Forget the written law for a moment, the countless pieces of legislation that govern our actions and the hallowed founding document to whose guidelines they must conform. Consider a different type of law, the true social contract: the unspoken but still unbreakable rules that dictate what behavior will earn us real-life friends and what behavior will yield weekend nights sitting alone in our rooms watching a different type of Friends on Tivli.
A firm grasp of these rules goes much further toward getting off on the right foot freshman year of college than does an equally solid understanding of the Necessary and Proper clause of the Constitution. Certainly, knowing the extent of Congress’s power does nothing to inform a clueless freshman at what point in the year it becomes uncouth to seat oneself next to strangers in Annenberg.
Like most members of my incoming class, I walked through Johnston Gate with more than a little U.S. history under my belt. But when it came to the do’s and don’t’s of college etiquette, to finding my niche and settling in comfortably, I felt about as prepared as Katniss Everdeen must have when she was thrown into an arena of death with little more than a nylon jumpsuit and a hollow, ominous, “May the odds be ever in your favor.”
And at the beginning, I was quite convinced the cards were stacked against me. During opening days, I wandered through the dining hall desperately attempting to find lunch companions. Instead, I met only with tables full of unwelcoming classmates who shot each other quizzical looks after observing the poorly constructed, Monterey-jack-oozing grilled cheese I had attempted to prepare myself. They were lumped together for mutual protection, I thought, members of alliances like the Hunger Games’ Career cohort.
As far as I was concerned, the freshman world was dog-eat-dog, tribute-spear-tribute. With every day came a new rush toward the Cornucopia to gather items perceived as essential to survival. Some were harder to acquire than others. Everyone could lay their hands on everyday necessities like those in Katniss’s backpack: an umbrella, a Snuggie, Advil, Adderall, condoms.
But the vital weapons, those with potential to slay enemies and raise a competitor to the top of the food chain, posed some problems. One, Cato’s broadsword: a reliable buddy for late-night Pinkberry runs. Two, Joanna Mason’s axe: a Pudding punch invitation. Three, Finnick Odair’s trident: a sensational story to tell at Sunday brunch about misadventures (and a lost Barbour jacket) in the Owl basement.
When the fastest runners and the most brutal fighters snatched these up, the rest us were left to die of exposure. After all, there could only be one victor. Think otherwise, and you’d be left to swallow nightlock berries while the taunting voice of Caesar Flickerman reminded you of your foolhardiness.
As much as it pains me to admit it, I was wrong. The odds turned out in my favor in the end, and I’d go all-in for every single one of us. Katniss and her fellow tributes had to forsake common ground in the interest of living to see another day. But we freshmen could all win—the Harvard administration is no Capitol of Panem, regardless of how often they illicitly search our emails.
We all started off in the same boat, and we all saw ourselves as underdogs. It just took some time to recognize Finnick’s soft side, Cato’s unwillingness to participate in a sick, zero-sum game. And once that time passed, we grasped each other’s hands, ready to enter the Second Quarter Quell as a team and claim victory as a unit.
Now, when I enter the Annenberg servery and manage to break approximately nine bottles of teriyaki and soy sauce in my quest to acquire the love of my culinary life, Sriracha chili, I can rest assured that I won’t shed my tears of guilt and embarrassment in solitude. My friends, each as steadfast as Peeta Mellark, will console me in my misery.
Sure, I spent a few months convinced that the Capitol could unleash all the rabid, bloody-fanged monsters they wanted on Katniss, and she would still never undergo a trial as onerous as navigating a brand new social scene Saturday night after Saturday night. But if I could go back and choose whether to do it all again, well…
I volunteer as tribute.
Molly L. Roberts ’16, a Crimson editorial writer, lives in Holworthy Hall. Follow her on Twitter at @mollylroberts.
COMMENTYoung Harvard, as reported in the CRIMSON, does not seem to share Miss Pankhurst's feeling that religion is the hope
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