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Public Displays of Affection on Campus

The PDA Is Here to Stay


There was a time when I thought public displays of affection would eventually disappear. I figured it was just something high school students would trade for Vans shoes or vintage T-shirts. The way hippies have been exchanged for hipsters. Resembling belly shirts, Rocket Dog sandals, and the relationships themselves, I knew these public displays wouldn’t last. They were just a trend waiting to fall off the grid.

It’s not like I was crazy: an AIM [AOL Instant Messenger] abbreviation for it (PDA) had already been created and spread internationally, and it was now being used by suburban moms, which usually marks the downfall of great trends.

In my optimism I waited for weeks, months, years. But by the time junior year rolled around, high school couples were still at it, possibly more than ever. Just as the skies looked like they were clearing, I would exit a bathroom only to bump into a couple obliviously groping each other against a mildewy wall. I would be lost in thought when I would turn a corner to find a couple pressed against a row of lockers, cooing at each other.

Then I began noticing the regulars, whom I encountered on the outdoor paths I took to each class. I started recognizing the recycling bin couple and the sycamore tree couple. They seemed a part of their natural habitats, letting tangled hands mirror crushed bottles, and glued torsos echo tree bark. Yet none of them topped the chemistry couple. They were wise enough to choose a habitat that punned their actions, groping each other every day without fail outside of my second period chemistry class. The other thing about them is that they tended to take up a large portion of the hallway. Their habitat often became packed with people during passing period, and, because I had to walk by them on the way to my next class, the task of not being thrown against them by anxious students became a trying one. I would find my grounding and brace myself against the crowds, struggling away from their direction, but still often failed and was flung against their make-out sessions.

They actually produced a problem similar to that of couples in the indoor hallways. At Santa Barbara High it’s easy to avoid walking indoors to your next class, which I usually take advantage of. But indoors, there is the main hall, which has smaller hallways trailing outward from it, and there are ramps and stairs connecting the three stories. Translation: The main hall is a mob of teenagers who don’t know left from right, and every other passageway is the same, only on a smaller scale. It may be cute to hold hands while walking, but sometimes they stretch out, creating a two person love-train and in the process blocking one-fourth of the hall’s width. When they walk next to another couple they basically act as a dam.

Then there are the four-legged beasts. Like groping monsters they walk with boy in back, arms secure around girl’s waist. Completely absorbed by their subtle displays of affection, from time to time they tend to take out innocent and distracted kids.

Last week I was late to second period and made the mistake of walking through the main hall to get there. Traffic practically came to a pathetic stop when I realized that there was a four-legged beast a few yards ahead of me. It waddled a few steps before groping then continuing. Damn. I may not be the most coordinated athlete, but I can say that I’m quite excellent at moving through crowds. So I arrogantly tried to pass the beast. Just when I was almost past, a surge of kids suddenly came in the opposite direction, blocking my only source of escape. I looked around me, finding a narrow gap between them and the wall.

The thing is, I wouldn’t have minded being a minute late, except that I only have a first period twice a week, and it is anatomically impossible for me to be on time to first period. So the other three days of the week, my second period serves as my first, and is burdened with my incurable tardiness. If I’m late on these days, I am faced with the fact that I am selfishness at its worst, as my math teacher would remind me.

I saw the gap and thought I had a chance at squeezing by. Shielded by an enormous bag, I dashed toward the wall and braced myself before surging forward. It would have worked, had the beast not turned and taken me out with its two right arms. I was thrown against the heater and could only release an acknowledging sigh. PDA is no trend; it’s a beast.

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