The party scene was fresh for both my roommate and me when we first came to college. We had both worked hard in high school and stayed in on weekends to do homework—we were the stereotypical pre-Harvard nerds.
When she got to college, my roommate changed almost immediately. Jello shots would appear in our suite’s fridge. She would come home giggling, tipsy, and sometimes sloppy-drunk. I, on the other hand, was uncomfortable with the idea of alcohol. I quickly stopped trying to go to dorm parties with the other hordes of freshmen, preferring to hang out in the Pack (our nickname for Pennypacker). We went our separate ways after freshman year.
I have come a long way since then, intellectually, emotionally, spiritually—plus, now I drink.
When I told my former roommate about my reverse reformation the week before spring break, she gave me a high-five. “I thought it was kind of strange that you didn’t want to go out, but it was less about the alcohol and more about the social thing,” she said. My frosh life just didn’t fit her definition of “social.”
Today, I can taste the difference between vodka and rum. When I want wine I ask my 21-plus friends to get me “two-buck chuck” because I know what it means. Occasionally, I come home sloppy-drunk. In my freshman roommate's words, I have started to “go out.”
This is good timing. I seem to be in tune not only with the United States’ preposterous law (I will turn 21 soon)—well, sort of—but also this campus.
The Boston Globe recently reported that, in 2002, Harvard students rated their social lives lower than many of their counterparts at other schools, including those at MIT. The 2.62 out of 5 average for social life on Harvard’s campus was lower than the 2.89 average for a group of 31 colleges, and the 2.53 for sense of community was lower than the average 2.8. Since then, the College has launched a number of initiatives directed at improving social life, from hiring “Fun Czar” Zachary A Corker ’04, to pushing for extended party hours, to working on the Harvard-Yale tailgate.
The national media made a huge joke out of the idea that Harvard students need to have administrative support to enjoy themselves, but I’m taking full advantage of it. As soon as the Undergraduate Council began to fund more parties, I started throwing them. Just as the administration created Pub Nights, I became interested in pubs. It’s the “beginning of a new era,” as posters for Pub Night declared. Everyone, from Associate Dean of the College Judith H. Kidd to me, seems to be adjusting to a new, expanded understanding of what it means to have fun.
There’s just one problem. I am not actually being having more fun than I did before I started going out. I’ve just started socializing in different ways. Increasing social space, providing dollar drafts, making it easier to buy kegs—these are all great ideas. But making partying easier isn’t a panacea for our ailing social lives, and it certainly isn’t for everyone.
The more I step into the party scene, the more I realize how much it has to learn from those who don’t partake. In the name of moving 2.62 closer to 5, I decided to look at social groups that were not centered on weekend debauchery.
YOU DRINK? SINCE WHEN?
Over the last month, I would occasionally mention in conversations that I was working on a story about people who don’t party.
“How are you going to find those people?” some asked. In their minds, people who don’t party simply don’t socialize. Maybe they don’t need to—they are just buried in their books, those misanthropes.