I recently took my best friend to my date night, tucked her into bed and then woke up in the middle of the night to find her gone. I didn’t have to check Find My Friends to know she was one block down the street at a fraternity annex in the bed of a guy who only texts her as the hour approaches midnight every Saturday — like clockwork.
It’s officially November, so this next-level trifling behavior is becoming increasingly common among my female friends. Days grow shorter, seasonal depression sets in as the first waves of snow trample the ombre leaves and I find myself yelling at friends over text more and more to get their self-worth in check. These are the signifiers of cuffing season.
Most weekends, Cornell’s lack of thrilling cosmopolitan activity leaves students to frequent bars and frat mixers that close at 1 a.m. Panicked reactions to the recent freeze on mixers have illuminated some of my girlfriends’ true intentions around going out. For many, a weekend without male attention can feel like a wasted opportunity. You pregame at 9 p.m., go out around 10:30 p.m., scramble to find dick for an hour and a half and by midnight, it’s every woman for herself. Even on the nights we do stay in, we get up from our movie night and put on thot-fits only to do a 12:45 a.m. closing lap at Hideaway because maybe “Josh” is there. Some nights he is and I walk home alone. On nights he isn’t I trudge my friend back home, her hand in mine. The most frustrating part of this is seeing stellar women put their self-confidence in being chosen — by Josh.
On the flip side, I’ve got a male friend who exclusively wears polo shirts, khaki sweats and loafers. He’s the Cornell fraternity poster child: the son of a Wall Street financier, unmotivated (because he can be) and in desperate need of a proper exfoliant. However, his poor fashion sense, laziness and flaky skin don’t seem to deter the ladies. This guy pulls. By this time last year, he’d slept with a quarter of my female acquaintances and often double-booked himself for sorority date nights. I couldn’t seem to find what his draw was. He’s got a warm personality and has books on his shelf that weren’t required for his FWS? He doesn’t treat women like shit but uses his dog to garner their affections? He once admitted that under the purview of the college hookup scene and our hypermasculine culture, what his frat brothers think of him and his body count matter much more than taking the time to get to know anyone. He was, after all, willing to undergo torture at their hands in order to be part of their boys’ club. While I’ve listened to several women cry over him, he describes them as “busted” or “ratchet,” dismissing them in pursuit of the next. He’s spoken at length about his desire for a relationship, but his actions and the way he speaks about women don’t seem to indicate that he actually wants one.
Enabled by boredom and the cold, I’ve seen girls leave their friends for a guy they barely know out of fear that he’ll move on if she doesn’t act when he beckons her. I can’t say I’ve ever seen a guy friend do the same. He’ll hit her up from the comfort of his bedroom and kick her out when the deed is done. When she walks home afterward and he doesn’t text her, she waits around thinking, “Damn, I just shared my body with this man and I’m waiting for a text to feel acknowledged.” I want to yell, “He’s living his life! He will never think about you as much as you hope he does!”
“It’s not that we don’t have standards, it’s that we often know that the man in question will not rise to meet them,” reflected a friend when I asked her why she continues to engage with these patterns. “With the knowledge I’ll end up alone given the standards that I have, instead of demanding that someone meet a higher bar, I lower it. He may not be treating me with respect now, but maybe he will in the future.” Sis, he won’t.
And among women of color? The lack of communication is almost guaranteed, the freezing out colder, the disrespect more pronounced. “You can almost guarantee that if a black girl chooses to participate in this, she’s preemptively accepted that the white girls have already been picked over and that she’ll encounter all manner of misogynoir. The night’s not just cold; it’s dark,” my Nigerian American friend admitted. “I don’t think your editor will let you publish the question he asked me,” said a Chinese American friend after revealing a particularly horrific comment from an encounter.
Sometimes I see these XY-chromosomed individuals on campus and want to confront them. “How dare you shave her confidence down to thin ice and then return her to me in a bruised and fragile condition?” I want to demand. But I wonder, are men the only ones to blame when so many women go along with their subtle, scattered and infrequent attention? It hurts to see my female friends continuously insulted and degraded — both by men and themselves. I want my friends to be happy and have fun, but not with people who mistreat them.
I used to devote my full attention to page-long texts and late-night drives to get ice cream and soothe tears. These days, to save time and energy I’ve found myself distilling these impassioned rants into one-word, deadpan responses: He didn’t want to look for his keys to drive you home the morning after? “Unacceptable,” I declare categorically while putting the finishing touches on an essay over lunch. You’ve been hooking up exclusively for a year but he won’t call you his girlfriend? “Canceled,” I garble through a mouthful of my dinner over the phone. I just don’t have the patience for this anymore.
I think college relationships were always on the periphery for me, and that the learning curve for just how shitty men can be has been much steeper because of my race and first-generation identity. I grew up knowing that the men I’d go to college with at a place like Cornell weren’t trying to bring me home to their moms, and my own mother, who is a surgeon, showed me the magic a woman can make with her hands, sheer determination and faith. Over the years of being disappointed by disrespect, the ubiquity of sexual violence and mediocrity, my narrative has shifted from “Why would he/how could he?” to “How dare he?” to today’s state of “Try me.” My mom didn’t come to this country and work her ass off for me to cry over a finance bro who will inevitably cheat on me. I came to college for my Bachelor of Science, not an MRS. I fell in love with my best friends and with documentary filmmaking, not some scrawny pre-med.
And for the bro in the back who only pipes up to play devils’ advocate, don’t worry, I got you: I also do not agree with the societal conditioning that leaves men intellectually and emotionally underdeveloped and women picking up the slack. But so long as any individual man continues to abide under that narrative, leave him in that choice, honey. I also am not asserting that men and women can’t be in mutually consensual and beneficial sexual relationships, or that women cannot be fuckboys. The problem is that over and over, I see my friends wanting more from people who are not willing or able to give it to them. Both parties are sacrificing significant personal growth by participating in this vicious cycle.
And look I get it, ok — the nights are cold, and as Earth wraps up another revolution around the sun, you want someone to wonder where you are. But my tolerance is dwindling. I’m sick of hyping my lady friends up with the courage to approach mediocre men who don’t really care about them in hopes of defining the relationship. The image of my polyglottic, headstrong, doe-eyed best friend leaving me behind in her fluffy bed covered with pillows hand-sewn by her grandparents to wrestle over a single uncased pillow and shiver under a ratty comforter fills my veins with fire.
So I’m drawing a line. I know a night in with a warm drink won’t hit the same spot as a warm body will, so have your fun. But on the likely occasion that he doesn’t scrape the bar of basic human decency, put your phone aside and seek warmth elsewhere — in the comfort of mulled cider with friends, a thrilling TV show and your castle of fluffy pillows. We need to realize that while we sit doubting, wondering if the other person we’re thinking of is thinking of us, we’re already living the feared alternative of being alone. Is accepting he doesn’t want you going to hurt much more than it does right now? You’ll save yourself — and your friends — the heartache. As the wise Whitney Houston once said, “I’d rather be alone than unhappy.”
Edem Dzodzomenyo is a senior in the College Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Ed’s Declassified appears every other Thursday this semester.