The Dating Game
for the moment
AH, SPRING. The birds are chirping, the buds are bursting, a young man's fancy turns to mush. Harvard's yearly bout of spring fever is about to begin, as section attendance drops and House courtyards become littered with prematurely scantily clad bodies. Beware. The sap is rising.
The Big Question
Romance is in the air, but it seems somewhat lacking in formalized practice. Let us begin with the obvious: do Harvardians date? "Not enough," says Daniel E. Markel '95. "People either meet each other and have one night stands or they immediately start having relationships." Indeed, it frequently seems that one has only two options for romantic interaction: to follow the immortal words of Liz Phair and "fuck and run," or become the extra roommate in the significant other's suite. It's an all or nothing proposition. What's up with that?
People in the Fifties had dates. They called each other before Thursday to schedule Saturday night activities. They got dressed up, they went out to do specific activities, and sometimes they fooled around. Having a date didn't mean you wanted to marry someone, and it didn't mean you wanted to start spending all of your free time together.
"Most of the people I know who go on dates are already having a relationship," laments Raphael D. Sperry '95. "People should definitely go on dates more often; specifically, the people who I'm into should date me more."
Jennifer S. Frautschi '95-'97 concurs about the abysmal state of dating interactions. "The dates I've purportedly been on have been miscommunication dates. I've been unaware that they were dates, where as the other half thought they were dates. Such miscommunication leads to murder, stalking, and the decay of Western civilization."
Where Can I Get Some?
The delineations of a date are infinitely problematic. For example, the other night, I somewhat reluctantly accompanied a male friend to the North End for dinner. As we sat in the lounge of a shitty Italian restaurant (I'm allergic to Italian food) waiting for our Formica booth to be ready, we were surrounded by aged alcoholics and squirming children, all of whom were silently and raptly watching golf on the big screen TV (I hate watching golf). In the midst of our stilted and awkward conversation, I was informed, to my surprise, that we were in fact on a date. "That's a bad date," says Greg C. Clayman '95. He is one of the few who believe dating is alive and well at Harvard. "Sometimes you don't know you're having a date until you're on it. I used to think that "dating" was a Happy Days phenomenon, but I've done it a lot. I don't think dating today is as formal as the term implies--people aren't like that. A date is when two people go out alone and they're not good friends. People at Harvard are dating. They just don't know that they are."
The Coffee Question
To compensate for what many see as the lack of formalized dating, the construct of Having Coffee has been institutionalized. "Coffee is not quite a date--it's somewhere in between," says Elie M. Finegold '95-'96. "It bridges the gap between the academic world, where Harvard students are comfortable, and the social world, where they are not. Coffee is the centerpiece of sober interaction at Harvard." Coffee is liminal; you can ask the cute guy in seminar Out For Coffee with impunity, since it can be cloaked, ostensibly, in the guise of continued academic discourse. The experience can be just flirtatious enough to make it interesting, however. "Someone isn't asking you Out For Coffee just because he thinks you're a good coffee drinker," advises Clayman.
If you want to be sly, ask the person if they want to go out for a "Warm beverage." Location for such as event is key to determining whether it is or is not a date. Cafe Algiers and Cafe Pamplona rack up more points for date-like environment, whereas Au Bon Pain has little to no romantic ambiance. Ordering the correct thing is essential. According to Marcus R. Wohlsen '97: "If my date were to order a large mochaccino with a double shot of amaretto, I might find her kind of pretentious." Similarly, Rafael N. Castro '97 recommends the low road. "Always order either an espresso or a regular black cup of joe. Tea is fine too, although once I ordered herbal tea on a date and a woman called me a SNAG (Sensitive New Age Guy)." Those of you who wish to avoid attachments, beware of confections: "If you share a piece of cake, it's definitely a date," says Nicole S. Sabado '94. "Cake is a serious commitment." The final word on the subject belongs to Roni Brunn '96, member of a semi-secret Bow Street social organization which publishes a so-called humor magazine: "Never judge someone by the size of their latter."