Sophomore year, J. calls me up. He needs a date to the [___] punch event, and it’s incredibly convenient that he made the call because I, too, am looking for a date to a female club’s punch event the following week. And so, we make the trade.
A. texts me the following day. He is a junior and already a member of the [___]. His text reads:
Hey Brenna, would you like to come to the [___] punch event on Friday with me? Should be good fun, black tie, and any opinions on guys in your year would be appreciated!
I experience a flood of mixed emotions. A. and I have a kissed-twice-feelings-unclear-sometimes-we-text kind of relationship (read: he’s a charming asshole who gives zero fucks and that’s precisely why I’m attracted to him). For a moment, I lament the fact that I can’t accept. For a moment, I feel a sense of success at being the chosen one.
And then, the disgust of the thing sinks in. Honor fades to embarrassment, and I am ashamed of myself for having felt important at all. I suddenly feel a sense of rage as I read the last line of A.’s text: an invitation to hang on his arm and judge my male peers for an evening. For one night only, I can have a slight handle of power over a select group of my male friends and acquaintances simply because I will be the date of a member! The advertisement fails. I don’t want to be a part of any of it, and I feel a sense of relief at being able to shut his charming British ass down:
Hey, I’m already going with a guy who’s punching. And since you asked for my opinion, he’s GREAT.
I press send and immediately panic, like when you accidentally sext your mom or realize that the witty response to your crush might actually just be weird or offensive. Did I just fuck up J.’s chances to get A.’s vote when deliberation time comes around? The thought triggers that sense of disgust again. Why do I feel responsible for him? Why do I care?
I ponder the most obvious issue at hand: why is the third and penultimate round of the punch process a date event? These men have been judged on their first impressions, their social skills, their ability to man-flirt and dick-kiss, and now they’re being judged on their ability to recruit a socially acceptable, universally attractive, well-behaved woman to an event. They are literally being judged on their ability to date—let’s face it—a woman. I have gay male friends punching clubs and as far as I know none of them have invited male dates, because you just don’t do that.
The day of the event rolls around. I paint my nails, give my legs a much-needed shave (it’s October), and blow dry my curly hair (why the effort?). I head over to the River to meet J. a little while before our assigned pre-game. He tells me I look great, and he certainly does, too, a picture of perfection in his black tie and perfectly coiffed hair. Our friend snaps a picture and it looks like a stock photo. We’ve succeeded.
The remainder of the evening is a predictable drag, and I play along. At the pre-game, I let someone give me a tour of the off-campus apartment we’re in; I laugh at another guy’s British humor (why are all these [___] guys British?). When we get to the event, I dance with J. I stand in circles while boys pretend to be men, and I laugh at jokes that aren’t funny. J. says hello to a member he knows and they exchange a few words before the latter catches my eye and stops. He turns to J. “Aren’t you going to introduce me to your date?” Judged.
On the morning of the date event of the club I’m punching, I hold the invitation in one hand and my phone in the other. I text J.
Hey, I’m going to have to cancel tonight — sorry. I have rehearsals that I can’t skip and I’m not really loving the group anyway. Talk soon!