Monday, February 20, 2006
Shake hands, how do you do, state your name . . . .
I can so clearly remember those awkward freshman mixers at the University of Idaho. Before attending these carefully orchestrated social events for guys to meet girls, we Carter Hall gals would gather around our large dormitory mirrors and primp up. This process usually took about an hour.
Primping in those days of the now-distant '60s meant rubbing our face and neck with several coats of greasy make-up base, dubbing a little rouge on the cheeks, sticking about six ounces of that black, sticky goop called mascara on our eye lashes and attempting to draw brown or black lines with a pencil on a parallel track at the base of our eyelids.
Then, we'd "rat" our hair until it stood ten inches high, carefully shape the gnarled mass with a comb, and empty at least half a can of hair spray to hold it all in place. We also tried really hard to hide the hair spray smell (and cigarette-smoke odor) with half a bottle of Chanel No. 5 perfume. Just before leaving the dorm, we'd top off the production with whatever color of lipstick matched the rest of the paint job.
Then, with great expectation and a few jitters, we'd walk en masse over to Gault Hall, Willis Sweet or Shoup, enter whatever boys dorm was hosting the mixer and then find our way to a dimly-lit room where romantic music of the day was playing, and guys were waiting to greet us.
The evening always involved a lot of small talk or maybe a lot of close dancing, depending on how ugly or fat you happened to be. Even the dim lighting didn't help much where I was concerned. I usually spent more time talking than dancing because I certainly could never pass myself off as any voluptuous pin-up. Wallflower, yes, but pin-up---not in this lifetime!
That's how people met each other in the fall of 1965. The dialogue usually involved little variation from one of my very first encounters, except for the stutter.
"Hi, my name's Marianne Brown. Whatchyer major?"
"I'm Bill. They call me B-Ba-Boston Bill c-c--cuz I'm from B-Ba-Boston. I h-a-a-aven't declared my major y-y-et."
"Well, I'm from Sandpoint. Have you ever heard of it."
"N0, ccccccan't say th-th-th-that I ha--ha-ve"
The fact that this guy stuttered didn't bother me during that particular mixer, which happened to be the first I attended in my pursuit of the opposite sex. He had two legs and he was male. That was adequate, and that's how it was in those days.
Often, our standards were pretty flexible when we were brand-new freshman women on our college campus in Moscow. After all, when we headed home for our first vacation, those times dictated that it was equally as important to succeed in the manhunt as it was to further your education. With this Boston Bill match-up, I could bring home a promising report to the Mother who, like many of her era, worried that her daughter might not find a man.
Boston Bill didn't last. I eventually dumped him and continued going to mixers at other boys' dorms where I carried on the same predictable conversation without much success in the collegiate romance department.
As I reflect on those days so long ago, I'm thinking this morning---after reading the umpteenth story about "MySpace.com," which offers young folks the opportunity to get acquainted with their contemporaries across the nation via the Internet---- times and methods have certainly changed in the meet-and-greet department. Granted, in some ways a bit dangerous for those who don't use common sense, but for the most part, offering much more comfort in the introductions department.
This weekend, some of the bloggers who frequent Blogfather Oliveria's "Huckleberries Online" got together in Bayview and, in some cases, viewed each other face-to-face for the first time after mixing venom, gotchas, passionate argument and general banter for more than a year while communicating with each other on a daily basis. From reports I've read, they were all pleasantly surprised with how much they enjoyed each other.
And, they didn't even need to primp for an hour in front of the mirror. They could just show up and start talking. No name, rank and serial number or stupid small talk necessary. They already knew where everyone was coming from, so their conversation just went into automatic pilot. I wish I'd attended this gathering cuz it sounds like it was much more successful than those old freshman mixers.
I witnessed a similar phenomenon last fall when Bill and I attended a geocaching picnic at Farragut. "Schweitzer Guy" was turning 40, so he invited all the geocachers in North Idaho and Eastern Washington to help him celebrate. About 30 people came and even brought their families. Like the Bayview Bloggerfest, as soon as their geocaching "handles" were matched up to live bodies, the words began to flow. They all had a common passion, they'd already read personal profiles on each other, and nobody needed to go through that awkward initial small talk.
We often yearn for the good ol' days when things seemed so much better, but when I look at the methods we now have to expand our horizons and meet folks, I'd say we're on a better track. Granted, with Internet sites like "MySpace.com," users must learn to take great care, but for the most part, some of these other venues seem to offer a much more sensible way to meet people who might share common interests with us.
Somehow, at this point in my life, I've come to realize that our human relations extend far beyond the mascara or the perfume, which does nothing other than cover up the real person.