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ISSUE 117 VOL 11 PUBLISHED 2/27/2004

Sex on the Hill: Interim Lovin'

By Jennifer Hancock
Contributing Writers

Friday, February 27, 2004

You have the same boring class every day, the food is lame and you can't go outside without your nose hairs freezing off. Welcome to Interim. But never fear, frozen friends and foes: romance can save you. In my estimation, more people hook up over Interim than any other time of year. But what is it about Interim that encourages romance? For starters, everything.

Fact is, it's bloody freezing. Human beings (also known as a type of mammal) need warmth, ideally the warmth of other human beings. January in Minnesota is potentially the bleakest month of the year. What better way to battle winter woes than in the arms of your Interim lover? Interim is an opportunity to re-create yourself. Think of how many men grow eccentric and often unsuccessful facial hair over Interim. Granted, it's partly out of laziness, but it's also expressive of a basic desire for change. Interim is an opportunity to let go of inhibitions. After all, 800 students are gone, so why not play with new aspects of yourself? A lot of people study abroad and leave friends behind to fend for themselves. Almost everyone I know makes at least one new friend over Interim, often a "special new friend." Interim is like band tour or summer camp, a well-deserved break from the norm, essentially a vacation in which time, obligation and self-consciousness cease to exist. Interim relationships and, by extension, Interim sex, exist in a social microcosm in which many of the bizarre rules of St. Olaf dating do not apply. People from separate social circles become friends. People spend honest time getting to know one another. People act on crushes when they wouldn't dream of doing so during either semester. The irony of Interim is that everything is both fast and slow. Coursework and classes are accelerated; yet the days seem to last indefinitely. There is seemingly more time in which to explore new romantic relationships, when, in fact, there is less time, considering the term only lasts 30 days. This is one of the reasons people dive more quickly into sexual relationships during J-term. There are time limits, deadlines. You've only got a month to "make something happen," and it better be good. Part of the appeal of an Interim romance is that you don't have to stick around long enough to see how it works "in the long-term," because there is no long-term, because it's Interim. Also, there is something rebellious about Interim romance. In a way, Interim love is a refusal to be an embittered, depressed, anti-sexual college student zombie. Gone are the days of wandering from class to home with a scarf around your face, eating alone in the Caf because your friends are abroad. Instead, you find yourself smooching by the hearth, sledding with your new love, and making cocoa together. You're sticking it to the man: demanding love and joy in a part of the country comparable to (at this time of year) Antarctica or some lesser ring of Hell. And dare I forget the delightful complications of study-abroad interims? Of course, there is the Interim abroad couple, always to be avoided due to its insipidness, let alone its irritation to the greater social dynamic of the group. What about the struggle of couples to stay in touch while both study abroad in separate locations? Or, perhaps most poignantly, the unique sorrow of the boyfriend/girlfriend who stays on-campus while their beloved goes abroad? There is something brutal about receiving postcards from your girlfriend in Hawaii while you're practically living in the Language Lab. The trickiest element of the Interim romance phenomenon is its fleetingness. Come second semester, everything that transpired during Interim is erased. Interim lovers disappear into the abyss of blank faces in the Caf. It's painful, but what do you expect? Some Interim relationships are illegal and constitute cheating; they've got to end somewhere, especially with the return of your lover's other. Most people return to their standard circle of friends come second semester anyway, and leave behind their Interim interest. On the up side, I've seen a few Interim romances flourishing into springtime. For all of you, here's hoping. The Manitou Messenger's resident sex columnist is available for comments, considerations, and questions on all subjects sexual and romantic. She can be contacted at

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