Dormcest: Sweet Love Right Around the Corner

"I had to listen. The story was being told." That was how my friends and I defended our moment of weakness.

It was an incredible story--at least in the sophomoric style of entryway love affairs.

This particular interaction occurred in my first-year entryway (of course) and involved two friends of mine. All I remember is that the conversation involved the phrase "Will you kiss me right now?"

While that may not be a heinous violation of common decency, consider the fact that both of their roommates of were present and had to listen.

That's a little weird.


And yet, from the seemingly bizarre opening act, a seven-month relationship developed. That's even stranger. But this story exhibits some of the characteristics of dorm romance that make it so sketch. You're a rare Harvard student if you haven't encountered dormcest after at least one semester. You don't know what to look for? Well, read on for some of dormcest's sketchy characteristics.

1. Everyone knows the intimate details of the relationship. Dormcest was made for Big Brother. Except that Big Brother is your 20 other entryway-mates, and they talk to each other and other people. Big Brother has the advantage of not having anyone around.

2. The morning-after problem. There's something weird about being able to walk from your room to the room of your significant other in pajamas. Granted, there are some people who do this even though they live in Currier and date people in Mather, but doing the walk of shame seems more unnatural when it's only three doors down and everyone else is in their P.J.'s anyway.

3. Your friends all know each other. On a "Seinfeld" episode about two years ago George spazzed when his girlfriend wanted to hang out with his friends. While most people don't want to be George Costanza (how many kids do you hear telling their parents "Mommy, mommy, I want to be just like George when I grow up?"), many can empathize with this plight.

It's the familiar "worlds colliding" phenomenon. The two lovebirds share some of the same friends, who probably have strong opinions about the significant other. And if their friends are anything like mine, they won't hesitate in sharing their opinion of the boyfriend or girlfriend, be it positive or negative. This makes it hard to view the relationship objectively because friends continually inject feedback about the other person.

4. It's so easy. The two people don't really have to make any effort to see each other, so dormcest often continues far past its prime simply because it is easier to keep doing what has already been done. Whereas, if one person lives in Currier and the other in Mather, and one starts thinking that the other isn't so much fun to hang out with anymore, he or she would reconsider the 30-minute shuttle ride involved in a visit.

5. The break-up. Unless the couple marries, at some point, they are going to break up. Maybe it's at the end of the first year, and they decided not to block together, thus saving a lot of pain. But it could also be in the middle of the year. I know of a couple that was inseparable for months. When they broke up, they never spoke again, even though they lived next door to each other. How sad.

Break ups are messy in general. They involve typically unpleasant changes and adjustments to basic daily habits. This kind of break up is like divorcing but not being able to move out of the same house as the former spouse. Dormcest makes the breakup infinitely more messy.

Despite all these reasons that make entryway romances complicated and ultimately problematic, they continue to flourish, probably for the same reason that I continually buy groceries from Sage's and not Star Market.

Even though Star Market is much cheaper, Sage's is just more convenient.

When I ask my acquaintances "How are you?" nine times out of ten, I get the response "busy." Time is one of our most valuable assets.

And dormcest takes less organization than an average relationship. It also allows for more spontaneity, which makes relationships more romantic. The prevalence of dormcest just shows how little time we have. Unfortunately, like everything else at Harvard, the more time a person puts into a relationship, the better (and healthier and more balanced) it's going to be.

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