October 12, 2007

Young, restless, and woefully awkward

Finished with their ill-advised, drug-fueled “O-Mances” (O-Week romances), first-years are troubled once again by a question that has long plagued University of Chicago students. They naïvely thought they had solved it in high school, yet it now rears its ugly head. For many people here, it becomes The Question, and for many U of C graduates, it remains life’s defining mystery: How, exactly, does one interact with the opposite sex?

Before I get started with some modest, yet fallible suggestions for those seeking advice on this matter, let me dispel a few misguided notions. First off, many people here consider themselves masters of interacting with the opposite sex and wish to share their “knowledge.” However, just as people here frequently claim to be well versed in philosophy/several languages/Ernest Hemingway, this is merely a lie uttered to impress others. If anyone who went here were truly adept at interacting with the opposite sex, he or she wouldn’t have gone to the University of Chicago, otherwise known as “The Place Where Awkward High Schoolers Become Awkward College Students.”

Second on the list of lies is the claim that attending frat parties is the best way to strike up relationships with the opposite sex. Ignore this assertion as well. Fraternity parties at the University of Chicago simultaneously manage to be not enough fun (for those attending) and apparently too much fun (according to neighbors and the UCPD). Furthermore, despite claims of intellectual maturity (“We host academic speakers!”) and practical value (“I only joined for the networking!”), the frats here manage to be stereotypical enough to frequently embrace the lowest common denominator. No, frat parties should be avoided at all costs.

How, then, does one initiate contact with the opposite sex? How does one ask someone out on a date? Class is usually a good option. Sit next to someone who seems interesting. Of course, failing that, find someone attractive. Starting up a conversation with a stranger may seem scary, but it is surprisingly effective, as your boldness will mislead your target into thinking you are self-confident. Quickness is perhaps the most important factor in the initial conversation; you don’t want to seem hesitant. In fact, I recommend approaching the object of your desire within three seconds of making eye contact with him/her. It is possible to stare at him/her all quarter before striking up a conversation, but you will likely come across as creepy and slightly deranged by that point. Then again, this would merely place you at par for the course.

Once the ice is broken and conversation has reached a comfortable pace, it is time to ask your target to hang out. If he or she says “no,” be sure not to argue or act like you are hurt. Hatred and shame may fester inside you from such a rejection, but it is best to keep such things suppressed while you plot future revenge. If they say “yes,” it’s time to pick a venue. Try not to choose the Medici, if only to avoid the 18 other couples who will be there on first dates as well, most of whom will seem to be doing a better job than you.

During and after the first date, it is vital to keep your cool. You may be convinced that you have just met your soulmate and feel it appropriate to tell him or her this after your first cup of coffee together. This would be disastrous and should be avoided at all costs if you wish to prevent your relationship with this person from devolving into a series of awkward “hellos” and becoming something which you will regret for the next several years—not that I’ve ever, uh, done anything like that.

If you go on a first date and manage to play it cool, you have achieved a level of success gained by only a small percentage of the student body. Bask in your hard-won glory and do not get discouraged when you realize that those popular kids from high school are now popular kids in college who go on scores of dates every week without any of the stress or panic it has caused you. You have succeeded, however modest this success may be. This, unfortunately, is where my help ends. Why, you ask? Please—If I were an expert in what to do after this point, I wouldn’t be at the University of Chicago.