By Dhruv Gupta, Nathan Forman, and Linnea Hurst
Dhruv: It’s funny how moments work. You’re never absolutely there. Time passes and one moment goes to another. Time marches relentlessly, maneuvers indefinitely, and moves forward constantly. Extreme emotion and abnormality from the daily routine stick out in our minds. And there I was, creating memorable moments.
The point of this night, as far as I could tell, was to break the norm of a Harris dance, and thus cohere to the norm of our classrooms, the dining hall, Harris during Biden’s speech, and all other “proper” and sober spaces, where asking consent before physical contact and making eye contact when you’re interested are the norm… normception. I did what society asks of mannered young men like me but not what people do on the Harris dance floor; I was prim and proper, I asked for consent, and I always, always left room for Jesus.
Dhruv: The night started off the way my nights usually do–alone, doing some task I deem useful. I was writing a song; a task great for my soul, but terrible for nearly everything else. (Check out Dhruv’s music here.) Two hours before midnight, Nathan, Linnea, and Joe–the editors of the GUM–arrived outside my doorstep. After pre-gaming for a bit, we headed off fearlessly towards the task at hand.
We arrived at Harris to find that we were the first few people there. Apparently these veteran fourth-years had forgotten the basic rule of Harris. It doesn’t ACTUALLY start until 11:00PM! Disheartened, we headed off to a nearby party in order to kill time in a college student’s favorite manner. And before the clock ticked an hour closer to the start of a different day, we were back in Harris.
Linnea: I was nervous when we approached German house, the abode of the legendary Dhruv Gupta. Joe and Nathan had assured me that this kid was legit, but I still couldn’t imagine someone bold enough to ask fellow Grinnellians to slow dance at the first Harris of the year.
Thankfully as soon as I met the gallant Gupta all my fears melted away, similar to the hearts Dhruv would melt later that evening in Harris. He was dressed in a suit and tie, but Dhruv’s transformation into a chivalrous squire transcended mere waistcoats and cufflinks. Dhruv carried himself with a genteel air that would make Jane Austen’s Sir Darcy jealous. He performed a deep bow before taking the drink we offered him. Dhruv had completely transformed into a courtly suitor.
We burst onto the Harris dance floor with the passion of a thousand steeds. Unfortunately there were no future Mrs. Elizabeth Bennetts to be seen.
Dhruv: Within a few moments, I had gotten on my knees, kissed a hand, and gotten someone to slow dance with me. Looking into the eyes of someone while slow dancing is a highly intimate moment. Much more so than the grinding from behind that Harrises usually consist of. Luckily there was no pressure on either party to do well (thank god). The abnormal venue only made the experience so much more exhilarating. Defying the music and the atmosphere, I simply settled into a world where it was just me and my partner slow dancing.
Well, I did so until the awkwardness overcame my ego, and I hastily departed looking for another individual to slow dance with. I repeated the activity with at least seven others. Some danced to amuse me, others out of pure novelty, but everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves. Apparently the “respectful” course of conduct is now novel enough in Harris that it amuses people.
I only faced two rejections the entire night. I even danced with an individual who identified with the same sex as me. It didn’t matter that he was of the same-sex; it was simply dancing.
Nathan: As we entered “the handsome and eclectic Harris Center” for the second time that evening, I turned to my right intending to give our magnificent knight some last minute advice. Yet to my surprise and elation, Dhruv was not next to me anymore but in the middle of the dance floor, on his knees, kissing a girl’s hand.
None of us editors had harbored much hope that our lionhearted prince would actually get the chance to slow dance in Harris–whether due to lack of physical space or rejection after rejection–so watching Dhruv waltzing (to Kanye West ft. Big Sean & Jay Z – Clique) was a euphoric and redeeming experience. The Grinnellians who accepted Dhruv’s hand naturally began to dance to the beat of the song playing. Thankfully, our dapper duke never failed to firmly yet tenderly slow the movement of their bodies to a beat not unlike that of the pacemaker that keeps Dick Cheney’s failing heart pumping.
In other words, Dhruv and his partners stood out (and not just because Dhruv is tall and they were slow dancing). Dhruv and his partners traversed the crowd of gauche and gazing gawkers with grace, standing out as the only couple with expressions of pure jubilation.
Dhruv: I left the building more content than after any previous Harris, but right as I was leaving, two close friends approached me. Most of our conversation was lost in the sound, but I distinctly remember, “Why are you slow-dancing? You aren’t in seventh grade anymore.” After assuring my friends I would never dare do such a heinous activity again, I left the vicinity of Harris happy to have a quote that works wonderfully for this commentary.
Linnea: What can be said about Dhruv’s adventure? Certainly that many Grinnellians are not only willing to slow dance in Harris, nay, they enjoy the chance to do so. What does this mean though? I think it means that Grinnellians are excited to break the norms of the spaces they inhabit (in this case subverting what we think of as the normal way to dance at Harris).
But more importantly I also think Dhruv’s success at SGA Harris reflects that people react positively to being given the option to say “no” to a dance, to be able to voice their consent while making eye contact and without being physically grabbed. While the physical positioning of traditional slow dancing isn’t exactly equal either, with the male partner’s hands on the female partner’s waist, it is a lot more equal than the traditional “grinding” position. For women especially, grinding both conceptually and physically is often unequal and demeaning. Women are usually approached from behind, grabbed by the interested party without being asked for consent, and often don’t even look their partner in the eye the entire dance.
When first pitching this story idea to Dhruv, we had no idea the results would have us comparing grinding to slow dancing through the lens of gender. We actually began the evening light-heartedly ridiculing the concept of slow dancing, saying things to Dhruv like, “Don’t get too sad when everyone denies you.” But this story wrote itself as we stood on the dance floor and watched as Dhruv and his dance partners exemplified how important it is to treat your crush the same on the dance floor as you would in the Grille (eye contact, respect, asking for consent before touching–you know, just the basics…).
By the end of the night Dhruv, our enduring flower, was physically tired out, because waltzing can be a workout. But if he was as gleeful as I was after this experience, then his spirit flew with the seagulls and brushed the clouds all night long. Hey, that is what consent and respectability does to ya. Take notes, kids. This could be you next time a Harris rolls around.