Wednesday, February 18, 2009

PDA: Not your Personal Digital Assistant

In light of the recent Prince article on the Princeton hook-up culture and Valentine's Day shenanigans, I would like to take a moment to reflect on PDA: Public Displays of Affection.

Let me start with a personal story. It begins a few minutes ago in the Frist Campus Center. I was walking up the stairs from late meal, broccoli vegetarian soup in hand, when my eyes immediately were drawn to two figures in front of the CNN TV, lips locked. I know both of them fairly well and would consider them friends, but in that moment, I felt totally out of place. (If my life were a movie, something more awkward would have happened. I would have dropped my soup in shock and vegetarian broccoli in creamy sauce would have been flung everywhere- interrupting their tender moment). However, this is reality (I oft need to remind myself), and so I settled back into my niche without acknowledging their presence. Minutes later, they were still engaged in a variety of displays of affection until they were interrupted by someone with more courage (or less discretion).

It's not that I'm an affection-hater. I love "love." Hand-holding is cute. So are hugs. Relationships make me happy. I'm not a misanthrope, but there's a time and a place for everything. I'm not the only one who seems to think this way.

One Junior woman, we'll call her Jane*, agrees. "There's a line," she said, "Definitely a line. Arm around the shoulder, holding hands for no more than 15 paces, peck on the cheek. Anything more? Not okay."

A Sophomore woman, Becky*, had a similar opinion. "I like cute PDA," she said, "Like holding hands, and hugging and stuff - or the occasional peck - but not all the time, and not to the extent that it makes people uncomfortable."

Do the guys agree?

One Junior man, we'll call him Mike*, with meticulous brevity stated: "I'm not expert on it considering I don't do it."

Another Junior man, George*, who was slightly more verbose, agreed and mentioned that he often felt the need to say, "Get a room." He added, " I do think it is inappropriate, and everyone has plenty of private space on campus."

But does this apply to the notorious dance floor make out? You know what I mean. You've seen them happen. Every weekend on the street, intoxicated (or possibly sober? I mean, who am I to judge?) undergraduates can be seen dancing- and often making out with- someone while they dance to a DJ or a band. They're surrounded by friends and other undergrads, but they don't seem to mind at all. And oddly, neither does anyone else.

George argues that the dance floor on the Street is a different case. "Much of the time, people are intoxicated and... grinding anyhow, so what's the difference? Dance is quite sexual already... so I guess kissing does not appear as inappropriate. However, if two people are just going at it with disregard for dancing, [it's] probably time to move on."

Junior Jane agreed, "I don't care as long as they keep to their shady corners. It's entertaining."

But have they dance floor made out?

George: That's going to have to be a yes.
Jane: I used to! I have not.. for a very long time.
Becky: Yes.

My conclusion? (On my super non-scientific interview of four Princetonians..) While most of us seem to have some sort of aversion to public displays of affection, most of us are guilty of it, at least on the dance floor. Ah, well. Share the love!

*All the names have been changed to protect the innocent.. or ahem, not so innocent.


Reason said...

I agree! And I'm surprised that the author took this position; it sometimes seems that only the most extreme laissez-faire positions are "hip" to espouse in polite company, and to say otherwise is to be branded a prude.

Science said...

There is a very good reason for the dance-floor make-out. Drunken dancing is hard, and it's easier to balance when more parts of the body are connected. The make-out becomes a necessary crutch after a certain mutual BAC is reached. That is officially my excuse, at least.