If one is especially cynical, it’s easy to see life as nothing more than a glorified game. Each morning, the players awaken and go about their days, attempting to strategize their way–by way of school, or job, or relationship–into mortal prizes such as fame or pleasure.
I am not generally this cynical–the belief in a higher meaning is helpful in preventing that–but the night I signed up for my university’s version of The Dating Game, I was certainly feeling a small amount of disdain for the concept of romantic relationships. The entire courtship process, as I watched relationships play out around me, seemed almost comic. Who cares how many times in a row each person texts? Or how often each person likes the other person’s Instagram posts and tweets? The entire process, that evening, was tinted with something like irony, if not merely disappointing the romantic who lives in the creases of my heart. Thus, on a whim, at 12:03 pm, I filled out the application. (It was short, with questions like “what are you studying” and “what was your favorite childhood book?” I didn’t take it overly seriously, excepting the above question, because I take books seriously.)
Imagine my surprise, then, when I got an email explaining that 1) they wanted me to be a contestant and 2) they were actually doing a version of the game where they opened with a “first impression” section, a la The Bachelor, before moving on to the traditional game, but would I still be willing to take part in the game? I had a moment of panic because I would have to actually talk, or maybe even flirt, with a boy, IN FRONT OF PEOPLE. After texting a number of my friends in a burst of frenetic energy, I had an epiphany. This is something I signed up for. It is something I can do. If nothing else, it will be an excellent chance at a behind-the-scenes case study of human females in competition for a (theoretically) attractive human male. (Clearly, this was not my most optimistic moment.)
So I replied to the email with a ‘yes’.
The day of the event came. I sat through a shpeal about the night, how and when we would get into the limo, how long our introductions should be, et cetera. One of the girls on my floor curled my hair. I got ready, ate, and wandered around a bit, suddenly antsy. I procured a punny Harry Potter pick-up line from the depths of my brain, as apparently, our bachelor was a Gryffindor. I arrived at Bauman early–and started talking to the other girls there.
That was the best decision I could’ve made. After the event–complete with several couples playing some variation of the Mr&Mrs Quiz, the bachelorette choosing her date for the evening, our own awkward don’t-let-your-skirt-ride-up-as-you-exit-the-limo-followed-by-bad-jokes-and-awkward-hugs first impressions, the bachelor only remembering two of our names, and an incredibly blasé set of question from the bachelor–I was left with a sense of relief at not being chosen for the final three. I would have actually had to go on the date.
No, the best part of the evening wasn’t competing for the bachelor. The situation really was a game, with the idea that, by winning, you could (theoretically) find something real. (Legend has it that several years ago a couple who met on the show really did date, and ended up marrying.) The game wasn’t the fun, though. The highlight of the evening was the ten minutes we–the ten girls competing for the bachelor–spend sitting in the limo, collectively questioning the life decisions we’d made to get to this place.
There’s a lot of pressure on women–especially in the Christian world–to not be single. “Ring by spring!” we laugh. “Gotta get that MRS degree!” We laugh, but it lingers. Jokes, in my experience, tend to hold an element of truth. So the best part of that evening, of taking part in the madness of The Dating Game, is that I didn’t get a guy; instead, I made friends. These aren’t people I’ll share my life with, per say, but that’s not the point. They made the evening. Not the guy who forgot our names. The girls who laughed at him for doing so.
In my most cynical moments, I’ve considered scorning romantic relationships for all time, but never, not once, have I considered refusing to make friends. Even if this life is just the jeu-des-jeux: friends, even small ones, are what make it worth playing.