First scenario. You’re at Paces on a Saturday night. You’ve never been sweatier. You see someone cute. You go up to them and you talk to them. You ask to dance. They say yes. You try to maneuver dancing without spilling your cup of Natty Light. You ask their name. You ask it again. You strain to hear it over “Hey-Ya.” After a bit, you ask to kiss them. They say yes. You guys make out for a bit and then each go your separate ways, agreeing it was fun and to see each other soon. Now imagine you run into that same person in Sharples on Sunday morning. Do you say hello?
Second scenario. Say you took a class with someone in the fall. You know their name and they know yours. You can recognize each other’s faces. Maybe you communicated over Facebook once or twice about homework. Once that class has ended, you see the person in Sharples, or in front of Kohlberg. You see each other. Do you say hello?
Given the second scenario, I think most people would greet the person from their class. It’s a small campus and you recognize faces after a while. It’s just common courtesy to say hi. But for some reason, given the first scenario, many, if not most, people would ignore that person entirely. My usual routine involves looking at my phone and praying the person doesn’t notice me. I ignore the heat rising to my face and pretend like nothing ever happened. I know this interaction isn’t foreign to many of us. It’s way too familiar, and isn’t that pretty fucking weird?
We know parties as the hub of social life. Many people come to college, ready to go out every night; for Swat’s craziest party-goers, maybe twice a week. While parties are one of the most intimate and social spaces for students at college, at the same time, they can be the most isolating. Why is it that we insist that our weekend selves and our weekday selves are separate people? Why don’t we give people we’ve hooked up with the same basic respect as people we meet in our classes?
This is a disconnect many college students enforce, and the repercussions of it aren’t always as harmless as we think. We pretend that a hook up at a party is synonymous with the party itself. We make the hook up into an event within the event instead of what it really is, which is an interaction with another human being. By doing this, we turn that person into an anonymous, blurry memory rather than a classmate, hallmate, or peer. We deny that person the formation of a full being in our own minds. The more we convince ourselves that this is the way to interact with each other, the more dangerous and lonely it becomes.
Now, I’m not saying we all need to stop casually hooking up at parties. There are so many negative ideas around how to conduct ourselves sexually, and we absorb all kinds of shame that has been pushed onto us against our will. People should casually hook up if they want to, but along with subverting those rigid ideas around promiscuity, we need to rid ourselves of the shame around promiscuity as well. We need to ask ourselves, why do we feel that the people we’ve engaged in some kind of sexual contact with don’t deserve to be acknowledged? I think the answer to that is deeper than just awkwardness.
For many of us, college can be an extremely lonely place. We’re away from home, from family, from what we’re used to. We crave connection and intimacy with each other in any way we can. Meeting people at parties is a way in which we continue that search for intimacy. However, we need to do a better job of maintaining connections with each other and with our actions once the party is over. At best, our disconnection between person and drunken action ends in avoiding someone in Sharples. At worst, it ends in violence. We have to see each other as people, not just drunken mistakes, in order to truly respect each other as people.
Party spaces are already set up for this not to be the case. It’s hard to see people’s faces and hear clear consent. With the changing attitudes around party spaces, there also needs to be a changing attitude around how we interact with one another once the party is over. There’s no reason not to say “hi” to someone the day after you’ve made out with them or slept over in their room. There’s no rule that it’s not “chill” to say hello after you’ve shared an extremely intimate experience with someone. It’s kind of crazy that we default to not acknowledging someone’s existence rather than dealing with an awkward four-second interaction. I think we can do better. I know we can do better.
Acknowledge people you had a drunken conversation with at Pub Nite. Give a friendly wave to someone you danced with or a smile to someone you made out with. Maybe give an awkward laugh and a “hey!” to someone whose sheets you’ve slept on. Allow yourself to connect with people in Paces and beyond. Don’t let alcohol be an excuse to be assholes to each other.