On Saturday, They Shimmied: Scenes from Campus Nightlife

It’s a little after midnight on Friday and I’m squeezed onto a couch at Sigma Chi beside two visiting brothers from another university. Both are are wearing nearly identical pastel uniforms: button-downs with the sleeves rolled up, matching backwards baseball caps, sagging khakis, boat shoes. Clutching cans of Coors Light, they communicate largely in unintelligible grunts shouted over the din of what Might have seemed to them to be a tame iteration of a frat party.

“You do not look drunk enough, my man,” one tells a Harvard attendee.

“Let’s get you some beers—you wanna shotgun?” says the other visiting brother. “No pressure!” he adds.

The first brother knocks back his beer can while pumping his fist into the air. He yells something, but it gets drowned out by the chorus of Ne-Yo’s “Give Me Everything.”

“Where are you gonna sleep tonight, anyway?” someone asks the visitor.

“It’s college, dude! You sleep where you can!” he replies, speaking as if he has just granted everyone around him access to some hidden piece of wisdom. These visiting brothers seem like broadly rendered parodies of frat boys, spouting lines from TV shows. By comparison, the Harvard brothers are bizarrely subdued, standing around complaining about TFs and midterm grades.

Down in the Sigma Chi basement, three girls cluster around the bar, shoulder to shoulder to shoulder, each trying to get the attention of the bartender. Around them, the other party goers dance waving their half-empty cups in the air like props. The scene is nearly interchangeable with any other mildly crowded college dance party and populated with all of the usual suspects: pockets of girls dancing together in circles, couples joined at the groin, pale-faced freshman boys on the prowl, a guy I sat next to in lecture once.

Back upstairs, two guys are slumped on top of a pile of discarded pea coats in the midst of a hazy argument about relationships at Harvard.

“Everyone is just trapped in limbo, you know?” says one.

“That’s not true,” his friend insists.

“You just got to get yourself out of there.”

A group of girls interrupts the conversation in order to extricate their coats.

What were we saying?”

“What were we saying?”

“Limbo?”

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