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Is This a Mixer? A Meat Market? And Why Are You Here Anyway?

LIFE WITH THE 'SHMEN

By Ari Z. Posner

The first problem with the freshman mixer is defining it.

You can't really say it's a collection of eager first-year students mingling and getting to know each other. That would be called a core class.

Instead, imagine 1000-plus of your favorite acquaintances locking arms in sweaty embrace, swilling impotent potables like apple juice and introducing themselves in the darkness of a converted dining hall to the bump and grind of dance music.

Then you would have last Saturday night--what Harvard calls its freshman mixer.

* * *

EXHIBIT A: Sadness spread over the faces of two freshmales from Holworthy as they sat dejectedly on the sidewalk on Quincy St. outside the Union. "I'd be a lot happier if they served booze," said the first. "All I want is for that girl over there to sit on my lap," said the other, who for his part obviously did not want for liquor.

They would not describe themselves as disappointed, however. After all, the mixer is almost the only class-wide party for Harvard students until the Senior Soiree almost four years later. It is a one of a kind, an initiation rite, and the capper to a slew of activity that all will remember--some with fondness--as Camp Harvard.

And even more important, as Stacey Anderson of Thayer Hall put it, "We're here because, basically, there's nothing better to do."

The mixer is the first opportunity for Harvard's notoriously diverse student body to check each other out in action. The results can sometimes be disappointing, especially to those who harbored the misconception of Harvard as Society Mecca on the Charles.

"Let's face it, the guys aren't very good looking," said one woman. "The girls here are pretty ugly, I'm afraid," one man responded.

"This party needs more girls," said Rui Defigueiredo, of Wigglesworth Hall and Texas. "This party needs less people, it's too dark and crowded to meet anyone," Stacie Lipp of Mower and California responded.

Matthew S. Forsyth '87-'88, co-chairman of the Crimson Key Society's Froshweek activities, sees the mixer as a cultural heirloom to be proudly passed from epoch to epoch, year to year.

"The purpose of the mixer is that we're fulfilling a tradition. There's been an opening dance at Harvard since 1910. And the great thing about the mixer is that it gets freshmen ready for competition at The Big H, albeit not on the academic front."

But another reveller proved hostile to this assessment. "Tradition, that's bullshit man. I came here to get laid." Despite his bold claim, he declined to mention his name.

Whoever called this school a brain-heavy ivory tower? One trip to the mixer dispelled the myth and gives evidence that Harvard has its fair share of simmering hormones.

But don't be put off--even at the mixer one was able to learn a little bit and pick up some information.

One freshman dispensed with what he called "the common view of Harvard women" and offered his own novel technique for meeting women. Sean "Rocky" Rockett of Hollis Hall asserted that "behind the cold exterior of the Harvard woman--what I call the Secretary Look--is a hot desirable woman. You just gotta grab their ass."

* * *

EXHIBIT B: The party's Disc Jockey, Randy Barth, a veteran of similar gigs both here and at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, says it's always a thrill for him to spin tunes at Harvard during Froshweek.

"I came out of retirement for this," Barth said. "It's their first dance and the freshmen are really up for it." He swept his arm over the jammed floor while a convoy of writhing flesh oozes by doing a Bunny Hop. Bruce Springsteen's "Pink Cadillac" resounds throughout the hall. "I mean, who could pass this up?"

A common complaint on Saturday night hit at the very premise of the event--meeting people. One Crimson Key staffer agreed that many people arrived in cliques and did little circulating.

In fact, the only thing definitely mixed about the mixer was the motives of those behind it.

According to Forsyth, "The mixer, along with the screening of 'Love Story' are our only money-makers. They support everything else the Crimson Key Society does." To a degree, the dance exploits the sentimental desires of freshmen looking to share a meaningful, full-blown Harvard experience by leaving them with an overheated, glorified (because Harvardian) high school bash.

As they used to say during Froshweek, "Live the Cliche!"

And so, by 10:30 p.m., there were no refreshments to be found, only five empty apple juice containers. Food of any sort disappeared early. The party had a mandatory closing time of 1 a.m. (customary in Cambridge). Furthermore, only students with Harvard I.D.s were admitted.

Forsyth had another suggestion for why there were no refreshments barely an hour into the party. "This is simply a very thirsty class," he said. The Class of '89 had apparently polished off 100 cases of Pepsi--the standard order for the whole of Froshweek--by Wednesday.

* * *

EXHIBIT C: Tyrone Hayes' flamboyant outfit would have been well suited to the rock-'n'-ready atmosphere of New York's Danceteria. Sporting a Prince coif and pointy, sparkling shoes, the crowning jewel of Hayes' snazzy saturnalia was a pair of unlinked handcuffs, which he wore as arm bracelets.

Hayes, who plans to major in biochemistry, said that he added a measure of panache to what was otherwise a conventionally attired gathering. "I guess everyone just wants to fit in," he said. "But I'm having fun."

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