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The Three Flavors of Radcliffe

By Faye Levine

Ask any 'Cliffie to tell you what type of girl goes to her school, and she will back away nervously, stammering " stereo-types whatsoever... leave me alone," and things like that. The poor girl is afraid you are trying to squeeze her and her friends into a single mold: the stringy brunette mold perhaps, or worse, the intense, amoral, Bohemian mold. Life, Holiday, the New York Times, Sports Illustrated, and Leonie St. John became her eternal enemies as soon as they suggested one-word summaries.

Nevertheless, she knows that some things can be said about types of girls, and styles of doing Radcliffe. The whole experience, from background and preparation to dress, dating, courses, and even attitudes, comes in three different flavors.

Radcliffe may be done first of all in peach. This flavor appeals most naturally to girls who have been made aware of social life and social obligations throughout their lives. Perhaps their parents are of the administrative upper class, presiding over businesses or government offices. They probably applied only to Radcliffe and one or two other schools in "The Heavenly Seven" (as they would call it). And very likely they are from New England or the mid-Atlantic seaboard.

But not necessarily. Anyone can like the flavor. The style of dress is consistently tasteful. Girls often wear high heels and stockings. Coats with fur collars, small pins and wrist-watches, Camel's hair anythings, gloves, jackets with print linings, and pretty colored sweater sets are common. This style approves highly of boys with vests, pipes, and woolen scarves around their neck; and likes to dress up on dates.

Firm Friendships

And peachy friendships are firm ones. Their cliques of four or five are as Final as anything institutionalized. Not that they are unfriendly to people outside their clique--if anything, .a constant friendliness is inherent to the style. They are cordial to the point of exuberance, sometimes to the point of bedlam. If male they would be shouting at football games; as it is, they can discuss a hockey game vivaciously throughout a dinner. When ased what adjective they would use if they wanted to give another girl the highest compliment possible, they unanimously answer "charming" or "feminine."

Of course a flavor alone doesn't absolutely determine anything as objective as courses or extracurricular activities. Yet the composition of Fine Arts 13 somehow feels different. There seems to be more flirting, joking, and talking, more girls with careful make-up and shiny clean hair than in most lower level survey courses. And majors like Soc. Rel., Fine Arts, History, English, and History and Lit., some-how have a peachiness about them.

Many girls who exemplify the style relax and enjoy social life in the popular sense of the word, dating a great deal, discussing boys and other girls more than their fellow 'Cliffles, and participating gaily in drama. Others, however, participate seriously in administrative organizations such as Radcliffe and dormitory government, in service organizations (like their mothers) and in choral societies. Where rules are to be tended, this group tends them. Briggs, the strong-hold of the peach flavor, was the most vehement supporter of an orderly and extensive system of sign-outs in last year's debate.

And to them the Harvard-Radcliffe experience is most significant for its social milieu. What do you like the best about this place? The most peach-flavored answer is "the people."

Chocolate and Convention

If girls don't fit into this style, however, they can do Radcliffe in chocolate. Perhaps they come from public high schools, where they started in conventional ways--as valedictorian or student council president or cheerleader. Perhaps they come from large cities in the South and West, or from the metropolitan area outside Manhattan. And perhaps their parents are middle class: high school teachers, doctors, clergymen, some lawyers, some scientists. They are often the first in some group they know, family, high school, or city, to come "here." And so, when thinking about college, they took care to apply to a "safety school," or to a large number of schools, or to large popular universities like the Universities of Michigan or Pennsylvania.

Coming from such a background, girls find themselves already outfitted in the chocolate uniform. It may range in attractiveness, but it is always Conventional. Woolen scarves over the head, large plaids, sneakers, eye-glasses, and thick boots are common. When they are messy it is with dirty hair, bitten nails, and too-long skirts. And when they are well-dressed, it is in a happily wholesome way, with pleated skirts, Loden coats, and the bulky cardigans that all of American teenagery is wearing. If they approach the tastefulness of the peach style at times (without ever really achieving it), it is perhaps because peachy dress serves as an epitome of fashion in many public high schools.

Chocolate friendships and romances are both casually groupy. One girl may have two or three close friends, who are not necessarily friends with each other. Cliques are not firm or obvious. Similarly, these girls often date many boys without being serious about any. Sometimes, however, a chocolate girl has few or no friendships, and she spends most of her waking life on schoolwork.

Achievement Important

For achievement is very important to this style. They are active within the existing system. Recognized in high school by students or teachers, perhaps high scorers on national tests, they often major in functional subjects like Government, History, Economics, and above all, science. They chip away at PBH, at coed political clubs, at publications. Or else devote themselves intensely to getting high marks. They justify their behavior on pragmatic grounds, and worry most about careers and graduate school.

And they love to take Soc. Sci. 2, for it combines sociology and history into a rigorous but functional how-to manual. There the girls who address envelopes for the Young Democrats meet the boys who aspire to the Senate, and on rainy days the girls look more rained on than in other classes.

Whether the girl is noisily career minded or a silent academic recluse, she is likely to have a certain chocolate attitude toward college. To her, the experience of Harvard-Radcliffe is most important for "the infinite opportunities it offers." She sees college primarily as a set of doors to be utilized, rather than a self-sufficient milieu. And so she chooses to compliment another girl by giving her some utilitarian and unfeminine attribute: like "brilliant," "down to earth," "conscious," "alive," or "great" and the like.

If both of these flavors are unsuitable, a girl can still do Radcliffe in lime. For this it is most useful to have been brought up in a family which is professionally intellectual: usually college professors, artists, or writers. It helps to have gone to one of the progressive private schools, where standards are predominantly individualistic and intellectual, rather than social. (With girls' schools these are more easily distinguished than with boys'.) And it is useful to have lived in a college town, a foreign country, or a sophisticated urban community; to have applied to a very small number of progressive and stiff colleges, like Swarthmore, Sarah Lawrence, Oberlin, and so forth.

Once all this is done, limeness is just beginning. The distinctive feature of this style is Style. Girls who adopt it are sometimes thought of as the Radcliffe stereotype, and probably give wholesome Harvard freshmen from Iowa their first proof that the East is indeed strange looking. Greek shoulderbags are extremely popular, as are ski jackets, black tights, pierced ears, half high heels, long unpolished fingernails, rain ponchos, "Marimekko" dresses, primitive jewlry, and long hair. The most well-dressed of them imitate a European sort of gray-beige, expensive simplicity; the sloppy ones wear ski polo shirts and dungarees and can be called (to their probable disdain) "beat." They have generally been to Europe, or hitchhiked across America.

The Arts

Upper level English courses contain many of these girls, as do courses in creative writing, foreign languages, and the other humanities. They rarely participate in extracurricular activities, with the exception of creative arts. When, they do act, write, paint, or play instruments -- it is usually extremely well. Probably they wrote poetry when they were young.

Limes very seldom have groups of close friends, and never cliques. Instead they travel mostly alone, or with a serious boyfriend. And their travelling often takes the form of gliding. Perhaps a little too thin, some cultivate a mysterious, ethereal, or merely composed look. They are most conscious of their sex and often the most beautiful of the girls. They decorate their rooms with taste, and more concern for art and individuality than do their fellow students. And a search for self-expression, for eternal, almost mythic verities, is implied in the adjectives they use to compliment another girl: "beautiful," "good," "nice," "womanly," "sympatico," "free."

This self-consciousness is usually of an assured quiet, sort. They define the Radcliffe years as an arrow pointing toward them, with everything else fading into a grayish blur. What do they like best here? The privacy, the independence, the challenge, or some particular experience of the past, they answer softly.

Like the chocolates, this flavor wanted to liberalize the sign-out rules, but while the chocolate reason was an indignant "We are responsible enough," the lime reason was "they have no business interfering with our lives."

If you want to get in touch with anyone of a particular flavor and can't judge adequately from the Freshman Register, you should go to certain addresses. Peaches center about dorm living rooms, the Spa, Widener reading room, and organized social functions. Chocolates are upstairs in their room, in Mallinckrodt, in "Rad Libe," in Restaurants, at their organization's headquarters, or eating early dinner. Limes are also in Widener (although more likely in the stacks, than the reading room), in cafeterias and coffee shops, in the Fogg, and in people's apartments.

They all meet, to be sure -- at registration and graduation.

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