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August 23, 1999 e-mail e-mail to a friend in need


Matchmaker High

Boy, you guys work fast. I'm still wearing white shoes over here (that would be a half-Cleveland) and lots of you all are already starting school?! But I can't not send out big mad BG props to all the people doing their bravest best to bring Columbine High back to life.

A normal year, it won't be. Back to normal, maybe not ever. And it's a sad, sad September when we're made to see so clearly that today, "safe room" and "school" are far, far from redundant.

But while we're on the subject, there's one kind of safety-at-school I'd rather none of you feel.

School activity fundraising efforts have come a long way since the day BG revolutionized the Breakup High bake sale -- and put the lit mag in the black -- by holding a Rice Krispy Treat sale instead. Today, evidently, school groups are contracting with research organizations to sell students lists, based on surveys, of compatible -- as in dateable -- schoolmates.

Oh. Wait. This just in: Chris just in. He tells me they did this in his high school. So I guess I'm a bit out of it on this front. Well, Breakup High was all girls, and it wasn't that progressive. ("Coming out" was a whole nother thing.)

Anyway, it's true that this practice is becoming more and more popular -- USA Today reports that these folks do their yentification in over 20% of the nation's high schools. (And many firms are starting to offer same-sex or "best buddy" services.) (AND, apparently, sometimes teachers get matched up with students? Whuh?)

So there's a lot I could say about this, aside from reporting that no, Chris didn't "meet anyone" this way.

But here's what strikes me right now. Annie Morgan of the National Association of Secondary School Principals says these lists offer "an opportunity for kids to get to know each other who otherwise would never have because they don't have the same friends or aren't in the same clubs."

Um, yeah, but do they? As one student who used the service told USA Today: "I still remember one kid on my list, and I shake." Said another, pointing to a list, "I know this one, and this one's a 'no.'"

Hey, look. If you're really not drawn to -- as Xander once said -- "the Dirty Girls" (not as in "easy"), or, say, The Guy Who Always Wears Shorts, Even When it's Freezing, (or Chuck), I can't force the fit. But promise me in general, lists or no lists, that no one will be a "no" just 'cause their clique is.

I don't mean to be glib; I know cliques mix like oil (Greasers) and water (Swimmers); I know that one false move can make you Mayor of Pariahville,* Population 1. And I'm not just trying to get you to do the right thing, to appoint you Ambassador to The Jugglers just to meet your community service requirement.

But still -- yes, especially post-Columbine -- I'd rather you didn't play quite so safe. Seeking someone who shares your interests is one thing. So is seeking someone who butterflies your tummy. But seeking someone merely who mirrors -- or enhances -- your status is another. That's arm candy. Date Light. Looks great, less fulfilling. For you.

And yes, there is a sense in which "dangerous" dating -- even flirting, or simply "hi"-saying -- moves can, little by little, add up to bringing a certain kind of safety back to school.

* not to be confused with the term inadvertently coined by a recent advice-seeker: "social piranha."



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