Joey Potter, Hillel, and Me

A Harvard flirtation with 'Dawson's Creek'

In pursuit of an adolescent crush, all it takes is a moment of courage, sometimes as simple as a hitting of “send” on an e-mail, to thrust your heart out in the open, to be stomped on or embraced in mutual passion and bliss. Win or lose at love, it is moments like these that make us feel truly alive.

About two years ago, I had such a moment. The object of my affection seemed worlds away. True, we lived in the same city, but attended different schools, divided by background and religion and life experience. Still, in one momentous e-mail, I attempted to bridge those gaps, inviting my dream girl for an inter-cultural experience; a Shabbat dinner at Harvard Hillel.

The girl I invited was Joey Potter.

That’s Joey Potter, the fictional character from “Dawson’s Creek.” Not Katie Holmes, the gorgeous young actress who portrayed Joey, but Joey herself, who attended the fictional Worthington University (class of 2005, like me), located in Boston, Mass.

I had always been a big fan of teen drama. Like the Sabbath, “Beverly Hills 90210” was a weekly ritual in my family, as were “Felicity,” “Dawson’s Creek,” and now, “The O.C.” Each holds a special place in my heart, “Dawson’s Creek” in particular for its fetching leading lady and wonderfully pretentious dialogue that would have Harvard professors scrambling for the dictionary.


More than anything was the fact that the characters’ lives seemed a heck of a lot more compelling than my own. Sure, I’ve had some interesting experiences, but I wasn’t falling in and out of love triangles, climbing in and out of people’s windows, staving off one catastrophe after another only to be rewarded with magical moments that last a lifetime (cue the latest emo ballad).

This is not just because the actors on these shows are so attractive—though that helps. The appeal of these programs is not their realism, but the element of fantasy: lives that superficially resemble our own could be filled with experiences far more vivid and dramatic than those that actually occur. Just once, I wanted my life to be that compelling.

Upon entering college, my interest in “Dawson’s Creek” waned until I perused the official website, On the site, an entire fictional universe has been created. Worthington has its own site too,, which tells you all about the distinguished institution’s history (established in 1787 by Josiah Worthington), its tuition, the majors offered, and the library’s collections.

The real prize is not the Worthington site, but Joey Potter’s personal page, including her résumé, which contains her e-mail address, (apparently she didn’t have a Worthington address yet). Click on the link, and sure enough, an e-mail window opens.

I knew instantly I had stumbled upon a goldmine, but I was unsure of how to proceed. What would I say to Joey Potter, so artistic, so intelligent, so beautiful, so… goyish. Aha! I discovered my opening.

I’ve long had two problems with “Dawson’s Creek.” First, all six seasons of the show are set in Massachusetts, the first four in the fictional Capeside, and then in Boston for the college years. Yet there is almost no mention of the Red Sox. The most important cultural institution New England has ever produced barely exists. True, Dawson is a bit of a weenie, but surely Pacey could be a Red Sox fan? Or how about some kind of rivalry with New Yorker Jen concerning the Yankees? Nothing.

My second problem is that the show is practically judenrein: there are no Jews. True, you’d be hard pressed to imagine a slew of shul-goers in the remarkably goyish Capeside (though perhaps some Yiddin could have had summer houses?) but in Boston? And at an elite university like Worthington (which seems to be a combination of Harvard and Amherst)? By her second day in attendance, Joey Potter should have tripped over a Jew. Yet I never saw a yarmulke.

And so I phrased my e-mail in such a way so as to present myself with the lure of the exotic, something a Capesider had never seen before.

“Dear Joey, I was surfing the web and stumbled upon your personal website. I was very impressed with your artwork. I see that you go to Worthington. I myself am a student at nearby Harvard. I was wondering if you would be interested in coming to Shabbat dinner this Friday night at Hillel? Let me know. David.”

Perhaps a bit stalkerish, but relatively sweet, I thought, especially since I was writing a fictional character.

I got no response. And the show’s writers never added Michael Goldstein, Worthington ’05, as a new Potter love interest.

I don’t know if my e-mail vanished into cyberspace, or if the real life Katie Holmes read it and found it creepy, or if some computer nerd who runs the website had a good laugh and forwarded it to his buddies. I guess I’ll never know.

But now that I’m finishing up at Harvard, I can’t help but think that somewhere, the class of ’05 is finishing up at Worthington. And so I’m left to wonder about the Shabbat dinner that never was, with the girl that never really existed, and the relationship that might have been: how neither Dawson nor Pacey could have measured up to the earnest Jewish boy Joey Potter might have met one magical evening at Harvard Hillel.

David Weinfeld ’05 is a history concentrator in Quincy House. His column appears on alternate Thursdays.