Megan Harrington noticed that something was off. A group of her women friends were single and hadn’t been on dates for a long time.
And several years ago, Boston College philosophy professor Kerry Cronin realized her students at the Jesuit university weren’t dating anymore, but instead were texting, communicating online, and “hooking up.”
The women’s experiences confirmed that a fundamental change had occurred in American dating.
Harrington, who grew up in a large Catholic family in Montana, set out to do something about it. She co-wrote and co-produced “The Dating Project,” a documentary that follows five single people, ages 18–40, for a year as they explore the dating process.
The film — created in partnership with Paulist Productions, Mpower Pictures and Family Theater Productions — is coming to theaters around the Archdiocese of Seattle (and across the country) for a special one-night showing April 17 (see box).
Carmen Bryant, pastoral assistant for youth and young adult ministry at All Saints Parish in Puyallup, will accompany a handful of young adults (and possibly some high school seniors) from her parish to see the documentary. Bryant said she hopes the film will provide a release from the pressures many young people feel about dating.
“To see someone socially is not to make a long-term commitment,” Bryant said. “It’s to explore, to unearth something wonderful about another human being and something wonderful about yourself.”
Called to relationship
“The Dating Project” follows its diverse subjects as they explore the dating process, refining their ideas of who they are and what they’re looking for in another person. And it examines how they deal with the dating challenges that arise in their respective age groups.
“What was really interesting and what I hope happens with the film, is talking about what you really want in dating,” Harrington said. “What really are the values you hold, what things mean to you. There’s a lot of pressure coming from outside voices about what’s supposed to make us happy.”
Along with the film’s director and her fellow producers, Harrington spent many hours with the subjects. The goal through all the soul-searching was that the participants would point their lives in a direction that would bring them joy, she said.
“We wanted to meet people where they were and journey with them, ask lots of questions,” Harrington said, “even of ourselves.”
The college students in the documentary went back to their dorms and posed the same questions to their friends and roommates, Harrington said: “Really hard questions about sex, pornography, things we should talk about in church. It’s important to bring to the light, because these issues are coming at you in a really strong way.”
For several years in her popular class at Boston College, Cronin has given an assignment that is a hard task for many students: Ask someone out on a date. “Dating is a social script that is no longer being supported by our culture,” Cronin said in the documentary. So she explains dating as a series of three levels, with the first level simply being a chance to get to know someone a little better, over coffee for instance, with no physical interaction.
“Not everyone is called to marriage, not everyone is called to family,” Cronin said in the film, “but I think everyone is called to relationship.”
Bryant agrees. “I think we’re built for communion with another person,” she said. Whether single, married or in a religious community, it is important to know “how to enter in and to bring your gifts to it,” she said.
“That’s what I’m hoping the kids will see,” Bryant said. “That whatever we do should still be a reflection of our relationship with God.”
Watch ‘The Dating Project’
“The Dating Project” documentary will be shown one night, April 17, at theaters in these communities around the Archdiocese of Seattle: Auburn, Bellevue, Bellingham, Everett, Federal Way, Kent, Lacey, Lynnwood, Olympia, Redmond, Seattle, Tacoma, Tukwila and Vancouver.