I used to feel all shivery-shuddery, all filled with wild, ragged hope when I walked through Harvard Yard. After a Lamont all-nighter, the pink mist just starting to clear. In the years since, that feeling was replaced by frustration, criticism, rage.
But we can do better. Not only for those of us at Harvard struggling to be socially mobile in a space whose norms and institutions seem calculated to keep us down, but for the broader society that our social networks, through their connection to professional power, disproportionately affect.
It’s funny. The better I do here—the more confident I feel, the more my work is recognized—the scarier public dissent becomes. I worry I’ll lose what progress I have made, what honors I have accrued. I worry my home will reject me.
Virginia Woolf sat in the library at Oxford imagining the books that Shakespeare’s sister didn’t publish. Sometimes when I walk deep in Widener’s belly, I feel the incredible pressure of the books that are not there.
Sometimes, however, we forget this more structural critique and talk about consent as an individual process—not asking “What kinds of power are operating in this situation?” but only “Did you or did you not say yes?”
I want to be known, and loved, and intellectually and sexually adored constantly by everybody. I want each party to be a glimmering climax where I utterly belong. Enter Valentine’s Day weekend: a playground of hungry hearts and lonely bodies.
Some days it feels like a liability. To shuffle around gender pronouns. To scan a space mentally before I enter it. To wonder: Who will hate me? Who will say they don’t hate me but tell a joke that makes me feel like I should not exist in the world?
Ah, senior spring—when some of us solicit people we’d hardly ask to pass the salt in the d-hall for sex. Eyes swipe right and left; rigid social divides melt like snowflakes. The season is ushered in by First Chance Dance: a freshman tradition lost to us by act of hurricane, the dance—and with it, the freshman-fall-free-for-all-sex-hungry-nostalgia— has been resuscitated. Tickets cost $20, which means to get my money’s worth I need to consume the equivalent of 25 glasses of wine.
The way we structure community here doesn’t just affect us in this place, at this moment. It affects the kinds of powerful, scarily driven, sleep-deprived, sometimes demagogic people we as an institution are putting out into the world.
If you were on I-95 anywhere between Providence, R.I. and Secaucus, N.J. last Wednesday evening, you knew there was a lot of traffic. What you didn’t know is that this traffic consisted entirely of my extended family, aka every second-to-fourth-generation Portuguese-Italian who can trace their roots to the Greater Newark Metropolitan Area. Including me.