The Great Wall of Snark

It’s always a good week when you see an article on your Facebook news feed that sums up everything you’ve been thinking about that week, especially when you have a blog.

This week’s winning article is from Charlotte Lieberman, a recent graduate of Harvard, whose Carrie Bradshaw-esque article “Why is College Dating So Screwed Up?” has made its way from the Cosmopolitan website to every college girl’s Facebook wall.

Normally, I really hate Cosmo. My best friend and I spent a good part of our New Year’s Eve sleepover flipping through an issue, half laughing, half feeling like puking. But Lieberman’s article was an insightful surprise. En somme, she argues that the relationship problems that college students face are not caused by the so-called “hookup culture,” but rather by technology, sexual experimenting and what Lisa Wade, professor of sociology at Occidental College, calls the “whoever-cares-less-wins” dynamic.

I’m not qualified to talk about the first two causes, so I’ll focus on the last one: assuaging the fear of investing too much emotion and getting hurt by putting up walls of nonchalance.

My honors senior seminar class this semester has practically turned into biweekly group therapy. There are six students in the class, all female, and so our conversations can get pretty personal without fear. This week, our professor asked us to go around the circle and name one behavioral pattern we have noticed ourselves falling into. Mine falls directly under the “whoever-cares-less-wins” umbrella.

When I first try to make friends with a girl, I am very friendly, smiling, open and warm. Later on, as we start to become better friends, my alter ego that I like to call Snarky Vicky comes out. I’m sassy, but it’s all in good humor. When I try to make friends with a guy, it’s a completely different story. Snarky Vicky comes in full force, crushing every male ego in her path. Okay, not really. But I am not warm or open or caring or sensitive. Never. It’s only after I’ve known the guy for several months that I start to soften up, and for some guys, I never do.

And here’s the issue: I’m sick and tired of it.

I hate that I feel I have to put up this Great Wall of Snark to interact with guys, like Heaven forbid they take my attempts to be friendly as flirting! Lieberman recalls an experience where she met a guy at a party who said he’d text her to hang out the next night. He never did, and he avoided her the next day in class. When they met up again a month later, he said that he thought she was cool, but didn’t want to date her. In Lieberman’s words, who had ever said anything about dating?! I feel her frustration: when did the line between friendliness and flirtation become so blurred? If contemporary feminism promotes equality between the sexes, why do we still see guys as “males” before we see them as “human beings?”

I know several intelligent, funny and interesting guys whom I would love to call friends, not boyfriends. But instead of pursuing a friendship, we’re stuck in a “snarkship,” where our conversations contain more witty rejoinders than substance. I’m not saying that clever bantering isn’t a healthy part of a relationship, but there needs to be a balance between jokes and sincerity. You need to know that the other person will be there for you if you have a problem. I don’t feel like I could have a serious, intelligent, meaningful conversation with any of the guys I’m in a “snarkship” with, and that saddens me. There are few things I love more than a really good conversation.

So this is an open letter to any guy I’m currently in a “snarkship” with (you know who you are): I think you’re awesome. I admire you. I would like to get to know you better. I don’t want a relationship, just a friendship. I want you to feel like you can trust me, and that I can trust you. If I’m nice to you, if I ask you how your day is going, if I ask you a thought-provoking question, it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m flirting with you. I just want to talk. And if you do too, let’s be friends.

A bientôt!

– Vicky

Are you currently in a “snarkship”? Do you have any other thoughts on Lieberman’s article? Share them in the comments!

15 Situations Made Less Awkward by Contra Dance

Last Saturday night was the first contra dance of the semester at the big university in town. For me and my friends, this is the best night of the month. Since a friend who plays fiddle in a contra band introduced a group of us to the swirling, toe-tapping world of contra dance last semester, we’ve become addicted.  

Contra dance is a New England variation of 17th century English country dance. (Think Jane Austen attending a party thrown by Laura Ingalls Wilder.) The name, as I found out comes from the French, contre danse. Happy Francophile is happy. I and my friends join 60 or so local residents — no formal partner required, because everyone changes partners for every dance — and step, swing and sway according to the caller’s directions.

I’ve been trying to write about contra for a while, but of course I couldn’t do it to my satisfaction without a pinch of snark. So, here I bring you 15 normally awkward situations rendered slightly less mal à droite by contra dancing. Notice how I say “slightly.”

1. Stepping on your partner’s toes. Contra moves fast. Ain’t nobody got time for excuses for your two left feet. Quickly apologize and move on.

2. Someone stepping on your toes. Don’t wear sandals. Don’t do it.

3. Sweat. By the end of the first dance, contra dance halls get as warm and moist as a greenhouse. You will be touching a lot of sweaty backs. Get used to it.

4. Asking a guy to dance. There’s usually a shortage of partners, so grab ’em while you can.

5. Asking another girl to dance. It’s not weird. Seriously.

6. Dancing with someone other than your SO. Everyone changes partners. Don’t be stingy. And even in the course of the dance, you end up dancing with several different partners, or “neighbors.”

On a side note, my ex-boyfriend told me that seeing me dance with other guys made him jealous in a “Save the Last Dance for Me” kind of way. He was dating a pretty girl that guys wanted to dance with, but he would always scoop me up for the closing waltz. (We didn’t break up because of contra, I swear!)

7. Dancing with someone twice your age. Contra dances attract a lot of locals. People under 30 make up a small percent of the population, even in a college town.

8. Dancing with someone old enough to be your grandfather. See above.

9. Holding hands with a stranger. You have to hold hands with your partner or else you will go spinning into the wall. Between a broken nose and clasping someone else’s sweaty palm, I’d choose the latter.

10. Staring into someone’s eyes for a whole minute. Eye contact is crucial for “swinging,” or spinning in a circle with your partner, especially for those prone to motion sickness.

11. Small talk. Normally, I hate small talk, but it’s even more awkward if you dance with someone without getting at least their name.

12. Dancing with someone in whom you have no romantic interest. These dances may have been designed as a form of courtship, or Elizabeth-and-Darcy-style snark-fests, but asking someone to dance does not mean you like them, nor does being asked to dance mean someone likes you.

13. Dancing with someone who you do find attractive. You can always play the it’s-a-contra-dance-and-my-dancing-with-you-is-totally-arbitrary-except-not-really card.

14. Not having any idea how to dance. There is someone there whose sole job is to tell you what to do, i.e. the caller.

15. Showing that you’re having a good time. People appreciate smiling. And laughing. You’re not a robot. Relax. Have fun.

À la prochaine!

– Vicky