In honor of Valentine's Day, I will now write a post about the Oberlin dating scene. That is to say, many people believe that it doesn't exist. Why? Well, I'm not totally sure. There are beautiful people in Oberlin and places to go, so in theory, there could be a dating scene. Maybe it's the age, maybe it's the conformity, maybe it's awkwardness, but ask any Oberlin student and they will say that Oberlin is not a place to "date."
If there is a couple in your general vicinity, they would probably not claim to be dating, unlike high school. There are a few levels of couplehood at Oberlin: the so-clingy-they-might-as-well-be-married couple, the we're-sleeping-together-but-you'd-only-know-that-if-you-asked-us-personally-and-even-then-we-will-probably-be-elusive-about-it couple, and the people-who-like-each-other-and-you-know-they're-together-but-they-don't-advertise couple. Facebook relationship statuses are passe.
Dates are tossed around as a joke at Oberlin. I don't really like the fruit (the dried variety, I mean, the fresh is delicious), first of all, but I also think that the social connotation of the word "date" are ridiculously overrated. I have dates all the time. When you're really busy, a date is a reason to stop doing the everyday and do something different, with someone who is cool. I have dates, with many people, all the time, to dinner, lunch, the movies, the library, anything that isn't part of the daily schedule and is fun to boot (I'm also a social whore, but we're not going to get into that right now). Setting a time to do something is a date. It doesn't have to end with a good night hug/kiss (though those are nice too).
Why did I open this banal can of worms? Well, my friend Sandhya and I created a monster back in our freshman year, and it's begun to manifest itself in strange ways. With our fresh "We can change the world!" mentality, we decided to hold a fundraising date auction, with all the proceeds going to malaria relief, because god knows that Obies will flock to a good cause more quickly than the possibility of a date. Sandhya got the idea from a friend at Johns Hopkins, and a bit of research showed that it was a relatively new and creative idea and could bring in a bunch of money for a good cause. We rounded up some folks and began advertising like mad. We got some strange looks and created quite a buzz, but we had an amazing turnout, and made over 850 dollars to supply HIV-positive widows in Africa with the supplies to create bednets to prevent the spread of malaria.
Since November 2006, there have been four date auctions. Not to be a fundraising hipster, but we did it before it was cool. But, hey, I'm not knocking anything that's for a good cause.
The most recent date auction manifestation was hosted on Saturday by the HIV Peer Educators to raise money for the organization Keep A Child Alive, which provides HIV/AIDS treatment and support to people in six countries. Attendance was sparse. Maybe it's because it's mad embarrassing to have to buy a date on Valentine's Day? Either that, or everyone else was out eating expensive chocolate and having NO FUN AT ALL because, honest to God, the date auction was amazing.
The MCs took a few cues from our original auction, reading a fun bio about the auctionee and then asking them a personal question to give them a chance to show off their natural flair. My friends Sandhya and Daniel sat with me in the front row holding our stomachs and choking on complimentary chocolates from laughing so hard, at the witty MC banter, at the humorous bios, at the friendly rivalries between bidders. The highest bids came from other auctionees, pushing the prices up. Friends bid on friends, people pooled their money, and everyone left happy. If a date was won, they got a free meal somewhere in town to provide a date-like atmosphere... though some of the auctionees promised to throw in some other things as well (Songs! Walks in Tappan Square! A movie! Incredible yoga skills!).
All in all, I had a fabulous time. I'm glad I helped create a successful model for fundraising that is both fun and raising (the roof). It was by far one of the more entertaining things one could have done on Valentine's Day, and it was for a good cause. There are only so many ways to make free chocolate taste better, and that's having it come out of your nose from laughing too hard.