If you know anything about me, you would know that I love going to Pause Dances. I love to dance, hang out with my friends, and act a complete fool, which is pretty much what Pause Dances are for. People at Olaf seem to really enjoy complaining about how Pause Dances aren’t fun anymore because apparently having more lights on makes the entire event completely defunct. Whatever. As long as there is fun music and I am with people who are trying to have an enjoyable night, I usually have a fabulous time.
I think that quite a few Oles go into Pause Dances with the goal of finding a hookup. Such a groundbreaking, original insight, I know. All the power to those people. My freshman year I was such a shy, nervous lad that I couldn’t imagine trying to find another Ole for an impromptu sexual rendezvous. It took enough courage for me to go into the sea of sloppy drunk students without an all-consuming fear that I would be mercilessly trampled. As my time at St. Olaf progressed, I became much more comfortable with Pause Dances, and I could properly handle the occasional drunk person clumsily running into me.
With some new found confidence, I began to see Pause Dances as a place to potentially find a temporary hookup. The prospect was quite exciting. I was no longer an intimidated freshman. I was a self-assured sophomore. Before dances, I began to put much more attention to how I dressed and groomed myself, and I frequently consulted friends about how I looked. While I still danced in the manner that I wanted to, I definitely held back my more manic dance moves in order to appear more desirable to any interested parties. A shift had occurred. I no longer simply wanted to dance with friends, but appear attractive to others.
However, Pause Dances don’t work for everyone, specifically if you are queer. It may seem like there is enough sexual frustration present at a Pause Dance that anyone could find someone to grind with. Unfortunately, I learned quite quickly that your chances of hooking up with someone at a Pause Dance if you are queer are quite slim. This isn’t to say that it is impossible, but it takes a whole lot more effort. You have to make guesses about people’s sexuality, ask your friends about their guesses, or try to dance particularly sexually right in front of them. I think this a whole lot more effort than most heteros have to put in at Pause Dances.
Now, I understand that in the grand scheme of life, difficulty in finding a hookup at a college dance is a trivial thing that I will forget about in a couple of years. It’s not like I don’t have access to some basic right. It really doesn’t matter. But in the same vein, it is frustrating that so many other people on this campus will never fully comprehend how demoralizing it can be to feel undesirable in a place where a lot of people are looking for sex. For my sophomore self, it was quite a blow to my confidence.
While I wish this issue only applied to Pause Dances, I’ve noticed that it extends to most social events at St. Olaf. Parties, Legions, even the dating scene functions well for straight people, but that is because these spaces and events are designed for them and not for queer individuals. This reality isn’t surprising. Most spaces in the world are for the straightz, and any space that is inclusive normally has to be specifically labelled as queer/gay/lesbian/etc. I think what really bothers me is that unless you are a marginalized sexuality, you don’t notice that so many events and spaces on campus are geared towards straight people. People tend to take it for granted that things will be for them.
Luckily, I’ve managed to shift my attitude when I go into Pause Dances. Now, I go in with the goal of simply having a good time with friends. I make sure that I am going in with no other expectations except that I will dance. It has definitely made Pause Dances a fun outing again instead of being a blow to my ego. While I’ll leave Olaf with fond memories of dancing the nights away in the Pause, I believe that I have had to put a lot more thought into managing my expectations that most straight people.
Having trouble navigating the St. Olaf dating scene? Need help finding a date? Got more dates than you can handle? Or have a response to this week’s column? E-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and maybe one of our love columnists will answer them in next week’s issue. All submitted questions will remain anonymous.