Fifty-two minutes ago, I got an email from Martha Stewart with the subject line “14 Ways to Enjoy Parsnip + Fall Party Essentials.” Thanks, Martha! I don’t remember subscribing to your panlist, but now I will never need to worry again about how to eat parsnips or enjoy parties in a seasonally appropriate manner.
But seriously, thank God Martha has gotten in touch. As we speak, we’re standing on the cusp of a new season — and both you and I need her guidance for it. It’s the start of fall party season — or, as we call it at Yale — screw time.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I am fundamentally confused by screw. Maybe my lack of understanding is a cultural thing: The other day, I tried to explain to a friend back home what screw is, and she didn’t get it either. I think that’s because in England, we don’t set up our suitemates for parties with some rando from section under the assurance that they’re “better in person” and that, yes, they’ll (most probably) definitely be down to hook up.
That might be why, when I was talking to my friend, it took me about 10 minutes to come up with a definition of screw that came across as neither bizarre, nor borderline sociopathic. I finally sanitized it to “a blind date minus the date, set up by someone else and paid for by your Master.” In hindsight, that still sounds extremely uncomfortable.
It’s all in the name, really. “Screw” says, “Hello! I am a party in which you will either screw or get screwed over by a stranger, depending on how successfully your suitemate bartered you a date via Facebook.” Martha has included none of these elements in her fall party essentials. That means this is weird.
I feel like someone a long time ago should have had a very serious chat with the person who held the first screw. They should have explained to them why being strong-armed by ambient pressure to hook up with a stranger is an even worse idea than throwing a Guantanamo Bay -themed Coachella party (yes, that happened).
If Martha and I had that chance today, here’s how we would do it:
First off, screw gives rise to some rather grimace-inducing behavior. In the past two years, I’ve witnessed person after person appraise their closest friends’ looks as if they were just numbers on a budget, then tot up who they could “afford” to be set up with. When we get set up, we’re just as bad: People aren’t always charitable when they receive an offer they feel they can refuse. What’s more, I’ve also seen a distressing number of dates fall through because a “better” offer has come along. Net result: We find ourselves on a campus where people are thinking of and treating a potential date but like an item in their online shopping cart.
Martha would turn screw into more of a soiree, substituting systemic disrespect with some “delightful bites.”
Secondly, being set up for screw leads to disaster approximately 93 percent of the time. Option 1: You and your date get along fine and he/she look cute and you maybe have a little fumble at the end of the night. You then ignore each other for the next four years, and it never stops being awkward when you’re both in the Stiles pizza line. Option 2: It’s awkward from the beginning, and you spend the night desperately making rescue signals across the sweaty, sweaty surfaces of Lilly’s Pad. Still, you feel disappointed if you two don’t hook up at the end of the night, because however much you didn’t want to, you feel like it was expected. Option 3: You are one of five people on campus now dating their screw date. You are as rare as a short Durfee’s line.
Martha would propose one of “27 Cocktail Hour Favorites” to help distract you from unsuitable dates and crippling social pressures.
Thirdly, unlike most worst-case scenarios, the screw one actually does pretty consistently happen. When setting their suitemate up, Yalies can make assumptions about sexuality or other preferences, making that person feel cripplingly uncomfortable and alone for much longer than one night. I’ve known someone outed that way; I know someone else who never came out to those suitemates because the whole setup made them seem so insensitive.
I don’t think even Martha could put a cherry on top of that problem. However solid a tradition screw may be, it couldn’t be further from a fall party essential.