Uninvited Guest


The story began too early on a Sunday morning, as an unwitting Harvard undergrad staggered from her room into the light. With eyes squinting at the glare she acknowledged her roommate and moved on, then looked up and realized that the blonde person standing in her common room was not her roommate. In fact she had never seen the girl before in her life. "Hi, I'm Maggie, Celeste's friend from home." The poor undergrad searched her memory and found remnants of a conversation with Celeste about a girl who had invited herself for a three-day weekend.

Three nights later, five girls sat in a small bedroom and cheered. Nora C. Cheng '02, one of the unwilling hostesses, rejoiced, "Thank God almighty I'm free at last!" What would occasion such evangelical language? A nightmare guest the likes of which none of the traumatized girls had previously seen. A guest who brought weird boys to their common room, went through their books, answered their phone, hooked up with four guys in two nights and asked to try on their clothes, was gone. They had tried to be nice and then settled for being civil after Maggie made a point of showing off her body, pointing out that her friends often thought her anorexic and then generously offering to "trade you my body for your mind." As it turns out, it was the one thing she had to offer in return for her weekend of plunder. As the other roommates heard Celeste admonish her strongly, saying, "No you may not borrow my underwear," they had hid their heads under their pillows and sent up a fervent prayer to the night that the interloper be teleported back to U Mass.

Far too many students can tell tales that equal or even that of Maggie. Recruiting trips always have a high potential for turning nasty, as in an effort to show the recruit a good time, team members proceed to get him or her frighteningly drunk. The consequences can be dire. The Ivy League grapevine brings us the story of the Princeton squash recruit who puked on the couch she was sleeping on and didn't get to clean it up because she had to catch a 9 a.m. train. Her host's roommates still speak of their hatred for her. There is also the soccer recruit who came back to his host's room and proceeded to piss on the floor. An anonymous fellow first-year teammate commented, "I pity him come initiation time."

Then there are those roommates or entrywaymates who, with a lame excuse and little else, dump their pre-frosh on a kind-hearted friend as they high-tail it out of town for the weekend. In one such case the pre-frosh, after spending several hours reading in an empty common room, was finally taken out by his surrogate host, Avra C. Van Der Zee '02, who had taken pity on him after he left several desperate notes on her door. After spending the night fending off his earnest advances, Van Der Zee came to the conclusion that "pre-frosh that aren't yours are only good for sending back to the dorm to raid their absentee host's alcohol stash."

There is a lesson or two to be learned from these cautionary tales. There are a few things you can do to protect yourself. Screen potential guests on the basis of hygiene (e.g. does she bring her own soap or shampoo?) and sociopathic tendencies. When a nightmare guest does take over the room, stay tolerant by staying absent. Above all, be very, very cautious upon hearing the disclaimer "I don't really know her that well." There is truth to the old saying that houseguests, like fish, start to stink after three days. Some of them arrive rotten.

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