I GAVE UP a date Saturday night to go to the Adams House mixer. Why on earth did I do that? Because somebody handed me a pink sheet of paper at the free concert in the Yard earlier that afternoon and I was touched.
"To the women of Radcliffe from the men of Harvard," it read, "we invite you to wine, music, and fantasy. . . ."
So, I thought it was sweet, and that they really meant it, and sure I'd go. Why not?
Well, I could cite lots of reasons why not to have gone now. It was your basic mixer. Lots of hungry Harvard freshmen, a few super-self-confident Harvard sophomores -- they'd been through this scene before--and more non-Cliffies than you see on a Friday night in the Square.
The dining hall was dim, the music was loud, and there were lots of people milling around. As usual, few were dancing. Most of the girls were sitting or standing in clots, trying to look conspicuous. Most of the boys were wandering around, sizing up bods, looking for that Girl-in-the-Sky. Later on, they'd go back to their roommates and report how it was such a drag, and well, no, they hadn't met anybody.
IT WAS all so sad and yet so typical of every other mixer I'd ever been to before. What struck me this time, though, was the contrast between this mood and that of the free concert. What had happened to the excitement and joy and fraternity we'd all felt when we were standing out in the cold March air? What happened to the smiling, grinning, happy faces? Where were all those boys who had been so genuinely eager to talk, just talk, to Cliffies? What about the invitations we'd gotten to come down here anyway?
A boy overheard me tell another that I went to Radcliffe. "A Cliffie!" he shrieked in disbelief. "Honest to God? I didn't think you girls lowered yourselves to come to these things."
"Some of us do," I said. "We're girls, not just smart. We like to meet people, we like loud music, and some of us can even dance," I smiled.
His eyes looked away and roved over the crowd. "I don't date Cliffies," he said and moved on.
Wow, I thought. Fine. Great. But I wasn't asking you to take me out; I was merely trying to return the friendly invitation I received. Obviously, this boy wasn't interested in meeting me, Cliffies in particular, or any other girl in the room, for that mater.
In fact, few boys seemed to be trying to meet girls at all. Either they cruised around the room aimlessly, or they appeared to be having token conversations. I overheard the usual, "What courses are you taking?" "When I was in Europe last summer. . . ." "Do you know. . . ." But nothing more substantial or personal than that.
IT WAS all so superficial, so guarded, so deliberately light, and a little bit phony. It was exactly the kind of unsatisfying human interaction that I thought people at Harvard were trying to get away from when they invited us to the "so aptly named" spring festival at Adams house.
Maybe we weren't supposed to go to the mixer. But someone had announced it at the concert. And the pink sheet said we were invited to music in the afternoon and to spend the night(s) at Adams House. There we were promised "the joyful transformation of our daily life and the end of alienation."
But we certainly weren't welcomed at the mixer. In fact, these people seemed oblivious to any festival of life, and they weren't aware of one more girl's presence. There was absolutely no feeling of community at the mixer. There was only the feeling of people desperately on the make.
There was enough competitiveness and defensiveness in that dining room to make any attempt at communication inappropriate and completely out of the question. Besides, nobody seemed interested in talking to anyone else. People looked uneasy whenever the music stopped. That was a signal to start talking, and that was what everyone feared most. People were content to dance their hearts out impersonally, but not to reveal their hearts in a personal conversation.