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College Comment
Blind Date, 21st-Century Style

My mother was appalled. “You’re going to a dance this weekend called “Screw Your Roommate?” My Yale education was apparently not taking the shape she’d hoped.

The best I could do was explain the concept: Every fall, each residential college, and the freshman class as a whole, hosts a dance commonly known as their “Screw.” During the weeks leading up to these dances, students scramble to set up their suitemates with a surprise date for the evening—often a complete stranger. The identity of the date is kept a secret until the night of the screw, when the couples meet each other in a prearranged location, often under heavily contrived circumstances.

Sure, maybe the name “Screw” is a little crude, especially since in reality the dance has nothing to do with sex. And maybe having 13 of them in one semester is a little excessive—most universities get by with one or two. But there’s something undeniably magical about the Screw at Yale.

For starters, there’s the random, shot-in-the-dark date. Freshman year, my entire suite spent countless hours poring over the freshman face book, debating the pros and cons of every half-inch black-and-white photo.

“There’s no one I know I really want to go with,” we’d say. “Just surprise me.”

Just surprise me, that is, with an astonishingly attractive, witty, and sensitive white knight who happens to be single. Sounds like a “good screw” to me.

With the choices made, the next step for student matchmakers to plan is the rendezvous. Given the fact that the principals are often complete strangers, you might think a low-key setting would be ideal. But this simply isn’t done. Yalies arrange to have their suitemates meet in, say, Harkness Tower or Phelps Gate. They instruct them to look for someone carrying handcuffs, waving lingerie, or singing “Strangers in the Night.” After this remarkably awkward introduction, the next stop is most likely the Pre-Party. This little get-together involves hundreds of people packed into a suite, yelling over loud R&B and sipping warm punch that resembles Sudafed. The dates enter to see countless other couples carrying handcuffs and lingerie, make countless introductions, and perhaps even attempt conversation. More Sudafed.

Eventually, they do end up at the actual dance, usually in a Hawaiian-decorated dining hall. They pick at pineapple chunks and marvel at other odd pairings. They attempt to dance, but can’t shake the tune of “Strangers in the Night.”

In the end, Screws can be a good evening. There were no white knights in the cards for my freshman suite, but very few complete disasters either—and the spectacle around campus on any Screw night is well worth the effort.  So what if my mother can’t possibly fathom the appeal of Screws?  She just hasn’t been handcuffed.  the end


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