Screw Your Roommate is a tradition that has graced the grounds of Swarthmore with awkwardness and chicken grilla sandwiches since the spring of ’83. Okay, maybe the sandwiches weren’t a part of it in the 80s, but the endearing awkward interactions for which Swat is best known? That has certainly been a constant throughout the years. According to an article entitled “The History of the ‘Screw Your Roommate’ Dance,” the February 17, 1989 Phoenix reported “Everyone had been in an uproar for weeks. The whole social structure had been shaken to its very roots. Phone calls had been made, arrangements had fallen through. No one could agree on anyone. No, this wasn’t the realization of Marx’s prediction of a social revolution … It was time for Swarthmore’s annual ‘Screw Your Roommate’ Dance.’”
Twenty-seven years later and Screw Your Roommate seems no different. You may get matched, unmatched, and matched again, all of it culminating in what hopefully is a fun and awkward date in an elaborate (or not so elaborate) costume of your match-maker’s choice.
Speaking of getting matched and unmatched, this year’s Screw Your Roommate had a novel twist to it with the introduction of the ScrewDriver app, created by Tobin Feldman-Fitzthum ’19, that allowed for a Tinder-esque method of matching your roommate or friend.
How has ScrewDriver changed the game with regards to finding dates?
“Screwdriver is really helpful for looking beyond your social circle and meeting people at Swat that you wouldn’t otherwise.”
As a senior, Spriha Dhanuka was especially appreciative of this ability to discover new Swatties as she feels as if her social circle has been exhausted after four years at Swarthmore.
“It was really interesting because I got to talk to someone I would have never encountered otherwise,” Dhanuka said.
Most people I talked with also did Screw for this reason, as opposed to finding someone who they would be seriously romantically interested in.
“It wasn’t something I set up as being a really big romantic thing — I wasn’t trying to get married the next day. I was just excited to meet more people and be sociable,” Eliza Henneberry ’19 said.
Kaitelyn Pasillas ’ 20 also echoed this sentiment.
“I’m not really into it as a find [someone to date] thing … I’m not looking for that – it is only the first year,” she said about her decision to keep things just friendly.
However, there are some brilliant exceptions that go beyond the realm of the platonic. Visiting Professor of Microbiology — and one half of a quaker Matchbox couple — Elizabeth Wilbanks shared her compelling story. How did her date go?
“The long-game is we’re married … the short-game was completely disastrous,” Wilbanks said.
Wilbanks, a self-described awkward later-bloomer, guessed whom her date was through hints that her roommate had been dropping, and was very excited for her date.
“She was such a catch … an amazing woman. I later found out that she was completely not excited and thought it was the world’s stupidest thing” Wilbanks said.
As you might imagine, the date did not go well. Following a five-minute conversation, Wilbanks’ future wife said she had a migraine and left her all by her lonesome in Sharples.
“I was like ‘oh god I’m completely unlovable.’” Wilbanks confessed.
By the time her date came back (she really did have a migraine) Wilbanks was nowhere to be found.
“We spent the rest of the year, you know, salad bar at Sharples, not making eye-contact.”
However, Sophomore year, Wilbanks’ quadmate was her date’s lab partner for organic chemistry, and Wilbanks begged her roommate to switch labs with her.
“And so we were lab partners for organic chemistry … and we had a lot of great chemistry.” Wilbanks chuckled.
Although previously stating that they were solely interested in Screw for a friendship, after hearing Wilbanks’ story, Henneberry confessed that maybe a different openness was possible.
“I was a little bit wondering if I was going to meet my microbiology wife — I was waiting.” they said.
At the end of the day, Screw sends an important message to Swatties.
“I think screw is great because it legitimizes the kind of awkward social experiences we have on a daily basis. People have these awkward dates and awkward conversations with strangers all the time, but Screw is telling you ‘It’s okay, it’s a tradition to do it!’” Dhanuka said.
But whether you’re dating or not it’s important to cherish these interactions.
“It’s a bubble, but there’s so many beautiful people here — whether you’re dating them or you’re friends with them, just enjoy your classmates because they’re really special.” Wilbanks advised
So you can meet your soulmate at Screw Your Roommate. But will you? The proof is in the paella. It’s possible you will meet the love of you life, but more likely you’ll just have some bad chicken grilla.