I’m Dating My FYG, and that’s OK

Chandler Presson ‘21 with her boyfriend and First Year Guide Nicholas Pibl ‘20 outside the Cube.

Chandler Presson ‘21 with her boyfriend and First Year Guide Nicholas Pibl ‘20 outside the Cube.

A First Year Guide has the potential to be one of the most important sources of mentorship for a CMC first year student. They lead first years throughout their Week of Orientation Adventures (WOA) trips, and then continue to serve as mentors in the year to come. Within that capacity, a FYG should provide a non-threatening and open environment for first years. A FYG should be a confidant for a first year, someone they trust without question. So what happens if this mentor-mentee relationship turns romantic?

Well, a number of things can take place, but controversy will always be at the center. I’m not going to kid myself and pretend that dating my FYG, who I have been with for over a year now, didn’t cause waves of gossiping across campus or anything of that matter. In the grand scheme of CMC, my relationship is very insignificant. However, it is of course quite significant to me. A large portion of our relationship in my freshman year centered around Nick being my FYG. As a first year student, I was still meeting an abundance of new faces throughout my first semester at CMC. If that first conversation happened to move to a story involving Nick, I was oftentimes met with a surprised, “Oh, you’re dating Nick Pibl? Wait, was he your FYG? I was wondering who the FYG-FYGlet couple was!”

While this reaction always brought a smile (and usually a blush) to my face, it also confused me. Was it really being circulated that there was a FYG-FYGlet couple? Why was the most defining aspect of my relationship a four day long trip to the beach? Now don’t get me wrong, orientation and being a FYG entails much more than just a WOA trip, something I now know well as a FYG myself. But people seemed to assume that Nick being my FYG comprised  a central component of our relationship. To me, it couldn’t be less important. While I understand the scandal of a FYG dating a FYGlet, Nick was only my FYG in my mind for maybe two weeks, if that. Then he was the nice sophomore who walked me to class on my first day. Soon after he was my weekly study partner before our Thursday quizzes. Eventually he was the cute guy I ate breakfast with on Thursdays before class, and finally, he was my boyfriend. After months of getting to know him, orientation felt like it happened a million years ago, and he was just Nick, no FYG title in sight.

Even so, I remember when we first started dating, I wondered if I should tell people or not. My WOAmies ended up finding out slowly over time, and while some of them seemed genuinely happy for us, others seemed understandably weirded out. We didn’t start dating until after the socially mandatory Fall Break mark, but it still was a hard pill to swallow for some of our WOA group. I didn’t really understand why until becoming a FYG myself. When I now imagine one of my co-FYGs dating one of my FYGlets, it’s a little bit uncomfortable. Even though I no longer see them as brand new students in need of guidance, I still feel a certain level of protectiveness over my FYGlets. The idea of someone with an arguable position of power over them then dating them makes me a little bit uneasy. FYGs are the first faces that first years see when they arrive on campus; they shape the first years’ expectations and can either alleviate or exacerbate their fears. To this day I hear friends of mine complain about having a bad FYG, so the lasting impact a FYG can have is clear. But it isn’t a FYG’s job to be that go-to person for every one of their FYGlets. Usually a FYGlet will closely bond with only one FYG. Nick wasn’t that go-to person for me as a first year. He is now, but I ended up asking my other FYG about which Calc professor they recommended during my first year.

Even though Nick and I worked out, I still would recommend caution before jumping into a relationship with your FYG or FYGlet. I would also recommend caution to people watching their friends forming one of these relationships. This is because there is good reason to be skeptical in these situations. First year students could easily be exploited because the first year— and especially first semester— of college is a vulnerable time for people in which FYGlets are encouraged to trust their FYGs. This trust gives room for exploitation, and while I’d like to think none of CMC’s FYGs would ever take advantage of their FYGlets, a little caution never hurt anyone. Signs to look out for in these relationships would include the FYG being embarrassed to have a relationship with the FYGlet. Reluctance to make the relationship public reinforces an unbalanced power dynamic and also indicates there is something to hide. Another sign might be the first year increasingly pulling away from their friends, especially when asked about the relationship. The first year of college is especially important for building friendships, so the relationship taking precedence could indicate an unhealthy power dynamic that could become increasingly problematic. These relationships can look similar to those between seniors and first year students, where the difference in age and maturity can make people uncomfortable. This discomfort can also extend even further in FYG/FYGlet relationships between upperclassmen and first years. These situations can be avoided through knowing without a shadow of a doubt the intentions of a FYG before getting into a relationship with them.

So what about the power dynamic between Nick and me? FYGs truthfully do hold a certain amount of power over their FYGlets. There’s a possibility for this power to be abused— but that isn’t always the case. Never once did I feel like the lure of an older boy in a position of authority led me to want to be with him. If anything, it annoyed me that it added a supposed layer of complexity to us dating. I have never felt like we were anything other than equals. He never held his position as my FYG over me, but even so I questioned if it should be public knowledge or not. I hesitated to answer when my family members asked how we met, and I definitely wondered whether or not to tell my own FYGlets. I didn’t want them to think that I didn’t take my role as their FYG seriously.

I’m grateful Nick was my FYG. It allowed me to hear an honest perspective about what being a FYG is like, and to decide for myself that yes, it would be worth it. But we’re not together because he was my FYG: it feels more like I’m dating him despite the fact he was my FYG. The stigma surrounding FYG-FYGlet relationships on CMC’s campus can definitely complicate the first few months of a relationship. Part of me is glad people squirm a bit at the idea of a FYG and FYGlet dating because it attests to the fact that CMC takes the FYG role very seriously, as we should. But I also ask that CMCers keep in mind that these couples are real people. Despite all the confusion, there is not an official rule against FYGs and FYGlets dating; and thank goodness, because I definitely would’ve broken it.