The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Sunday May 28th

Touching But Not Really: Is It Innocent?

We started off at a house on Rosemary Street. While we were there, I noticed that one guy was especially quiet. Every now and then he'd laugh at a joke or say a few words to one of his friends. Other than that, he just sat, smiling, on the couch wearing a Superman T-shirt and jeans.

Then, about 20 minutes into our walk down Franklin Street, a girl in a sexed-up nurse's uniform grabbed him, and they started making out. After a few minutes they went their ways, and our group moved on.

I know that Halloween brings out all sorts of unusual behavior in people. The whole event is about inverting the normal order of things. We can dress up as people we'd never dare to be any other night and play completely different roles.

We can scream, party and wear scandalous clothing on Franklin Street without really even drawing attention to ourselves.

And yet, though students in Chapel Hill seem to kiss strangers on Halloween more than any other time, it's certainly not limited to that night.

On one hand, who's to say it's bad? It's harmless. It's kissing, just kissing.

So many people do so much worse. And yet some people say it's wrong. It's cheap -- just a cleaner, safer version of sleeping around. The people who do it are "virgin sluts," good girls and boys trying to act bad but avoid guilt. Besides, just in terms of germs, it's a little gross.

Other people say it's not wrong, exactly, but empty -- no real potential for a relationship, no sincere closeness to the other person, not much emotion involved.

These points sound true, but they also sound like the reasons people give for doing it. First of all, it's deviance with safety. It happens in a public place. Nothing too scary or serious can happen. If the person takes things too far, simply walk away. If he turns out to be a jerk or just not so interesting and good looking after all, nothing much has been lost.

Secondly, it provides the opportunity for empty, meaningless interaction. You don't know the person and understand that you most likely will never take the time to get to know him later. Therefore, most personality flaws or incompatibilities either have not yet surfaced or usually can be overlooked. Maybe he has an ultra-conservative mother who would hate you and talk to her friends about the little earring on the top of your left ear. No problem. He might listen to Nine Inch Nails and wear dirty socks to bed. It doesn't matter.

If he's from western Pennsylvania and says "you'unz" and "warsh," you don't even have to decide if these words annoy you. After all, this person needs to stay attractive for only a brief period of time -- an evening, tops.

Sometimes, people who meet each other this way do call one another, have conversations or even start to date each other. In these cases, though, the situation takes on meaning and the participants become somewhat important to each other, which turns the event into something different entirely -- either solving its cheapness and emptiness or ruining its wildness and irrelevance, depending on how you see it.

Different people look for different experiences. Heck, the same people look for different experiences depending on what's happened to them lately.

Sure, meaningless kissing that you forget about the next day won't give you what you'd get from a boyfriend a girlfriend, but sometimes to some people, that probably seems pretty desirable.

Relationships require effort and commitment but can hurt. Then again, being completely alone can seem lonely. "Hooking up" or "pulling" seems to meet somewhere in the middle. Maybe it offers a temporary solution, but it also could mean baby steps towards allowing for something more permanent in your life.

Thinking back to the guy on Halloween, in a strange way, it makes sense. Most of the night, he didn't talk. If any of the people who didn't know him started a conversation with him, his ears turned red.

So, if he wanted to kiss someone, the situation he picked suited him well -- a way of kissing in which people never seem to touch one another and almost forget the next day that they have.

Marian Crotty can be reached

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