The Renegade Rip

Sizing up the dating game

Jeff Eagan

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Under the shade of the gigantic main tent, Tom Wolfe humbly graced the stage. His demeanor seemed reserved for a best-selling author of two astounding books. “The Bonfire of the Vanities” and “A Man in Full.”

Wolfe subtly discussed his latest book, “Hooking Up.” However, he wasn’t reticent to provide some insights he gained during his research.

The bold mission of the book was to analyze contemporary college life in America by speaking to college students around the United States.

“I started in California at Stanford and I worked my way across the country. And university after university, I kept running into something known as the seven-minute seduction.”

In relating the story, he found that the polite social courting of his generation has now disappeared. Instead, he sees modern dating customs as collective predation.

“Things are a little different now at the college and even the high school level. Girls and boys go out in separate groups, packs, but at least the girls don’t have to sit at the telephone every night,” Wolfe said.

It was strange to see a 72-year-old man in a genteel white suit relating the voracious carnal urges college students have on the dance floor.

But Wolfe delivered these remarks with what little refinement one can garner when the subject is grinding.

“There was a dance about five years ago called the lambada. But today, it has a more realistic title, grinding, where the couple lock pelvic saddles, and well, grind,” Wolfe explained.

He found that college students love to talk about their lives. Pioneering his “new journalism,” Wolfe entrenched himself within the guarded indicators of the female sex life by perusing their diaries.

In them, he found that the era of the seven-minute seduction has college women ranking conquests, random hookups and misguided disappointments conveniently indexed for later reflection.

He sees this common trend as “part of something much bigger, which I think of as the fifth American freedom.” As he spoke of the other four pillars of democracy, he expounded that the “age of the fifth freedom as illustrated by the seven-minute seduction,” is the era of “freedom from religion.”

He sees “freedom from religion” as something that is detrimental to traditional religious and social customs that stress stable monogamous relationships.

But Wolfe says the country has entered a new generation where traditional rules are flouted by public officials from President Clinton to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. In this new era, home base isn’t going all the way anymore.

“Today, the bases are lined up a little bit differently, and today’s home plate is being introduced,” Wolfe said.

Wolfe portrayed the correlation between money and sex as seducers. Giving examples from the recent crop of financial infidelities by corporations including Enron, WorldCom and Delphia, Wolfe sees “greed as a motivating factor in all these scandals.”

Wolfe, however cynical about the cultural trends he chronicles, maintains a positive outlook on the future.

“This country is in such a marvelous condition. We are capable of doing so much good. But we still have to answer the question: Good for what? In the meantime, I’ll see you at church.”

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Sizing up the dating game