By Duke Harten
As of 2040, George Washington University requires all undeclared freshmen to take Guy Donovan’s ‘Face Time: Public Speaking as Social Salve in a Screen-ridden World.' Course evaluations are mixed. Particularly polarizing is Donovan’s ‘Boy Meets Girl’ assignment, which has been criticized as invasive, heteronormative, and socially obsolete. Elena Munroe’s speech, reprinted with permission below, is the only one in the program’s eight-year history to earn full marks from Donovan.
I can’t imagine how the administration sanctioned—or hell, how Professor Donovan even pitched—this exercise. With experts putting divorce rates at more than seventy percent (not to mention the grim reality that some of us may be orphans), it seems indefensible to make a college freshman stand in front of his peers and relate the story of how his parents met. It’s in poor taste, is my point. It’s an exercise that lacks compassion.
And look: a huge part of our unspoken cultural queasiness is that a lot of our parents met on Tinder. How many of our moms and dads came of age in that weird decade? Do the math, folks. [Shakes head.]
I’m not sure Donovan knows what he’s asking when he says—hold on, I have it here—when he says, “Render their acquaintance as if it’s an exclamation mark, as if the quote ‘paragraph of life’ that came before is merely a well-structured preamble, preparing two groping souls for the joy of discovering each other.”
First of all, ‘groping’? Jesus, dude. Second of all, the assignment is inherently fraught. By which—hold on, my shirt’s driving me nuts. [Maneuvers.] By which I mean what good can come of a bunch of Undeclareds reciting juiced-up versions of mommy and daddy falling in love? It will at worst breed ridicule and provide ammo to the bullies among us. And at best? From where I’m standing, best case scenario is someone gets up the nerve to completely retell, scene for scene, When Harry Met Sally.
Yeah, yeah, Professor. I’m getting to it.
My parents—who because of my mother’s relentless Catholic guilt and my father’s savvy prenup are still in their stagnant and sexless marriage—met in 2017 while sharing an Uber Pool. Scene: interior car, Fourth of July, Mom drunk from the day’s activities and Dad sheepishly refreshing Instagram beside her.
Mommy wants to smoke. The Uber driver, in a laudable act of charity, not only lets her smoke in the car but bums her a cigarette. Mom lights the cigarette and promptly pukes into my father’s lap, coming up for air only to assure dear old Dad that she’ll Venmo him for dry cleaning. Uber driver, naturally upset, asks the two to vacate his car.
“So,” my dad says, dabbing at his vomit-stained crotch on the sidewalk of an unfamiliar street, “we give him what, like, three stars?”