more familiar with the students in their class, residences, majors and student groups. Naturally, new relationships may arise.

“People have settled into their respective niches,” said Nathaniel Williams ‘13. “Once people are established…I think the potential to find a significant other with similar interests is much better than fall quarter or the Dionysian atmosphere of spring quarter.”

But, he notes, the flipside is also true.

“By winter quarter, the charm of being here and living the Stanford lifestyle has dimmed a bit,” Williams said. “I think the combination of the letdown of 10 uninterrupted weeks of classes and stress and the relatively stagnant social scene make relationships seem much less appealing.”

The busy nature of winter quarter can also be non-conducive to relationships. For the past two years, Eric Mefford, ’12, a Resident Assistant in Lantana, has rowed on Stanford’s crew team. As a result, he described the winter as “very hectic” and “not conducive to romance.”

“People don’t have time,” he said. “To build a relationship, you need to put in a lot of time and be willing to compromise and experience another person’s emotions. In winter quarter, people are usually much more short tempered and focused on what they need to do.”

Amidst the fluttering flyers declaring that “Love Sucks” and the Valentine’s Day serenades from various a cappella groups, it still remains unclear whether winter ultimately promotes relationships on the Stanford campus any more than the other quarters. However, one thing is certain according to John Lu ’11.

“It’s the season of cute things.”

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