In theory, Freshman Screw — the annual dance held in the Commons dining hall for all freshmen — is a great idea. Almost the entire freshman class comes together for a rocking dance party and students have the opportunity to meet kids from completely different friend groups as their suitemates set them up on blind dates. However, in practice, in the process of setting up one’s suitemate and being set up, students face moral and philosophical quandaries that make the lead-up stressful.
For example, imagine that some girl in Berkeley is good friends with a guy in JE. Both of them have suitemates who are still lacking screw dates. Berkeley girl tells JE guy that her suite mate is still dateless and she’s wondering if JE guy knows anyone who is still available. JE guy says his suitemate is still available and so the setup begins.
What will ostensibly occur is that names are exchanged and both the girl and guy will tell their suitemate with whom they are being set up. The dates are “blind” since the people don’t often know each other, but in this day and age, it’s a rarity that someone will accept a date without the customary Facebook stalk. Both of the dateless people will scour each other’s profiles looking for a glimpse at whom their suitemate is trying to screw them with. Social media has come a long way, but no Facebook profile can actually reveal whether someone is a great person and whether you’d enjoy spending three hours on a Saturday night with them. Facebook profiles are often dubious representations of what a person’s life is really like. On Facebook, you can really only tell if these people are attractive — or, more likely, if they’re photogenic.
So, let’s continue our example and look at this from one of the participants’ perspective. The girl (it can just as likely be the guy) examines her prospective date’s Facebook and doesn’t find him attractive. If she doesn’t know anything about his personality other than word of mouth from an indirect source and believes he is unattractive, she will likely be disinclined to accept this man as her screw date. Now we see the problem manifest itself: What does she tell her suitemate to tell the friend from JE? She can’t just say, “I don’t know enough about him to want to spend three hours with him” because that runs counter to the very idea of a blind date. Her true reasoning for not wanting to go with him is that she finds him unattractive; however, in our society we would decry such a response as distasteful and superficial.
Herein lies the crux of the issue: this girl is now in a very unenviable position. Her reasons for not wanting to go to screw with this guy are extremely rational and fair, but she has no way of articulating this in a manner that doesn’t seem rude. Either she must take the politically incorrect route of announcing a lack of physical attraction and turning this man down, or she must weasel out of it by lying and claiming she has already found a date.
So what should she do? I’m not here to answer this question because it seems a lose-lose situation. Lying is never a great thing to do, but neither is hurting someone else’s feelings. What I do want to address, though, is that either this concept of a semi-blind date or our social norms governing courtesy may need some tampering. We must either accept that people can flat-out tell strangers they are unattractive (a rather abrasive, but also effective solution) or we must face our fears and make these screw dates truly blind as they are intended to be. For the first option, that means upsetting the “cult of likeability” (“Why don’t we complain?”, Jan.26, 2016 ) that defines our generation. For the second, it means no information exchanging and no Facebook stalking, just an old-fashioned Seinfeld-style blind date. While this option may be the noblest route, the risk of one person feeling mismatched or unhappy is likely.
While each of these solutions has drawbacks, each also clearly represents an improvement over our current situation. In the former, we risk hurting one’s feelings and getting our feelings hurt, but at least we will have a system with complete transparency. In the latter, we risk having our prized freshman screw with a miserable date, but at least feelings are protected in the process. The current situation, however, lacks candor and exhibits tremendous superficiality.
Some claim the dance is called Freshman Screw because you have the opportunity to screw your suitemate with a bad date. In our current system, your suitemate’s still getting screwed, but now, it’s by screw itself.
Cameron Koffman is a freshman in Davenport College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .