Stuyvesant Smoochers: Romantic Relationships at School

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Issue 17, Volume 109

By Clara Shapiro 

Throughout this article, fake names are used to represent real people in order to protect their anonymity.

With the flurry of finals, extracurriculars, and the Sisyphean cycle of tests and homework, Stuyvesant can seem like an unlikely hotspot for young love.

Kissing couples accessorize the stairwells, the half-floor, and even the darkest regions of the Hudson stairwell. Hand-holders are in abundance, as are their angry single counterparts: “[Expletive], when I text you something, actually respond, or at least react to it so I know you actually give a little damn about me. Please, I’m a sad, lonely person,” disclosed Confession #2354 on the Facebook page “Stuy Confessions,” an online niche exploding with sexual frustration. At school, no longer protected by online anonymity, most Stuyvesant students tame their undomesticated hormones, though there are the few brazen ones who copulate in bathroom stalls throughout the building.

For the single onlookers of Stuyvesant, these lavatory escapades and public displays of affection (PDA) often evoke complex feelings. “Please stop making out on the escalator or on the stairs when I wanna fricking walk!” an anonymous sophomore begged the school PDA-ers. “It’s not that I think it’s gross, necessarily. It’s just that nobody will do it with me!”

But in the minds of many Stuyvesant smoochers, the motives of PDA are benign. “We like PDA,” sophomore couple Julian Cunningham and Reilly Amera chorused, though both are mindful of PDA’s potential to hurt others. “[...] As long as it’s not exclusionary, it’s okay,” Cunningham added.

Another couple echoed Cunningham’s stance: “I enjoy PDA,” junior Serena Loving said. “Of course, it can go over the top, but I think it’s cute. I like love. It’s adorable.” But as a same-sex couple, Loving and her girlfriend Amanda Snogging experience PDA differently from the heterosexual couples of the school. “It’s kind of a jealousy, almost,” Loving said of PDA between straight couples. “They don’t have to worry about, ‘Will people judge us? Can we hold hands here?’ Straight people don’t have to worry about that.”

Beyond the hurdle of homophobia, Loving and Snogging also struggle with their one-year age gap, which, especially during SING! season, can prove a challenge. “During SING! it was terrible. I knew all the Soph-Frosh plot because she can’t keep a secret, but I couldn’t tell her the Junior plot because she can’t keep a secret,” Loving recounted. “The whole competition air kinda got to us a bit.”

Grade level is a particular menace to senior couples, who cling to each other even as their paths in life diverge. With the distance between them soon to span states, countries, or even continents, senior duos now face either a painful goodbye or, for the more ambitious couples, the struggles of a long-distance relationship.

“I think we’re trying to make it work out,” senior couple Rob Chang and Alina Peng said. After one month of dating and four years of friendship, both Chang and Peng are determined to confront a daunting distance of 2,000 miles. “I’m planning on coming back to the city every four weeks and on holidays to see my family, and, of course, to see her,” California-bound Chang said.

But for many of the single seniors of Stuyvesant, the departure for college is a welcome escape from the graphic exhibitions of love they see in the hallways.

Rhea Mitra, a self-identified bitter single senior, discusses her perspective on her coupling contemporaries: “I used to be much more bitter than I am now about being single, but it’s still just like, ‘Do they have to do this in the hallway?’ It’s cute when you see PDA in a movie, but when you see it in real life, it’s like… eww,” she said.

Despite the disappointments of non-cinematographic romance, Mitra described the attractiveness of the Stuyvesant male population in glowing superlatives. “I feel like [...] they’re not that ugly, are they?” she mused. “I don’t know. Maybe I just have low standards.”

This is perhaps one of the pitfalls of a teenage relationship: the contrast between the expectations of romance and the chapped-lipped reality.

“At age 16, most of a person’s exposure to love and romance has been through TV shows and movies that are sensationalized and Hollywoodized, or, even worse, through the internet,” English teacher Lauren Stuzin explained over e-mail. “The best thing a person can do is take any portrayal of romance with a grain of salt.” Stuzin adds that students, whether they take their romance salted or unsalted, should remember to consider their futures: “You are in high school, and while there is no age requirement to have a relationship, you are still trying to go to college and start your life […] so make sure you prioritize your own goals and desires and needs. Remember to prioritize yourself, your own comfort and happiness, in every relationship,” she said.

Mitra echoed this doctrine of wellness, reminding her peers that, ultimately, self-love can be much more gratifying than any romantic love. “Sometimes, you have to go through life alone, but other times you will have a partner. And if, right now, you don’t have one, it’s not the end of the world,” she said. “You’ve got family and friends. You’ve got yourself. And in the end, that’s the only thing that really matters.”