Norma Knows

for the moment

As I WALKED through the Yard last Wednesday and heard the crying and shouts of glee. I knew it must be house notification day for the first-years. There isn't really anything quite like it. At one point I saw a bubbly girl in a Laura Ashley dress running to the Union screaming, "Eliot! Eliot! I got Eliot!" Then there was the guy moping through the Science Center, staring at his feet, chanting the mantra, "They #$%@ing quadded me. I'm moving off-campus. They #$%@ing quadded me. I'm moving off-campus. " I think we should all get over this wacky Harvard cultural construction of "the house" as an identity. I got my last choice and I like it just fine...but I don't define myself by the character. That would be embarrassing! Houses are just places where we eat and sleep. But not everyone gets that. I know plenty of people who didn't wear black until they moved into Adams, wouldn't have joined a final club if they hadn't been Eliot-ed, and weren't recluses before they were Quadded. Someone should write a thesis on "the house." I'll give him or her some of my letters from this week. They'd be great for the appendix.

I won't print all of the housing letters here. They're just not exciting enough. I'll respond to Hurling in Hurlbut, Gleeful in Grays, Starting to Drink in Straus and Can't Wait Until Next Year in Canaday all at once...

Dear all you first-years,

Go into wherever you've been assigned with an open mind. Don't think it'll be heaven or hell. It won't be either unless you really want it to be. A house is a house is a house. If you can't handle it, you can always transfer. If you really love it, run for house committee. They're all always looking for a few good men and women.

Now on to some real letters:

Dear Norma,

I'm a junior in high school and I'm planning to apply early action to Harvard. I was wondering if you could help me with my application. There's this question about whether or not I have been "disciplined" in the past few years. Four years ago, I was arrested for armed robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, resisting arrest, gross sexual imposition and dealing drugs. I pleaded no contest in juvenile court. After serving six months in juvie hall, I was given a fresh start and sent to live with my uncle. My friend who was suspended for three days when he was caught smoking in the bathroom is telling Yale all about it. My lawyer told me not to tell Harvard. He thinks it might unfairly hurt my chances at an acceptance. I prefer to ask for a second opinion. What do you think Norma? --Stumped in Saugus

Dear Stumped

I'm glad you wrote me. Your lawyer seems like a real loon. I think you should be completely honest in your application, Maybe you could write your personal statement about it. If you feel like the charges were unfair, then tell your side of the story. on the other hand, you could explain what sort of socio-economic environment would turn you into a belligerent, guntoting, convenience store-robbing, potential rapist crack-dealer. What did you learn from the experience? What did you learn about the justice system? Do you think "three strikes you're out" is a good law? Did you play a varsity or a club sport in juvie hall? Sell yourself. Trust me.

Dear Norma,

I'm in a really terrible rooming situation. When we left the Yard there were ten of us. We all blocked together for our first year in the house. It was okay, except at the end of sophomore year, five of the block went out on their own, mostly because of their dislike for "Sally." It's the end of my junior year, and I just found out three more left. Now I'm all alone with Sally. Sally, Sally, Sally. She drives me absolutely bonkers. She talks louder than my deaf grandmother, smells like the MAC, and follows the "creative chaos" method of housekeeping. Not to mention that she listens to Mariah Carey. And you should meet her boyfriend. Yuck! Not only am I pissed that my "friends" have left me all alone with Sally for my senior year (what does that say about me?), but I can't decide whether I should try to go through the bureaucratic hassle of floating as a single or just suck it up with her. I don't want to be mean to her! What should I do?   --Quixotic in Quincy

Dear Quixotic,

You're in a pretty sticky situation. If you decide to stay with Sally, you'll be miserable. She sounds like a fate worse than the Phoenix barbecue. But then again, telling her you can't stand to live with her might trigger severe depression, maybe even a drug and/or alcohol problem, and Sally is already olfactorily famous. On the other hand, you should be selfish. Tell her that you'd rather live with new people next year. If you don't want to tell her the truth, make something up. You could have a rare mental health condition that demands new roommates at irregular intervals. Whatever you do, don't room with someone that makes you nauseous.