Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Valentine’s Day is my favorite time of year at Swarthmore. In the real world, this is a holiday celebrated with chocolate, gratuitously expensive dinners, and broken promises. Here it’s punctuated by ninja attacks, ridiculous costumes, and widespread embarrassment. It may be second only to the pterodactyl hunt, which has all of the above, plus nerf swords and winning.
And I have always thought that the best part of this time of year was Screw Your Roommate. I love Screw. But I know that’s a sentiment not so widely shared. It can seem really scary, standing awkwardly in Sharples dressed as a hot dog and wondering who and what you’re supposed to be looking for – A bun? Ketchup? Is there some pun you’re just not getting?
For those who don’t already love that awkward feeling, I’ve got some tips to help keep your Screw panic-free.
Screw Your Roommate is based on the premise that your roommate likes you and wants you to be happy (and maybe get some lovin’ in the process). This does not mean that they are always the most adept: at picking someone for you to get to know better, or at getting on top of coordinating early. The biggest letdowns happen when people go into Screw with high expectations, convinced that their roommate knows them so well they’re bound to find their soulmate.
Relationships have started from Screw dates, but, at least 90% of the time, they don’t. This date is a gift your roommate is giving you, so you should approach it with the same perspective as you would gifts given by grandparents – it’s the thought that counts. Whether it works out or not, your roommate has good intentions. They’re trying to do something nice for you.
It is easy to feel like an idiot when dressed like Dug from Up or Doug from Doug. Fight that feeling. Because, no matter how great your date is, if you’re self-conscious about the fact that you look ridiculous, it’s not going to go so well. The best way to combat that is to embrace it. You are going to be standing in Sharples dressed as Janelle Monae whether you like it or not, so you might as well go all-out. Besides, everyone else there it doing it too.
Lack of Pressure
Screw is the lowest pressure date you will ever go on. It is a mass event with paper plates, taco bar, and dining partners dressed like Dora the Explorer in the same place you eat meals at least twice a day. So relax. As someone who has been on plenty of bad dates, they do end. And you are surrounded by friends, so you can always suggest to eat near people you already know and like. That way, they can support you or bail you out or distract you if your date suddenly goes racist or does nothing but stare.
Keep Conversation Flowing
Sharples is a charged mass of awkward during Screw. More than on an average day. And the worst thing you can do with that is fall silent. Because, most likely, whoever is next to you is also being awkward, and without the distraction of your own conversation that environment becomes overpowering. So as long as your dinner partner is responding, say anything. It’s great if you talk about your hopes and dreams, but if the merits of different cheeses is trucking along, it’s better to go with that than to switch to something more “meaningful.” For most of us, the goal is to get through dinner with our self-esteem as intact as possible, so if you’re headed that way, don’t question it.
Don’t Be an Asshole
I have seen people throw hissy fits about Screw dates. I have seen people stand up their dates, leaving them to pace the condiment area for an hour until someone rescues them. Do not be that person. I do not care if your roommate set you up with your mortal enemy; you need to have the decency to at least show up. There is no excuse for intentionally treating someone else like crap, and unlike the real world, you will run into your intended if you douche out on them.
It’s inevitable that a lot of these dates don’t go well. It’s a numbers game. But all you have to do with this person is have dinner. You don’t have to see a movie, go dancing, or even get dessert. It can be over in half an hour flat if you want it to be, and you should be able to be nice for half an hour.
And if all else fails, just repeat to yourself over and over again that this experience was put on you with the best intentions.
If You Are in a Relationship
Go anyway. Use it as an excuse to get dressed up in a ridiculous couple costume and have dinner with someone you know you actually like.
If You Are Dateless
You have a few options here.
If you know at least a couple days in advance that you don’t have a date, but want one, tell your roommate a number of people you would want to go with. This is not the time for subtle hints. This is the time for lists with names, roommates’ names, and contact information. If people are still available, this can pull Screw in your favor, giving you the opportunity to meet and talk to someone you’ve had your eye on.
If you don’t care so much about being paired up, you can do the honors yourself. Find a friend who’s also stag and come up with a pair of costumes you’ll both enjoy wearing and go to watch everyone else’s dates.
Or you can claim that you’re too cool for Screw anyway, and gain a mild sense of satisfaction for being “above the childishness.” That is certainly your prerogative. I just ask that you not be the one wearing regular clothes and staying on the balcony, judging everyone who is trying.