Formal Liaisons


Sophie Gonick

 Tonight, an evening replete with bowties, corsages, music and dancing awaits the Class of 2006 at the Freshman Formal. Yet, for some first-years, tonight may lack one special ingredient—a date. I know plenty of girls eagerly anticipating the formal who have yet to be asked. And many of those who have secured a date did the asking themselves. What has happened to our chivalrous Harvard men? Maybe it’s a fear of making the wrong impression that is keeping Harvard men far from the dance floor.

Guys used to go to these occasions, even if they didn’t want to, out of a sense of duty. But now, shifting gender roles are are making it easier for men to be lazy, at Harvard and beyond. It was once necessary to throw special girl-ask-guy dances when the guys would regularly do the asking for other events. But now, however, it seems as if the male aversion to asking for dates has driven us to a new extreme. Some high schools even have special guy-ask-girl dances.

I asked a few first-year guys why they weren’t going. Some of them don’t want to get dressed up and many others just don’t enjoy dances. As Jacob W. Aptekar ’06 put it, “Guys don’t want to go to Freshman Formal because they think it’s going to be just like all the high school dances and no one, especially guys, has fond memories of high school dances.”

But guys would have a better time than they think. A formal, with its dancing, hors d’oeuvres, and people-watching, provides the opportunity to enjoy a festive diversion, even if it is not particularly enriching. If guys gave dances a chance, they might realize how much fun they can have when everyone gets together to have a good time.

Some men fear rejection. Though a legitimate concern, a formal dance, as a casual date, means that invitations are likely to be accepted. Many guys also worry that their date may assume some romantic attachment. But many girls just want a date who will be good company. Alexis Z. Tumolo ’06 says, “Most girls are just in it to have a good time. We value dates for their ability to give flowers, pose for pictures, and rescue us from the embarrassment that ensues when all other couples have united for a slow dance and we are left alone on the fringes of society.”

To some men’s credit, assertive, dance-loving guys exist. But many reluctant first-year men can do better. At Harvard, we pride ourselves on being the best; we should at least try to get over our fear of rejection. Give it a chance, guys. We all just want to have fun.

—Margaret M. Rossman is an editorial comper.