Oberlin Blogs

It's Friday Night

October 2, 2010

Tess Yanisch ’13

Yesterday was Friday. For introverted me, Fridays aren't usually super-special, but yesterday turned into a series of serendipitous adventures.

Though the action really begins at around 5:45, I'll begin with a little background. There are always a million and three things happening at Oberlin, but weekends in particular are busy: a wider range of concert choices than usual, more people to hang out with because nothing's due the next day, more parties/game nights/bizarre gatherings going on. For instance, the Sunshine Scouts were having a mini-party at the house of one of our co-directors. Aside from that, I didn't really have plans for the evening.

As I was leaving my French class, I ran into Daniella, the Sci-Fi Hall R.A. She told me the fancy-dress dinner party that had been proposed at the beginning of the year was (a) a reality and (b) happening that night!

A few hours later, a group of Sci-Fi Hall people were on our way to the All-Campus Photo. We ran into Daniella again. She told us where and when the dinner would be (5:30 in one of the lounges in Noah, another dorm).

When we got back after the photo--which consisted of grouping as many people as possible together in Wilder Bowl and taking a picture from a cherry-picker--I high-tailed it back to my room. Emma and I got dressed up, which was fun. All the people who said you should actually bring something nice to wear, I take it back; you were right. I didn't have anything terribly formal, but I had a fun little sundress and that worked fine. I will bring back something else eventually.

We found the lounge without any trouble. It was a great setting, the stereotypical study room of an old-fashioned college: wood paneled walls, couches, comfy chairs, tables, an extremely large and apparently non-functional clock, 1890s-era encyclopedias on the built-in shelves.

Everyone looked smashing. (What a fun word...) It's fun seeing your friends dressed up now and again. It's also gratifying to see that we clean up nice. For a while I felt as though I had stumbled into a scene from a movie set at a college in the fifties or something. If only there had been a prospie around! It would have been so funny to try to convince them that, yes, of course, Oberlin is always like this. I suppose you didn't want to pack your velvet smoking jacket, though; that's fine, we'll overlook it this time.

The dinner was extremely entertaining. In addition to the exchange "Is that a doorbell? Someone open the door..." "--That's my phone, you peon!", we had someone impersonating Dr. Who, humorous hat-stealing escapades, and witty, insightful commentary on The Oberlin Review. We ate cheese and crackers, pasta, garlic bread, and amazing desserts. Many thanks to the organizer/cook people--I'm not sure exactly who did how much of what, but you rock, and Daniella, your flourless chocolate cake/mousse/torte is amazing.

We trouped back carrying dishes. In the lounge, we met someone who hadn't gone to the fancy-dress affair and I teased him for not being dressed up (i.e., shirtless). In response, he asked me what time it was and then said he ought to go get dressed up. I must have been visibly confused, because he explained that he was going to the contra dance.

Now, over the summer I had read Harris' blog on contra dance and told myself that I should try it. I don't really know how to dance; I am not terribly aware of my body at the best of times, and, while I'm not exactly rhythm-blind, I suspect myself of being at least a little rhythm-vision-impaired. Even after many years of playing second violin parts in orchestra, I still don't know how to listen for and catch anything but the simplest beat. Contra, however, sounded easy, fun, and forgiving--so I went along.

I was actually rather nervous about this. In fact, if it weren't for Sunshine Scouts, I probably wouldn't have gone. Improv is great for justifying risk-taking to yourself. If I am willing to make up songs on the spot or fake a terrible Russian accent in front of an audience, I tell myself, I ought to be able to chance a little unavoidable foolishness as part of a big crowd.

And it was a big crowd. There are a lot of contra aficionados at Oberlin! I lost most of my self-consciousness fairly quickly. Harris' blog, and Aries', both mention how relaxed and friendly the atmosphere is. They are absolutely correct. (Incidentally, they also describe what actually goes on at a contra dance much better than I could at this point, so I suggest you check them out if you're interested.) Before long, I was very glad I'd decided to come. I danced three sets with three different partners (all of whom were very forgiving of my tendencies to step on their feet) and saw lots of people whom I knew. Everyone was having a great time, even newbies like me. I think that the freeing aspect of the dance is that you must pay attention to the steps but need not obsess over them--in other words, it's conducive to a flow state. Apart from worries about crashing into people, it was simply fun.

Nevertheless, after three sets I was tired. Dancing is exhausting! I also had that Sunshine Scouts party to go to--but first, I needed to attend to a Grand Quest.

It was laundry day.

Earlier, I had attempted to wash my clothes. But woe! All six of the laundry machines were in use! So I vowed to do my laundry later that night, when they would be empty. Now I returned to North and changed out of my dress, ready to get the laundry started and go to the party. Those of you with any sense of comedic irony will know that the laundry machines were still all in use. Everyone was doing laundry on a Friday night. What is wrong with us?!

Oh well. I postponed my laundry scheme and headed off to the party.

That went well too. It was pretty low-key; we talked and played a card game and tried to prank-call a Scouts alum who didn't answer his phone. After an agreeable hour, we broke up and scattered to the winds, some to one concert, some to another, some to catch up on sleep. Normally, I would have hit introvert burnout by this point, but the dancing had energized me and it was only eleven. Besides, the "interaction is exhausting" rule sometimes reverses itself around other introverts. So I wandered back toward campus and texted one of my friends to see if he was doing anything.

A few minutes later I was watching Stargate with two of my best friends. Not long after that, Emma joined us. We saw two episodes, and then we talked--for hours. I swear, these conversations are my favorite part of college. We discussed very important things: webcomics, the pronunciation of old German, protein structures, siblings growing up. We enthused about tablet PCs, Photoshop, and the joys of high-quality old-fashioned paper notebooks. We also had a spirited debate about the proper way to store socks. (I am right.)

Emma and I left and went back to North at about five in the morning. If you've been keeping track, this is a little under twelve hours after the Sci-Fi Hall fancy dinner. Thirty hours previously, I had had no plans for Friday night whatsoever. Clearly, "no real plans" does not ever mean "nothing to do."

All in all, a great way to start the weekend. Though I still have to do my laundry.

Responses to this Entry

I'm glad you made it to a contra dance and enjoyed it. We always love having newcomers.

Posted by: Nora on October 2, 2010 8:13 PM

I am happy you had a fun time Tess, but just how enthused can one get about tablet PC's?

Posted by: Dan Y on October 2, 2010 8:50 PM

Oberlin weekends are ridiculous in every way. We excel at evenings as per your description.

Posted by: Ma'ayan on October 4, 2010 4:46 PM

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