Boots and Rallies
I’m on the Dartmouth Coach, headed to Rhode Island to turn up and see Waka Flocka Flame. Just up and to the right of me, a couple of what I can only suppose are West Lebanon highschoolers sit together, canoodling with tremendous intensity. This would not perturb me in normal circumstances, great lover of love that I am, except that the only love I love is love exercised in good taste. This activity, which has persisted uninterrupted through the 10 minutes I have spent flipping between writing this paragraph and looking up synonyms for revolting, has nothing lovely to it at all. I cannot see the girl involved, but the angle at which she has positioned herself leaves the neon pink soles of her sneakers pointed straight up at the ceiling. The laces of her shoes are immaculate white and tied in perfect symmetry. They look like they just came out of the box. Either they did, or she is one of the people who puts a lot of effort into keeping her punk-style shoes in a state of extreme cleanliness, a habit I regard with extreme suspicion. The boy involved, whose bowl cut is perhaps even cleaner than his partner’s shoestrings, is wearing a large shirt with the words “TO BE CONTINUED” printed on the back. I am having difficulty discerning what that phrase could signify in the context of clothing.
After a two-minute lapse in the venereal ongoings, the engines have restarted and, throbbing in my peripheral vision, I notice that the boy has been wearing earphones the entire time. Does this bother you? It bothers me! What need could he possibly have for those right now? Is he listening to music? Does he need a constant stream of Enya in order to sustain his carnal inclinations? Or is he just in the middle of a really engaging chapter of “The Tipping Point” audiobook by Malcolm Gladwell? Perhaps the fellow is listening to an instructional tape, prompting him to breathe between every three or four smooches, or else quietly through his nose. To be fair, I cannot actually see any of the kisses being planted (still going on, by the way), and it is possible that he is only whispering centimeters from the girl’s face his very serious opinion of the cinematographic virtues of “Night At The Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian” (2009), which has been playing across eight Coach screens for the duration of their ghastly lovemaking. This interpretation of the observable phenomena, I’m afraid, is quite implausible.
I am no enemy of public displays of affection, but there is an art to it. As with all art, much of what constitutes judgment is more or less a matter of personal opinion. Yet I think we can all agree that people ought to be forbidden to express romantic feelings for one another, translated into jolty groping and unpleasant contortion, if they offer nothing of value to the voyeurs — or worse, offend us. Very attractive people, especially very attractive French people, can pretty much do whatever they want, short of full-on fornication. Otherwise, such expressions should be kept sweet, brief and of mild passion. You may not kiss anyone in public if you are wearing a sweater tied around your waist------ — this ruling is absolute.
We have our own campus institutions governing PDA and other forms of love. A friend of mine recently told me that he has made out with more people on dancefloors than he has in private spaces. This shocked me only a little. A kiss delivered in the dark between the booms of synthetic beats is, after all, a kiss given in innocence and without meaning — no one could or should scrutinize it. Some nights, after many hours filled with a frenzy of “Friends” (1994) and Franzia, I flip open my Friendsy app and scroll through all my classmates searching for connection like a ship lost at sea, flaring distress signals through the black of night. When we all want the same thing, how could we look down upon one another for getting it?
Of particular curiosity to me are the Dartmouth Seven. For the sake of “Boots and Rallies” — a column that has always boasted a checkered relationship with reality — I shall define this tradition as seven places across campus where one hugs one’s partner from behind and, holding onto both of his or her hands, whispers into his or her right ear, “Gosh, you’re really swell.” No one knows when the tradition of the Seven got started, but by the end of freshman fall, everyone has at least heard of it. Come senior spring, a frequent question resounding the ear of J. Deirdre Horowitz, your intrepid author and opinionator, is “How many of the Seven have you done?” I’m not going to share my answer within these pages, in part because of personal standards and in part because my mother reads this column and knows what I’m talking about despite my best efforts to shroud my ideas in elusive, haphazard metaphors or tricksy language.
I would rather announce a new institution, herald a superior set of boxes to check when it comes to sharing feelings of mutual affection. These are the ideals towards which I have striven — and on occasion achieved — throughout the past four years. Supplanting the Dartmouth Seven, the “AP Fifteen” as I call them, are less about location than manner: 1. If you wish to show someone how much you care, try it once with complete honesty. 2. Try it in the middle of a conversation about their favorite book. 3. Try with a friend and stay just friends after. 4. Try it after pulling two successive all-nighters. 5. Carry on a conversation at the same time. 6. Try not blinking. 7. Try actually holding hands. 8. Do it somehow without touching at all. 9. Do it with words alone (possible to fulfill No. 8 at the same time). 10. Roleplay the high-school versions of yourselves and think about whether they’d be proud or ashamed of what you’re doing. 11. Imagine how the smallest thing might come to define your life. 12. Imagine how the largest thing might mean nothing at all. 13. Have, for the duration, nothing but the other person in mind. 14. Describe your emotions without adverbs. And finally, the Fifteenth of the AP Fifteen: Be an “ogre-achiever” and incorporate Shrek somehow. You’ll be surprised at the results.