It was a bit better than a high school formal. Everyone was less awkward, and the gents mostly wore jackets that fit. But unfortunately, from the weak expectations of the matchmaking, to the highly traditional drunkenness, to the primordial dancing, screw was a net detraction from the Yale freshman experience.
The affair starts with a benign request: “Hey dude, can you find me a date to screw?” Sure, the name of the event is sexual and strange, but you’re happy to help a friend out. The problem is not that the date you’re to arrange will be blind, but rather that you have little incentive to make it good. They’ll have to be able to communicate somewhat, but once they exchange colleges, hometowns, intended majors and summer plans, it’ll be “pregame” time, with little expectation that they’ll speak over the next hours.
The pregame is boozy and noisy. The main difference between it and a dorm party is the attire and cleanliness of those who attend; in one of the highlights of the evening, folks have cleaned up quite well. But the music and rapid drinking — liquor in Commons is a no-no — preclude pleasant conversation, even with one’s date. And after you’ve “pregamed” at the “pregame,” the night’s featured attraction begins.
Contrary to advertisement, there’s not much Yule Ball-ish about it. The lack of owls and ball gowns aside, it’s impossible to hear anyone. A few fogies audaciously dance facing one another at the front of the room, but the mass of attendees look like they’re at Toad’s, but with a dress code. They are abetted by a DJ who will turn down for nothing — Drake will play until the dance floor is evacuated.
From midnight on, some couples stumble back to Old Campus, but most people look like they’re just with friends. After-parties rage until 3 or 4 a.m. Perhaps in some quiet corner of Durfee, a gentleman/lady kisses a gentleman/lady goodnight, thanks him or her for a lovely evening and promises to call the next day.
For most of the freshman class, it was hardly Professor McGonagall’s “evening of well-mannered frivolity.” Which is a shame, because amidst the opportunities to drink and sweat till dawn in more casual clothing, an affair of Victorian virtue, quiet music, face-to-face dancing and extended conversation would have been refreshing and even romantic. A large part of the night would have been improved with the dance itself. Here are some suggestions for future classes.
First, the lights should be closer to on than to off. That way, folks can see one another.
Second, the music should be closer to quiet than to blaring. That way, folks can hear one another.
Third, the playlist should allow for dancing that facilitates, rather than competes with, conversation. Think waltzing, not grinding.
This should all be in the service of interaction at screw itself that is less mosh-pit and sexualized and more joyous and intimate. Perhaps, if that were so, people would be a bit less likely to show up drunk. This might, in turn, encourage them to spend more time getting to know their dates. And, if a screw date were expected to be, on some level, a serious date, suitemates might think about, “Who might this person like to spend a wonderful evening with, or perhaps even date?”
Some will respond that they aren’t interested in dating, or courtship, or romance, or any of that 1950s/Jane Austen garbage. It’s college, man. Chill out. Don’t be so monoga-normative.
My response is that college already affords nightly opportunities for screw-type fun. But some day, most of us (this is monoga-positivity, now) will end up married to one other person. Perhaps that person will be met in the sweat-lubricated sauna of Toad’s, but, if I had to guess, it’ll probably be in a more intimate setting. A more formal, traditional screw would create social pressure to put one’s best foot forward, good practice for the adult world. It might even help us find a significant other, even if it didn’t for Harry, Ron or Hermione.
Cole Aronson is a freshman in Calhoun College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.