My friends and I used to play this game in middle school: do, date, dismiss. You were given three names, sometimes school cuties, sometimes the boy with cooties, and you had to choose one to do — or whatever the middle school equivalent was — one to date and one to, heartbreakingly — if they were all wonderful — dismiss, to be re-evaluated in a later round. We would play this game late into the night, thinking about all the possibilities to do, date, and dismiss.
Recently, I’ve heard of a new collegiate twist on this middle school game, called blackout. When someone walks by, you call out a number — the number of drinks it would take for you to hook up with him or her. You say blackout if you’d have to be completely hammered and wouldn’t want to remember the experience. It seems like a pretty funny idea. What you fail to take into account, however, is that you are making a snap judgment about someone, possibly based on nothing more than seeing him or her in that one moment, and you’re saying it out loud. You’re sharing that judgment with at least one other person, who, at the very least, can hold you accountable for that judgment.
A couple weeks ago, there was a pretty big to-do made about a student at the College of William and Mary who posted a picture of a “hit list” that he and some of his friends wrote up of all the girls they had hooked up with. It had tally marks next to each name for the number of people within the group that had hooked up with her. The tally marks were anonymous, but the girls’ names were posted on Twitter for everyone to see.
I walk down Richmond Road to my apartment at least twice a day. At least once some guy driving down the road hollers at me. It doesn’t matter whether I’m wearing booty shorts or sweatpants, if I’m alone or with others, or if I’m carrying my sizeable backpack on my shoulders. They honk, they roll their windows down and whistle, or they yell out suggestions for an evening in my presence: “Wanna grab a pizza and bang?”
I don’t believe any of this — the blackout game, the group hit list or the hollering out car windows — seems like they’re done for any reason other than entertainment. It appears to be “just for a laugh.” But there’s damage being done here — not just to the person who got a “blackout” called, or whose name ended up on the list, or who got shouted at on the street. In “blackout,” sharing your judgment with another person seems harmless. But what if you end up meeting them out at the bars with your sober judgment still intact and you find out that he or she actually has the most beautiful smile or has an unforgettable laugh or is an amazing dancer? You can’t take back judgment and saying it aloud makes it more permanent than you may have intended — it could even stand to keep you from making a move on that individual who may be just as good at moving in bed.
And the Internet never forgets. A picture posted of a girl’s name with five tallies — be it true or not — could be enough to discourage a guy who saw it from asking that cute girl in his chem class on a date. What if someone’s chance at true love was stopped before it even started because someone posted something “just for a laugh?” And let me let you in on a secret: No one finds it flattering to be shouted from a car window. It doesn’t make you cool, and if I happen to see you in class, I won’t ever take you seriously. Because whatever words you thought were so amazing that I had to hear them on my walk to school this morning made me wonder if there was something wrong with my clothes or my hair or my walk that made me seem like someone who wanted to be hollered at. You just isolated a potential formal date, drinking buddy or lab partner without even knowing my name.
It’s important to remember that in these scenarios, the objects of our entertainment are people. Real people with real feelings who could get hurt, even if it was never your intention. Imagine if you heard someone shout “blackout!” when you walked by or had your sexual history posted on the Internet for everyone to see. It’s important to remember that you’re never too old to treat people the way you want to be treated, and you never know how it could pay off for you later. So do think about consequences, leave opportunities to find dates wide open, and dismiss the idea that it’s all “just for a laugh.”
__Krystyna Holalnd is a Behind Closed Doors columnist and will continue to ignore all catcalls coming her way during her commute.__