It’s when you’re in a crowded, sweaty, dark room on the fourth floor of Eliot house—with Miley’s “Wrecking Ball” invading your ears, the sight of an awkwardly few number of grinding couples invading your eyes, and the loneliness you feel invading your soul—that you realize how deeply insignificant our time on this Earth really is.
Generally, there are two types of parties at Harvard: parties that are intense and parties that want to be intense. The problem is that the latter suck and the former don’t exist.
I will admit there are several great, intense parties every year. But too many parties want to be intense and can’t live up to the potential, especially outside the Final Club scene. It’s a problem that needs a solution.
So, let’s try to understand the problem by looking at its roots.
In high school, the closest thing I did to partying was listening to a Ke$ha song, one time. The closest thing I did to grinding was rubbing my teeth together when I slept, which led to braces. And the closest thing I did to dating girls was seeing them in the halls.
While probably not as sad as me, many Harvard students have had a similarly non-rebellious experience in high school, especially in terms of drinking. A fairly recent survey found that only 30 percent of undergraduates identify as drinkers before college. That number climbs to 77 percent upon graduation, according to the Drug and Alcohol Peer Advisors. And when alcohol is mixed with an expectation to “go hard,” that can be a problem, especially among freshmen, who constituted the majority of alcohol-related UHS visits in recent years.
I think there are two reasons for our “party hard” attitudes: 1) A lack of experience and 2) A hard-working mentality that undervalues relaxation. So when we get to campus, where there is the expectation to party and the resources to do so, we go more ham than a pig in Arby’s. We go Hardvard.
And not only do we go Hardvard, but we often aren’t very good at it. Take a few “hard” examples: Streaking at Harvard becomes “Primal Scream,” a strangely communal event with picture-taking and, most recently, social justice protests. Public urination is turned into a public health problem. And sex becomes “sex in the stacks,” because if we had to have sex, it had to be among books.
Most importantly, our sweaty, crowded, dark parties in dorms get old pretty quickly. And yet, there is a cultural insistence that we keep partying the same way.
Thankfully, I have a solution. And it comes straight from my California roots: the kickback.
On Urban Dictionary, expert user “Chase” describes a kickback as a “small gathering between groups of friends, more than a get together, less than a party.” The knowledgeable Chase has also popularly defined terms like “tig ol’ bitties,” “turd burglar,” and, surprisingly, “Pope John Paul II” on Urban Dictionary. So I think we can trust him on this one.
The kickback is a California-bred, more “chillax” version of a party. It’s usually among friends. The music doesn’t drown out conversation. And dancing is not expected. In short, it’s a lot like a pregame; but, instead of being a precursor, it’s an end in itself.
To be more specific, I stole an archival kickback guide from a popular, fellow student of mine in high school. Here it is, with some albeit irrelevant material:
- Keep the lights on
- Keep it crowded, but not too crowded
- Make sure Mom doesn't come home early
- Keep it relaxed and provide drinks
- Invite friends or friends of friends, but no losers like Milfred or Dashiell
I know it may sound crazy to keep the lights on and not crowd sweatily around one another like sexually-crazed eels. But there are many benefits to a kickback, especially for Harvard students.
Kickbacks are a good opportunity to relax over the weekend, after a long week. They provide a social outlet that is safer than binge drinking. And, most importantly, they’re fun.
Of course, ragers and dance parties will have their place at Harvard, as they should. But it’s never bad to have an alternative for a different mood. Thankfully, many upperclassmen—who have a more established friend group or are tired of dorm parties—already throw kickbacks without necessarily calling them “kickbacks.” But these are more rare than they should be, especially among underclassmen. Maybe giving it a name—calling them “kickbacks”—could help spread the trend.
So I propose we take a deep breath. Relax. Turn on a light. And detach our crotches from someone else’s dancing behind.
In short, I propose that we all kick back. Because when it comes to our mental health, our physical health, and our happiness, kicking back may be just the first step forward.
Dashiell F. Young-Saver ’16, a Crimson editorial writer, is an English concentrator in Winthrop House. His column appears on alternate Mondays.
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