Sexual Humor

I make a lot of references to sex in my posts. This is not because I’m obsessed with sex or because I have run out of other things to talk about, but because sex lends itself easily to humor. That is, sex is funny to most people in a way that the Harvard Lampoon is not.

This is related to social skills because I’ve noticed that a lot of socially awkward people are most awkward around the topic of sex. I’ll say penis and get an audible wince. Their eyes will kind of slide downward, and then they drop some cutlery for good measure.

So what I’m suggesting is that people become more comfortable with sex as a conversation topic, if not as a physical act. The point isn’t to be bawdy or lewd. But familiarizing yourself with enough terminology to lie during a game of ten fingers is a skill well worth acquiring. At the very least, learn to guffaw with the best of them. Read the rest of this entry »


Handling Rejection

It is all too common for a guy to be interested in a girl, to spend a year pining over her without making a move, to finally get the nerve to ask her to a dance or on a date, and to be courteously let down. The rejection is hard because it is honest and it is personal. It is the disheartening culmination of a year’s worth of romantic investment.

What could have been done differently? Remember, “be proactive” is the first of Stephen Covey’s seven habits of highly effective people. This translates to moving quickly. I’m not saying that you ought to move rapidly in the traditional sense (which only applies within the context of some sort of relationship), I want you to do so in the “get to know each other” portion. A year is a long time to dwell on anything, especially a static infatuation. I suggest taking steps early on to find out if she reciprocates your affection. Ask her on a date. Flirt with her. If she likes you, fantastic. If not, it’s good that you found out sooner rather than later. Read the rest of this entry »


Learning Together

A friend recently said something that bothered me. And in some ways, it is depressing: all relationships end in break-up or marriage. Hell, a lot of marriages end in break-up. It makes romance seem futile. Yet in many relationships, there does come a point when the novelty has worn off and the nebulous idea of commitment is the only way forward. A lot of Harvard couples stall at this tipping point.

Why? We aren’t commitment-phobes. There are people here who spend more time planning Women In Business conferences than I would my wedding. If anything, we over-commit. What makes these Harvard relationships go kaput? What value do we place on these partners, who were lovers, roommates, pset buddies, best friends, all at once? Read the rest of this entry »


Socializing as a Habit

My idea of an enjoyable flight involves a lively conversation with the cute girl sitting next to me. So when she sat down, I said hello. Turns out she’s a runner from New Zealand who is going home for the first time in several years. I’m learning about how teenage pregnancy is all the rage in her homeland and how the cattle there are fed grass instead of corn. But that’s enough chatting… back to my book on theoretical neuroscience.

We’ve been taught that life is about making trade-offs. Parties, hanging out, and conversation all take time, as do homework, the gym, and sleep.

But in fact, there is a way around this. Going to parties may be the best way to meet people (you get to chat in a fun environment among many mutual friends), but that takes all of Saturday night and eats into Sunday morning. The trick is to take the little things and make them social. More generally, if we transform socializing from an activity to a habit and we adopt a social attitude toward our daily routine, everyday life becomes more purposeful and more fun. Read the rest of this entry »


Being Honest

A friend sent me the following email.

There’s often a tension between honesty and politeness in our interactions… Under what circumstances is it okay to lie to people to make them feel better? Would you admit disliking somebody to his face? Would you criticize her even if you thought it would make her angry?

Similarly, there’s a tension between being “cool” and being honest. How much should you compromise your true self to fit in? For example, if admitting to being a “mathlete” could seriously jeopardize your social interactions, would you lie about it?

For the first question, usually it’s alright to tell a white lie. If you hate your sister’s new haircut, chances are there isn’t much that can be done about it, so go with making her feel good. The truth is great, and honesty a virtue, but only if it is simultaneously constructive. Read the rest of this entry »


Primal Scream

Of Harvard’s many traditions, Primal Scream is the best. It’s naked girls, naked guys, and the men’s cross country team.

So as an aid to your efforts tonight (midnight, Old Yard), I’m going to present some ground rules. Try to remember them no matter how inebriated you are later.

Attire: For girls, trench-coats. For guys, underwear. Doff once in the Yard. Also, shoes. You don’t know what the Occupy people have fertilized that lawn with.

Positioning: The issue with being at the front of the pack is that you’re more likely to be photographed. The issue with being at the back of the pack is that you’re more likely to be photographed. The issue with being in the middle is all the strange penises pressing up against various parts of your body. But that won’t get you kicked out of your New York congressional seat, so stick to the middle. Read the rest of this entry »


Why Everyone Should Take a Drama Class

Something that I’ve tried to emphasize throughout this blog is the importance of being comfortable in a variety of social settings. It’s not that I want you to socialize all the time, but I do want you to have the option. Don’t embark on a heart-to-heart with every crazy person on Mass Ave, but if you are in an unfamiliar city looking for the nearest Starbucks, save yourself fifteen minutes and ask someone. There’s no need to go out three nights a week, but don’t say no when a cute girl invites you to a bar with her just because the combination of drunk strangers, loud music, and public restrooms makes you uneasy. Becoming comfortable doesn’t necessitate a change in lifestyle. It’s better to think of it as an enabler.

There are a number of steps to becoming comfortable in a given situation. The most broadly applicable, and perhaps the most important, is to switch from the mindset of trying to impress others to the mindset of trying to have fun. To illustrate, when you knock over a vase in front of your date, it’s natural to feel some embarrassment, but don’t slip into imagining how she perceives the incident and is now regretting her decision to take you to the Museum of Fine Art. It’s much better to laugh it off. Feel free to use it as a segue into an entertaining story about some other clumsy thing you did. Read the rest of this entry »