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Dating. HBS. Kwame.

While the first two words are practically synonymous, let me take a few moments to introduce the third-my name is Kwame Spearman and I am your self-appointed dating columnist for the next year. You’re probably wondering at this point, who is this guy and what insight does he have to write a dating column in The Harbus? This inquiry is a fair question with an underwhelming answer: I don’t really know much about the whole dating thing. Well, to be totally honest, I am bad at the dating thing.

Before you stop reading, I should qualify my earlier statement and say I am not bad like Screech from Saved by the Bell, rather, inexperienced like Bambi living in the wild without his mother. Thus far, I’ve maintained a somewhat respectable track record with women based off my decent looks and above average pedigree, but for the next two years I want to learn how to excel. This column is an opportunity for us to grow together, as well as provide some valuable insight into the Harvard Business School dating scene. More importantly, I also foresee the challenges of being a male and writing a dating column. Let’s think of this experiment more as adventures with Kwame.

Which conveniently brings me to our first topic, when is it ok to start dating at HBS?

This answer probably breaks down into two categories: when is it ok to start hooking up at HBS and when is it ok to start dating at HBS. To keep it spicy, let’s focus on the former (and we’ll reserve dating for next week).

Hookups during the first year at HBS are as probable as your voice cracking during puberty or getting a cold during analytics. We’ve all spent time carefully perusing through classcard photos (the actual photograph being something I should have taken more seriously) for the ideal mate. Silly excuses to grab dinner, like “You went to Berkeley? We should meet to see how you are adjusting to the Northeast,” or my favorite “I see that you worked at P&G-I would love to talk to you about my shampoo” are sent via HBS emails to potential mates.

Section makeouts are expected as well. Students angle comments in LEAD to show their availability, by using analysis such as, “I can’t speak for Erik Peterson’s marital troubles because I am single.” Thus, with their feelers out, students narrow down and focus on potential options.

Now that connections have been made, the quandary shifts from finding a buddy to discovering when it is acceptable to actually hook up. As the future business leaders of the world, HBS students are cognizant of appearances, stereotypes, and outsider judgment. Consequently, September was a time to order, but not to eat your food.

And then comes October. Glorious October. Our calendar’s 10th month is home to such wonderful things as the MLB Playoffs, changing of the leaves, Oktoberfest, and unadulterated, undercover RC hookups. The key to this lustful activity is its conspicuousness. No one can know about your actions, primarily because hooking up has yet to become stigmatized in the HBS community. The potential fallout for being the first couple is still too high; therefore, students keep their relationships and love for Miley Cyrus hidden in their jacket pockets, even if the information is bursting out of the seams. Frustrating, right?

You think it’s a coincidence that Priscilla Ball is scheduled at the end of October? My guess is the dance is a huge conspiracy by the wonderful folks in the New Zealand Club to facilitate a sort of hooking up ceremony at HBS. In case you weren’t there, Priscilla got interesting (without highlighting the legal issues that arose) because RCs felt comfortable with showing hedonistic actions in front of their classmates. The Priscilla Ball opened the proverbial floodgates for the class to start mingling in an effusive manner. November is the month.

This is a good thing. While I wrote mostly about hooking up, I think we (myself in particular) have been worried about the awkwardness of dating in HBS. I think if Priscilla showed us anything (once again, legal issues aside) it is that you shouldn’t be afraid to engage with someone if you are into them. Ask your ideal person out-don’t worry about the public’s perception. After Priscilla, it is clear that we don’t really care.
Kwame

November 9, 2009
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