By Megan Alms | Contributor
Pick-a-dates. Are they dates? Are they hangouts? They're an age-old Taylor tradition, yet still no one knows. Pick-a-dates are possibly the most ambiguous events that take place at Taylor, and things can get awkward. Fast.
If you ask someone of a different gender, that sends out all kinds of signals. What if people on your floor think you're dating? Will your date think you like them? Being asked on a pick-a-date sparks similar questions. Should you dress up, or is it casual? If they didn't ask you to the Jumping Bean first, is it really a date? And if you ask someone of the same gender, you may feel self-conscious. Will the people on your floor think you're incapable of finding a date?
I found myself in this conundrum my freshman year. I didn't understand what a "date" exactly meant. Little did I know, the upperclassmen didn't have a clue either. Some people said pick-a-dates are completely platonic. Others refused to go with anyone they were not seriously considering dating. And still others liked the idea of pick-a-dates, but didn't go because their significant others at different colleges didn't understand the concept. Does anyone really understand pick-a-dates, even at Taylor?
That's when I heard about a movement called "pick-a-pal." Some students have started to prefer calling their date a "pal" to make everything a little less awkward. When you ask a "pal," it isn't tacky if you choose a chick-pick or a . . . different kind of pick. If someone cute asks you to hang out with their floor, you don't come back to the dorm that night wondering where your relationship now stands.
While pick-a-pal is a tempting option when you're nervous to branch out, it can also lead to many missed opportunities. Pick-a-pal makes it easy to simply ask your roommate to hang out. This discourages Taylor's beloved intentional community. So, I would recommend, if you're hosting your floor's first "pick-a-pal," encourage everyone to ask someone living elsewhere. Of course you can't force anyone to choose an "acceptable" date, but these events were designed to get to know new people. When each person brings a new face along, everyone benefits. Of course you (probably) know your date/pal, but the group setting connects all sorts of people. If one person brings a friend from their major, another brings a friend from their club and another brings some guy that was standing in line for a burger at the Dining Commons, six people are brought together who might never have otherwise met. Each of these people will have had a college experience within Taylor, and the new friends can share their uniqueness with each other.
Whether it's a "pick-a-date" or a "pick-a-pal," what matters is that we continue to encourage interactions throughout our entire community. No matter how many jokes we make about it, intentional community is something to treasure at Taylor. Let's nurture our community so that it may, to quote Jeff Cramer, "flourish." And let's start with one of Taylor's most awkward traditions.