This last weekend was the Gathering at the Grove, or GAG, which is one of the worst acronyms I’ve ever heard. It is basically youth conference for the nonyouth. If I actually had a job I would’ve claimed that I needed the weekend to recuperate from my hectic work week. But I could think of no honest excuse why I couldn’t go, so ponied up the twenty bucks and headed to Palmyra on Friday.
Friday consisted of registration and a dance. I quickly remembered why I haven’t attended a dance in several years. Throughout the evening I had many flashbacks of the “Super Saturday” dances of my early high school days. Bad music, bad refreshments, bad dancing (mostly from me) etc. It’s just not the most enjoyable event. I sympathized with the DJs; providing quality music for an LDS dance would be very difficult. Language cuts out most of your song options. If they carefully listened to lyrics, most of the rest would be eliminated as well. I’m sure they get all kinds of requests that the majority of the crowd would actually hate (a handful want Swing, another group wants country, another wants techno, nobody wants all of them.) But I think we were all resigned to the fact that the music would suck and tried to ignore the fact.
The biggest problem I have with dances is that they are singularly bad events for meeting people. After all, this was the de facto purpose of the conference. There were a couple hours of workshops, but the rest of the weekend was basically gigantic group dates. But dances are horrible formats for meeting girls. You can’t accurately tell what a girl looks like in the lighting, which is problematic on two levels. On the completely shallow level you can’t tell how cute she is, and thus if you want to pursue her. On the more practical level you won’t be able to recognize her very well the next day to follow-up on those you meet during the dance. Of course you can see during a dance, so the visual aspect is a relatively minor problem. The much bigger obstacle is that you often can’t hear a thing. You’ve got YMCA pumping in her ears (sadly it was played) while you’re trying to meet people. You can usually shout your name out well enough, but actually conversing is rather difficult. You end up yelling in their ears the whole time and are never sure if you actually heard them right. I never ask anyone out without knowing them fairly well, and consequently rarely get dates from dances. Hence the reason I stopped going and was only suckered in to this one because it would theoretically contain all dating prospects from western NY.
The evening did not go well. I only know a handful of people from Rochester, and none were there when I first arrived. So I ended up doing a lot of random accosting of unsuspecting girls. The first I chose seemed promising. She was obviously pretty intelligent and seemed cute (though strobe lights do lie.) After about ten minutes of low-level flirting did she move from talkative to a bit stinted. At that point I noticed the ring on her finger. Normally this is something you look for before talking to a girl, but I was at a singles dance. Why was a married girl at a singles dance? To my credit I think I got out of the conversation quickly, but made it still seem like I was just done with our friendly talk. I was happy later in the evening when a girl gave me her phone number, only to see her the next day with her boyfriend. I was already tired of this and the weekend had just begun.
Luckily I found a friend of mine who had also just moved in my Singles branch later that evening. He served as my wingman (and vice versa) for the rest of the weekend. I don’t fully understand the psychological reason why it’s ten times easier to meet girls when you have another person with you, but it is a scientific fact. The other guy doesn’t even have to say anything (although it certainly helps when he does,) he just needs to be present. If nothing else it meant that you never looked like a total social outcast. We went to the service project Saturday morning, which involved moving a bunch of antique printing equipment from one museum facility to another. We had roughly three times the number of people we needed, ensuring that most of us were standing around either flirting or playing with sledgehammers at all times. We mostly hung out with a bunch of Canadians I had met the day before (this group was pretty much my only successful contacts from the previous evening.)
A sidenote (as if the rest of this were straightforward): there were an insane number of Canadians at the conference. I’d say they outnumbered the Americans 2:1 for most of the weekend. This is an unfortunate ratio, but even worse was that every gorgeous girl you talked to was Canadian. (I accidentally said this near an American girl, which was not my smoothest moment.) I don’t know what they’re doing up there, but they’re producing some amazing aesthetics, at least among their LDS population. A girl loses a couple points for being Canadian in my book, but it’s certainly something they can easily overcome. It’s comparable to being from Idaho or being unable to use semicolons. However living 6 or 8 hours away from me is pretty hard for them to overcome. If I loved someone I could certainly put up with a long distance relationship. But it’s incredibly unlikely that I could meet someone one day and be willing to be in a long distance relationship the next. Consequently it was largely an inefficient use of our time to flirt with our northern neighbors. Even worse was the number of French Canadians. Again, they were cute, but the French connection eliminated them outright.
The workshops and speakers were fine, but again I don’t think that they were the reason anyone attended the event. The meals were satisfactory, and probably justified my twenty dollar investment. We even had Applebees cater one dinner, which seemed very strange for a church event. Saturday night we had another dance. Unfortunately they ran out of music about an hour in and started playing the music from the night before. Bad music is bad enough, but it’s especially aggravating to hear the exact same bad music the next night. Sunday was just church and a lunch afterward. The event closed at 2 and we hung around the Hill Cumorah until 3.
So that was my weekend. Sometimes fun, often painful. Rarely both. By the end of the event I had a handful of phone numbers. Now all they have to do is dump their boyfriends, move to America and help me decide where to go to medical school.
Song of the moment: “I’m Blue” the 5678s.