Bohl: Love in the time of beer-pong

Adam Bohl

In days gone by, a young man would walk the picturesque campus of Iowa State each autumn and somewhere beneath the kaleidoscope of falling leaves his eyes would find a girl.

Then it would happen; he would fall in love.

He would ask her on a date, offer her his coat and months down the road give her his fraternity pin. Years later, he would look back and wonder what it was, on that Robert Frost morning, that lead him to the mother of his children.

This idyllic memoir is not only a tawdry device to hook you into reading this column; it is also a picture of what many young men and women of yesteryear thought dating should look like in its best and brightest form.

Fast forward to 2011. Young men and women go to parties and stand in unisex nodules of pedestrian conversation, anxiously awaiting the cheap alcohol they have speedily consumed to take its intended effect: the suffocation of their cowardice.

But then, just then, a new obstacle arises: how to break these micelles of gender and induce some social interaction between sexes. Conversation perhaps? No, that engenders thinking, which is at cross purposes with the goal of the party; better to drown conversation with thumping, sweaty techno beats.

Enter the elegant solution: beer-pong.

It’s a game after all, and asking a girl to play a harmless game isn’t strange in the least, especially when you’re nearing an alcohol content level of .08.

Well, the night works to our young men’s advantage, and soon they find themselves texting — not calling — the girls they met the night before. So, what do they do? They arrange yet another beer-pong party wherein, guards let down, they can display themselves as champions of the table, strutting about like Henry V at Agincourt.

And what’s not to love? Where did ever a man prove himself with such valor, such charisma, such godlike courage as when he, with infinite skill, bested his peers at this game of games? And where did a young woman so full of grace and life ever show herself so aptly as that prize to be won, as when she, covered in sweat, stumbles to snatch up a ping-pong ball from the beer-sticky floor?

While this elegant system provides an excellent atmosphere for adolescent hook ups, it does little good when one’s goals dare to extend beyond the precipice of momentary physical passion, and into the realm of substantive relationship. For these few, these happy few, a look back to the “good ol’ days” might do a bit of good in figuring out how to cure the disease of social mediocrity whose symptom is the beer-pong party.

Fortunately, the cure is simple, effective and efficient. All one needs is a little bit of courage, a bit of tact and a brain. It’s called dating. No, not the kind where you invite a girl over to watch you play Xbox with your roommates; the kind of date that shows her who you are as a man. I write to men here, because a woman’s role in dating is a bit outside the realm of my expertise, and traditionally a more passive one.

I’m not proposing that a date is a showcase for your ego; rather a date is a chance to ascertain who someone is as person: their likes, dislikes and passions and how they interact with you and your passions.

Sounds complicated right? It isn’t. I think you’ll find that in a one on one setting free from the chains of alcohol and social pretense you are much freer to get to know each other honestly, and — which is more — the date offers you a chance to be creative, to do something different than you do every other weekend. It creates a new and shared experience between two people whether it goes well or it poorly.

Dates keep you from wasting your time. If you very clearly ask a sober woman out on a date, and she is not interested in you as person, she will say “no.”

There is no nebula of ambiguity covering your intentions, causing you to be interpreted. There is no doubt if she prefers your company or not. She will let you know, it is her prerogative. Sure, there lies the opportunity for rejection, but if you haven’t the stomach for that then you do not have a sufficient sense of self to maintain a relationship anyway.

Take these few weeks prior to Valentines Day to ask a girl out and test my theory. If you’re the worse for it, you can post it online or send me a nasty e-mail. But please, for the love of all things American, let us date again, as men, and as a generation.