Punch

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, Im already going with a guy whos punching. And since you asked for my opinion, hes 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 dont 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, Im going to have to cancel tonight sorry. I have rehearsals that I cant skip and Im not really loving the group anyway. Talk soon!

Judged.

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