November 29, 2016

RUSSELL | Love and Loathing in Upstate New York

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Last summer, I fell victim to my longings for spontaneity and crashed a wedding. The hunt for viable festivities took guts and perseverance, but once I arrived at the venue’s floral walkway with my date for the evening, we knew our labor was worthwhile.

Inside, it seemed to be the aftermath of a rowdy affair. The drunk aunts and uncles rocked and gyrated on the edge of the dance floor with blank stares that make you want to give them a pillow and a blanket. In the middle were the three of four most passionate couples, rubbing up against each other in slow motion as the DJ spun his late night playlist of R&B songs you don’t recognize until the chorus.

My date and I stood by the fondue station, watching, eating, snapchatting and whispering to each other before joining in with the madness on the dance floor.

In the splendor of our Saturday night soiree with black folk in matching outfits, I realized the obvious: weddings are the pinnacle of celebration. When a father talks about his daughter’s future, he won’t bring up her eventual housewarming party; he’ll revel in his dream to walk her down the aisle. In the same way, there are a few obscure family members in my contact list that will probably only get a message from me if it’s to invite them to my wedding.

But weddings aren’t the only great jubilations: there’s prom night, baby showers and that one New Year’s Eve Party you’ll always remember. At the center of each is one thing: love. And I mean the romantic kind. It’s the reason we do much of what we do and go much of where we go. I wasn’t at prom for the punch; and the only people who attend a wedding reception for the fondue are the people who don’t belong there anyway.

For some of us, love is our prized possession; for the rest of us, it is the laser-pointer dot we fruitlessly chase like cats on Youtube. It’s the one thing we’ve always been told we’ll eventually have, regardless of our income, our race, our IQ or our religion. Deep down, love is what many of us want more than anything else, yet if you asked us what is was, half of us would say we weren’t sure. At its core, it’s about the most nebulous and most necessary concept known to man, so we spend our lives thinking about it.

Perhaps the most alarming element of love and its interaction with our lives is the fact that a good portion of us will find it once and for all here in Ithaca. In fact, a study by the Facebook data science team suggests that almost 30 percent of married college graduates attended the same college. Sure, there are a few stereotypically marriage-crazy schools that pull the statistic high, but I know that in my own life, most of the adults I know who attended Cornell wake up every morning next to someone they met while here. And that’s terrifying.

I don’t mean to make you impatient, or to imply that those of us who plan to marry one day are somehow missing the boat if we don’t have a prospect and a plan. My assumption is that love in itself is a coincidence, so when or if we find it must be one too. But, as I walk from hall to hall and quad to quad, I can’t help but think about it: since 1865, a lot of people have fallen in love here. And from now until whenever, a lot more will do the same.

Usually, when I write a column, I feel the need to communicate a final message — some argument or takeaway or illuminated truth to give the article meaning. All week, I’ve been grappling for that message, and now, minutes before my deadline, I still stand empty-handed. I know nothing about love that you don’t know, in fact I probably know less, so I sit in the library, typing and deleting and typing and deleting, searching the depths of my being for a pithy last paragraph.

But maybe my dumbfoundedness in itself is a message. Higher education is a celebration of the things we, as individuals and as humanity, know for sure. Here, we learn, we discover, we prove things with logic. But sometimes it’s good to remember that there are some things we don’t quite understand — things no one quite understands. Of all the advice I’ve heard about romance, the best was to never listen to advice about romance. All other recommendations, even the ones from the most credible sources, have proven themselves faulty.

So here’s to the things we’ll never fully comprehend. They’re what remind us we’re human.

Paul Russell is a sophomore in the College of Industrial and Labor Relations. He can be reached at [email protected]Russelling Feathers appears alternate Wednesdays this semester.