Unsurprisingly, given last week’s column, I’m still single. I’d given myself one week as the final bracket within which I could logistically find a successful partner at Swarthmore and failed just as badly as I did on my CHEM10H final. In light of what I predict to be a continued inability to find a partner at this school, I’ve thought back on why it hasn’t happened, why for many the Quaker matchbox is an illusion that burns away in smoke. One particular aspect of this marketing ploy, a specific selling point of the Swarthmore community, has stuck out to me: Swarthmore is a quirky school, full of quirky kids, with quirky interests, who live in quirky dorms and use quirky laundry detergent to wash their quirky clothes, and take quirky shits in said quirky dorms’ quirky bathrooms. I’m sure you get the idea. The way that this translates for relationships is the assumption that given how unique you are, and how unique everyone else is, you’re bound to find someone compatible amidst the huge range of personalities here — or at least, that’s what I was told. And so, I’ve continued to wonder: How does this myth play out in our day-to-day lives and expectations, and can we truly find the one at Swarthmore?
Many people get to college thinking they’re going to fit a specific archetype made just for them. I remember my best friend from home telling me, “You’re going to get to Swarthmore and be this cute, Euro stud. They’re gonna lap you up.” It was a cute idea. I’m sure many others were looking forward to Swarthmore as the time where they’d finally meet people who shared or appreciated their specific obscure obsession with some mediocre TV show, defunct musical artist, or obscure and grossly unappreciated novelist. On the one hand, there is conviction in one’s individuality, or at least distinction from the mass. Yet on the other, there is hope of finding some sort of community or conformity. Is quirky a plague we try to rid ourselves of? Does it just create a new norm that we hope others aspire to as well? In my opinion it just represents a façade, a surface identity we shed off with time. Particular interests and outward displays of personality provide little insight into genuine character.
Individuality, as it is construed by quirkiness, breaks down if you assume it transcends surface affect. I think a fair amount about sex and relationships, and I don’t see the concept fitting in. Imagine getting quirky head. What would that be, just rubbing one’s forearm up and down a shaft? Poking a clitoris repeatedly? For dates, maybe the first couple times some inventive and cute activity would be entertaining. But how long can that last? Imagine, three months down the line, still being dragged to play in dead leaves in the Crum. Or something, I don’t fucking know what people do nobody asks me out. Surely, after a while, normality is what one craves, being able to kickback in bed and watch something dumb on TV with a sleeve of vanilla cremes.
If quirkiness is a surface affect, how would it in any way inform actual compatibility? I seriously doubt much sets the Swarthmore student body apart from other comparable institutions, apart from potential aspirations at difference. The truth is, it took me way too long to learn that everybody in this school is boring: doing the same old shit that everyone else does, with the same old problems and same old day-to-day routine. I feel like I’m writing something glaringly obvious, but apparently the ideal of a quirky Swarthmore is pervasive enough to have convinced me otherwise for a while. Then again, I probably wanted to believe it.
Call me self-indulgent for writing two mopey, cathartic pieces in a row, although I’m sure you’ve realised this column has degenerated into a public diary. I’m sure I’m not alone revelling in this frustration: Maybe some senior, as they remember their impending graduation, has been swearing under their breath at the Admissions Office’s complete bullshit that initially lured them into this mess of a school. I remember so vividly my tour guide, three years ago, who described in great detail the Yoda backpack that heavily featured in their common app essay. I thought to myself, “Surely if there’s room in this place for this person to flourish, there’s bound to be somebody I could end up with?” I now realise I was a stupid, pompous twit, convinced of my own individuality as a delusion of greatness. It took me a while here to realize that quirky, regardless of what it may mean, is a façade; regardless of online persona, questionable clothing decisions (guilty), or ambiguous personality traits, we all go home and watch shitty TV on Netflix alone in our bed when we feel tired. Or at least, most of us do. The others are on their own.