With Valentine's Day upon us, I thought it would be an appropriate time to talk about drum corps relationships -- which is to say, the intersection between drum corps and romantic relationships.
At this point in the season, you may have your eye on that cute drum captain/soprano soloist/guard girl/rifle boy/drum major, and you're trying to figure out how to angle yourself into becoming that person's seat partner. Or you're on the other side of the coin, and trying to convince your honey back home that it really is OK if you go away all summer long, and of course you'll miss each other and talk every single day, and you promise not to even LOOK at another member of the opposite sex. I've seen this phenomenon from almost every possible angle, from leaving a significant other back home to leaving your significant other at the end of tour. And of course, drum corps relationships come in as many varieties as there are drum corps members. Young people are famous (or infamous!) for being able to figure out every possible permutation of ways to find affection, and you will find that they all exist in every corps, from the guy who's hitting on a different girl from a different corps every night, to the pair who met as rookies five years ago and are now engaged. Given that, I don't think it's really necessary for me to give any advice in the "do" category! There are, however, quite a few "don'ts." One of the biggest is that no matter what, do not allow romantic relationships to distract you from the real reason you came to march drum corps. There is nothing worse than knowing you had a bad show because you were distracted about some sort of drama that's going on between you and your significant other. If you have a girlfriend or boyfriend on tour, don't let any personal problems bleed over to the people around you; they didn't sign up to be a part of your relationship, so don't involve them, either directly or peripherally. Also don't let having a significant other keep you from getting to know the people you march with; equally awful is getting home at the end of the summer and realizing you really only know one or two other people, and you missed out on getting to know a lot of really cool folks. Don't let the person back home become such an emotional drain that you no longer find yourself mentally and emotionally present with your corps. If you're spending hours every night on the phone trying to reassure them that you do still love them, you're not spending time building relationships with the people around you, and you're probably not 100 percent present on the field during the day. Again, remember why you chose to march, and don't get distracted from that. Accept romantic defeats gracefully. If the dude two spots down the drum line got the girl you wanted, don't try to create issues between them just to be the victorious rooster. Beware of people who play the seat-swapping game and leave a wreckage of broken hearts and emotion-laden conflict behind them. Be loyal to your friends; be a good ear and shoulder when your corpsmates need relationship counseling, but resist the urge to be the rebound fling. And if you've got someone back home, be loyal or be honest -- invoking the "zip code/area code" rule ("If you're out of zip code it's OK") and the "Las Vegas" rule ("What happens on drum corps tour, stays on drum corps tour") may get you play, but it will also erode your reputation and the respect of your corpsmates. Did you come on tour to march, or to be a playboy or playgirl? And the flip side of that is, if your seat partner has someone back home but is cuddling up to you every night, push him/her firmly back on his/her side of the seat. And finally, be careful about picking seat partners based on romantic intentions. Too often you get into the meat of tour and discover that behind the pretty package lies a totally incompatible personality. Instead, pick a person with whom you know you get along well and who will forgive you if you end up wanting to switch because you've met your lifelong soulmate. Likewise, be a good friend and abdicate your spot gracefully if your seat partner has found undying love. If you've found all this a little surprising because the thought of drum corps and love mixing has never crossed your mind, then get used to the thought now -- you're probably that cute-but-clueless guy or gal everyone will be after this summer! And if you're a parent having a panic attack at the thought of your little prince or princess walking into the waiting arms of their own personal Romeo or Juliet, don't flip out -- just be sure your son or daughter is equipped to handle the wide world of romantic interactions -- and maybe print out this column and stick it in their luggage come May. Seriously, though, there is nothing wrong with finding that special someone in the course of tour, as long as you keep your priorities straight. Remember why you're there and what you want to get out of marching corps. Keep your perspective about the importance of the overall corps experience. And make sure you're having a good time while you're at it! Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! Emily Tannert is a sophomore music education/percussion performance major at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, La., and holds a journalism degree from Northwestern University. Emily aged out of the Glassmen in 2003 and was assistant tour manager for the corps in 2004 and 2005. You can contact Emily at firstname.lastname@example.org.