Do the math, long distance relationships just aren’t worth it

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illustration courtesy of Margot Heron/The Occidental

The year is 10,000 B.C.E. Your boyfriend is standing just outside the cave entrance, plucking the feathers off the chicken he just killed. You met him last night at the weekly human sacrifice. You were drawn to him not because of his charm, or an instant connection, or some romantic spark (unless you count the spark from the fire of the aforementioned human sacrifice) — but because he was standing right next to you, and he appeared to have a full set of teeth. He comes over to serve you chicken on a stick. Life is good.

Flash forward to 2018 C.E. After your boyfriend had to move 2,000 miles away for work, you spend your free time scouring Kayak for plane deals that still cost half your rent for a weekend trip where you’ll be jet-lagged half the time and sad the other half. Life is … less than good.

These days, the concepts of convenience and benefit are becoming increasingly absent from romantic pursuits. Passion now precedes practicality, and at a pricey cost: the Long-Distance Relationship (LDR). No disrespect to anyone who can afford to put themselves through that special kind of torment, but for a college student, it’s financially absurd. The success of an LDR is dependent on a couple’s economic status.

LDRs are a relatively new phenomenon. Maybe there were love letters sent through carrier pigeons, but the cost of hopping on a ship back then ensured that only the wealthy could access long-distance travel. Wall Street Journal travel editor Scott McCartney explains that “a round-trip coach ticket between New York and Los Angeles was $208 in 1958 … You can still sometimes find a $208 ticket today, but that 1958 price is $1,570 in today’s dollars.” With the rise of modern technology and transportation came the rise of frequent travel, and therefore the rise of LDRs.

It’s important to note that partaking in an LDR is not a casual choice, especially with college students. For college students, 75 percent of whom admit they’ve been in a long distance relationship at one point, the choice may feel more like a necessity. But when looking at the hard cost, I don’t see how it’s worth it.

To fully understand the financial cost of an LDR, let’s do some quick math. The average distance traveled per month in a car-based LDR is about 375 miles, since the average number of visits per month is 1.5 and the average distance between long-distance couples is 125 miles. If the average US vehicle’s fuel economy is about 24.7 miles per gallon, and the average price per gallon of gas in the US is $3, the cost for gas alone to see one’s long-distance partner would be around $546 per year. However, for couples using planes, it’s much pricier. As of 2017, the average round-trip flight within the U.S. costs $367. With an average of 1.5 visits per month, that equates to $6,606 per year.

For Americans earning a minimum wage of $7.25, which was 2.2 million people in 2016, the cost of a long distance relationship is simply not feasible. Especially as students, when the average yearly tuition for a private institution like Oxy has reached a new high of $32,410 per semester, these numbers are even more daunting. We kids don’t have money! Cough, crippling debt, cough. Maybe it sounds cynical, but it’s ridiculous to prioritize relationships over education or food.

Sure, there is the occasional story of a successful FaceTime-based LDR, but there are also heartbreaking stories about how the economics of a long distance relationship became too big of an obstacle. People may argue that Skype is free and technology has made human connection more accessible than ever — but it’s not the same. A screen can’t communicate raw human connection. Many times, actually, it becomes the reason for miscommunication and missed connections. Hearing a loved one’s voice over the phone or seeing their pixelated face on a screen might be a temporary sweetness, but it nowhere replaces their true presence. Couples could try to pixelate the nuances of their love, but ultimately, any attempt will be futile. I think we all know that, but we’re scared to admit it. Distance may make the heart grow fonder, but it sure does suck.

Proximity may not be the sexiest requirement in a possible partner, but it’s still valid. In college, we are surrounded by our peers. There is no reason why we should be wasting time, opportunity and money on someone who lives hundreds of miles from where we are. Why not shop local? Talk to that kid with the cute yawn in your 9 a.m. class! Strike up a conversation with a fellow spike-lover during an intense Spike Ball tournament! Make a Tinder! The countless number of free ways to meet a potential bae nearby make long distance relationships seem utterly moot. Heck, maybe go to your nearby human sacrifice ceremony — you never know who you’ll meet.

Ella Price is an undeclared first year. She can be reached at eprice@oxy.edu.