Scouting for a decent man on campus required a great deal of focus. You had to see past the sprinting engineering students, the slouching athletes and the arguing SIPA grads and try and find the prospects with an ounce of charm. On an Ivy League campus, they are few and they are coveted by many.
After an hour or two of scouting on the steps, Paige announced that she thought a crusty kid on the baseball team was attractive. I took my leave and headed to Alice and Kam's room. No use scouting once Paige's Columbia goggles kicked in. But when I got there, my lazy lounging plans were thwarted. Somehow, despite the plentiful mentioning of his upcoming journey, I had forgotten that Alice's boyfriend was visiting from the Naval Academy. He had brought his buddies with him. Two of our girls were already in the room, Natalia and her main frenemy, Christina. Kam introduced me and I sat on a free space of bed, foolishly, unaware that I had just set up camp on a battleground.
Beside me was Natalia. Beside her was Alice's boyfriend's friend, Dan. Beside Dan was Christina. And I had only to listen for three minutes before I realized what was going on.
Christina and Natalia were fighting, shamelessly, for Dan's affections. Natalia was leaning over, her too-small top creating ample cleavage. Christina was in an American Apparel white V-neck and jeans, and was using her unusual flirting tactics to draw Dan's attention. She lifted her foot, pointed to a bubble there and whined about her painful blister. I somehow managed to withhold a gag.
Two hours later, I left thoroughly entertained. Alice, her boyfriend, Alice's boyfriend's friends, Kam, Christina and Natalia were all going to a movie. And I was going to bed, excited to see who would declare victory in the battle the following morning.
Christina it was. She spent the entire next morning giggling loudly and describing her amazing night with Dan to all of us over breakfast. She yawned dramatically, demonstrating her exhaustion. Natalia violently dipped her spoon into her pudding over and over again, making a point to work out her aggression. When I asked Christina if anything else happened other than the pecking, her cheeks flushed. No, of course not!" she answered, a bit too high pitched. "It was our first date." Natalia scoffed at that, and her pudding spoon relaxed a bit.
Dan was plainly handsome, but his looks were the only thing going for him. He was bland as can be, with nothing to offer other than arrogance and a challenge. Neither Natalia nor Christina acknowledged his inflated ego, but surely they realized the challenge... and that they themselves had created both.
It would not have been difficult for either of them to hook up with this guy. He was looking for a weekend of action and likely would have taken it from anyone anywhere. (Ironically, thanks to Christina, he left more frustrated than he came).
But that's off point. Bottom line is that Dan wasn't that special. He was OK to look at, with barely any flame, hardly any zest. No substance, no depth, no mystery to solve. The challenge -- and the arrogance it birthed as a result -- were both created by the petty competition between two girls and it got me thinking: What is the actual stock of each man? And how much do we inflate his currency by our own actions?
How often do we want a man just because we know someone else wants him too? How many examples can we cite off the top of our heads of someone we know that went after someone we liked just because we wanted him? How many women only notice the value of a man once he's taken? How many only want him once he's unavailable? What is it about our characters that makes us want someone just because we can't -- or shouldn't -- have them?
This was an answer I wouldn't have for a while, and I wouldn't know until sophomore year on which side of the equation I would land. But watching Christina and Natalia, I knew that there was no such thing as winning on this battle field. Those two spent the next years fighting, and each victory took them further and further from each other, and further from what each of them really needed: self-value. This wasn't a battle; it was a war. And the only victors were the tremendously over-inflated dudes that walked away with their heads held high, off to prey on their next victims.
This piece was initially published on Nayia's personal blog: Wanderlust.