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Columnists who write for this esteemed page are only human. Not to be confused with humane, which describes our demeanor, or inhuman, which describes our prose. Human here means mortal—that is, we columnists eventually grow old with time. As the years pass, our prose starts to stumble and our foresight begins to dim. Once-sharp witticisms gradually resemble the oft-repeated yarns that put small children to sleep. Indeed, after only a few short years of writing, people refer to us as seniors. The term is fitting to both our age and our attitude. Like most senior citizens, senior Crimson columnists tend to be tired, grumpy and nostalgic.
Of these three traits, the last—nostalgia—is the most dangerous. It doesn’t hurt Harvard seniors to harbor a little nostalgia. But for the senior Crimson columnist, nostalgia can be deadly. It can compel writers to spend 800 words waxing poetic with nonsense about first-year friendships forged over Annenberg’s Fried Cusk. Or it can lead to a “Fifty Things to Do Before Graduation” piece, which invariably makes asinine suggestions like “Camp out at the Arnold Arboretum,” or “Swim across the Charles,” or, perhaps worst of all, “Attend an Ec-10 Lecture.” Such columns, written under the guise of imparting wisdom to the young, are actually the product of aging minds too fatigued to come up with any meaningful topic.
I, too, am getting old. The twilight of my career with this old sheet is at hand and, to tell you the truth, I can’t think of a blasted thing to write about. Not that there isn’t a lot going on right now. The Progressive Student Labor Movement is once again rearing its ugly head. The new president of Harvard is making his rounds. Some guy from South Korea just won the Boston Marathon. But a serious column demands a rigorous mindset, and I’ll leave these stories to my underclass comrades.
Instead, this column is going to be written under the guise of imparting wisdom to the young, minus the nostalgia. That means the only things left are the tired and grumpy bits. And so, I present to you, the reader, “Ten Things You Never, Ever, Should Do Before Graduation.” Some of these things I’ve done. Others (most notably #2) are things I’ve seen done. All are things you’re better off not doing.
1. Never, ever, block with someone out of pity. Refusing to block with a despicable person may result in hurt feelings. Pretending to enjoy living with a despicable person will destroy lives—both of them.
2. Never, ever, browse porn sites in a public computer lab. There are just too many damn pop-up windows. You can ALT-TAB all you want, but hiding a desktop filled with blinking pictures of naked flesh will be even harder than what’s going on down below.
3. Never, ever, order plum juice bubble tea in Chinatown. On the way down it tastes like rotten prunes, on the way up it tastes like beef jerky.
4. Never, ever, dare a Cambridge police officer to arrest you. They will, as a member of the Class of 2001 discovered earlier this year.
5. Never, ever, agree to take a class only because you have a crush on the person who asked you. For most, the dullness of an unwanted class only exacerbates the bitterness of love unrequited. In my case, the target of my affection dropped the class minutes before the add/drop deadline, leaving me a dying man in a strange land.
6. Never, ever, take a graduate school class. Contrary to what you may think (or what others may tell you) graduate students are smarter than you.
7. Never, ever, go to Foxwoods Resort Casino. Losing money is not fun. And if you really want to gamble, you might as well do it on the Internet.
8. Never, ever, focus your eyes during Primal Scream. Recognizing someone you know, along with the newfound understanding of why God created clothes, will create nightmares and shudders for weeks to come.
9. Never, ever, ask someone to your House formal over e-mail. It is widely agreed that this practice is just plain lame. Yet it happens year after year. It’s a lose-lose situation: If the answer is no, you will be pitied; if the answer is yes, you will be mocked.
10. Never, ever, write columns like this one. Or if you must, make sure it’s near the end of your term. Otherwise you might get fired.
Richard S. Lee ’01 is a social studies concentrator in Pforzheimer House. His column appears on alternate Thursdays.
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