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SHE called late one night last October.
She called a lot in those days. Back then she was my girlfiend, had been for about a year. That night, she had just gotten into a sorority and she wanted me--please! please! please!--to come to her fall formal, all the way out in the Midwest.
I told her it was a big trip, that I'd have to see how much it cost and I'd have to think about it.
I called her back five minutes later.
Next day I went to Keezer's and bought a tux. I called the Friendly Skies and raided my brand-new Baybank account.
I was a first-year at Harvard, and I was in love.
I'M NOT bitter.
I want to say that right now. Sure, it was a long-distance relationship, and like all long-distance relationships, it was from hell.
But I'm over my ex, and I have a wholly rational perspective on the whole genre of long-distance relationships: I hate them--passionately and thoroughly--but I am not bitter.
I am simply determined never to get involved with anyone who lives outside my zip code for the rest of my life.
It's not because I hate talking on the phone, although I do. I also hate paying huge phone bills, hate hearing my roommates yell at me to get off the phone and hate thinking about time zone differences. I even hate the Midwest.
But none of these reasons captures the true horror of long-distance love. I hate distant relationships because of the way they enslave lovestruck collegiates. No freedom is allowed for those unlucky ones joined by the fiber optic umbilical cord.
A LONG-DISTANCE relationship is like a receding hairline; no matter how hard you try, you can't get it off of your mind. You can't just go out alone to Pinocchio's and know that you'll see him or her soon enough at Justice or Ec 10. Nor can you just block your partner out of your mind when studying for a test or writing a paper, assured that you'll meet over baked fish pizzola in just a few hours.
The distance is suffocating. You can't get away from the relationship, which means that you can't get away from Ma Bell.
It's you, your partner and that phone. When you're not thinking about your mate, you feel guilty that your mind is elsehere. When you are thinking about your mate, you wonder whether your significant other's mind is elsewhere.
When you think your long distance lover's mind may be elsewhere--and his or her mind is often the least of your concerns at this point--then you spend most of your time convincing yourself that you are still numero uno.
Then you wait by the phone until the next call comes. And when it does, you feel guilty again--this time for merely presuming any infidelity.
You have a wonderful conversation--at late-night rates, to boot. Finally, everything is peachy keen, until you hang up. Then the cycle begins anew.
SO WHAT is the solution?
Decide if it's really worth it. Do you really need to suffer the guilt, the angst and the deprivation that a long-distance relationship entails? Are you really really in love, like I-want-to-get-married love?
Then you might be stuck. Join a support group and steal a PAC code.
But maybe your relationship is nice, but not great. Maybe it's convenient to maintain, but not really worth all the aggravation. Maybe you're just a first-year--or even worse, an upperclass student--just lugging around an old high school flame like a tired old security blanket.
Then make that last long-distance call, friend. Find a nice Harvard mate--for interested females, I can suggest a delightful sophomore social studies concentrator with a single in the quad who sharcs your disillusionment with long-distance amours. (Dunster and Mather residents need not call.)
Or disregard my advice. Keep that relationship going. Forget love. Forget romance. Forget sex.
Let's talk guilt. Let's talk insecurity. Let's talk emotional bondage.
Let's talk bitter.
SHE calls two nights ago for the first time this year.
She is just fine, having fun at college, liking her sorority.
How am I, she asks. Just fine, having fun at college, liking my tutorial, I answer.
That's good, she says. She wants to know if I have the number of a mutual high school friend.
I do. I give it to her.
Thanks, she says. See ya. We hang up.
No, I'm not bitter.
After all, it was on her bill.
Kenneth A. Katz '93 has a $500 limit on his PAC account.
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