Screw Your Roommate, an impressively awkward school tradition that began in the 80s, returned this year on Feb. 18. Dressed in often embarrassing costumes, several hundred anxious and uncomfortable students gathered in Sharples around dinner time in search for a blind date set up for them by their respective roommates.
The broad intention of the event — colloquially titled “Screw”— is to connect random folks to make the college community a little closer. However, as it occurs during the Valentine’s season, this often involves romantic (or prankish) intentions, which often leads to flirty (or awkward) interactions. The result of such dates can range from getting married — as in the case of Professor Atshan’s sister and her husband — to never speaking again. Most just make a new acquaintance.
Before the event, most students scramble to find a match for their roommate or a friend, which involves a lot of Cgynetting and Facebook messaging of strangers. Not for Jon Kriney ’20, however, who said he received six requests for his roommate Zack Weiss ’20. (Zack credits the duo’s holiday cards to his success.)
Even once secured, students often feel apprehensive leading up to the event. Gilbert Orbea ’19 said the anticipation of Screw made him feel “incredibly anxious,” although he encouraged everyone to do it at least once during their time at Swarthmore. Julia Dalrymple ’21, who dressed as a hippie for the event, called Screw awkward.
“Screw is a great way to force a mutually awkward situation on everyone,” she said. “We’re all on a level playing field. I didn’t feel the pressure of any expectations because it was so lighthearted and intentionally awkward.”
The student-led event was a community-wide effort. After a flurry of panicked messages on the college’s Facebook page regarding the unknown date for the event, Dakota Gibbs ’19 decided to take the situation into his own hands. He sent a campus-wide email declaring the date, closing the brief message with “That is all. Make plans accordingly.” Dakota said he received many thankful responses that commended his initiative.
To help ease the inevitable awkwardness of a blind date, Owen Kephart ’19 made and shared a “Conversation Starter Cheat Sheet” to the college’s meme page a week prior. The questions ranged from “When’s your bedtime?” and “Which Sharples room do you most identify with?” to “What’s your favorite spot on campus to cry?” and “What was your first-choice college?” The post received 181 reactions.
Costumes included Madison Snyder ’21 wearing the first half of a Cards Against Humanity sentence reading “A romantic, candlelit dinner would be incomplete without _____” with Sam Jacobson ’21 wearing a sign reading, “A blind screw date at Sharples.” Others included Wendy and Peter Pan, a crazy cat lady and her kitten, and a sheriff and a delinquent. At least two couples dressed as salt and pepper.
However, not everyone was hoping for a romantic encounter.
“Unlike a lot of people, my Screw date and I were going in with platonic intentions, just trying to have good conversation, and I ended up having a really great time,” Will Bein ’21, who dressed as Peter Pan, said. “Screw Your Roommate is fun for more than just people looking for a relationship, and it’s a great way to meet people and get you out of your comfort zone.”
In case the dinner went well (or badly), E,A,T hosted an after-dinner “Sweet Escape” event involving chocolate-dipped sweets for students, specifically Screw couples, to enjoy after their dinner. Club Co-President Adam Agustin ’20 said the event served as a chance for the dates to spend extra time together.
“My favorite take-away from the event was to see how many people actually came along with their Screw dates,” he said. “I enjoyed seeing them still have a great time, even after the Screw festivities.”
Zach Lytle ’21, who didn’t attend the after-dinner but wish he did, rated the event 11/10, saying he would go again. David Pipkin ’18 said Screw is the kind of tradition that makes Swarthmore unique.
“Even its phrasing evokes a pause if you aren’t familiar with it,” he said. “It’s the kind of eccentricity that reminds you where you are, and to some small extent why you’re here.”