The Absentee’s Guide to Visitas

Were it not for recent shootings in Boston, yesterday would have marked the start to Harvard’s annual Visitas, a smorgasbord of events meant to titillate those prospective students not already titillated by the “Intro to Congress” cheating scandal, the faculty email scandal, and HUDS chicken francaise. While it’s unfortunate that the weekend has now been canceled, we can fill you in on some of the details. Prefrosh — what you missed!

Classes
The relevant point is that we have everything Yale has, plus science. Perhaps this matters little to you; perhaps you intend to curl up with Plutarch and Wittgenstein. But had you been my prefrosh, I would have advised that you at least sit in on a computer science lecture, maybe a class on abstraction with Greg Morrisett or an algorithms course with Michael Mitzenmacher. So many people realize junior or senior year that they should have studied computer science that it’s best to get the jolt early. Read the rest of this entry »


The End of Courtship, the Rise of Friendship

What does the ideal date look like? According to this New York Times article, it begins with a phone call from a stranger (initiated by the guy). A time is agreed upon (ideally a week or two in advance). The man shows up with roses, and he treats the woman to polite conversation at an expensive French bistro followed by dessert and a movie.

The article equates romance with financial expenditure. It views informality as a sign of indifference. It plays up the importance of gender roles and tradition. If that is courtship, then good riddance.

I suggest that we fill the void, not with the author’s much-maligned hookup culture, but with meaningful friendships. Viewed through the lens of meeting new people and establishing new relationships, a tardy “want to meet up for a drink or whatever” in the early hours of Friday morning, doesn’t seem so incriminating. A “hey, come join me and my bros at the froyo social.” doesn’t seem so dismissive. Spending time with someone in a casual setting (hiking, drinking, volunteering), allows you to learn about their values and how they allocate their time. Meeting their friends allows you to learn about the company they keep, which is one of the best predictors of their own personalities. Read the rest of this entry »


More on Dating

The topic of dating receives a lot of attention. People write books on how to do it. Websites design algorithms for it. Billions of dollars a year (in the form of rose petals and dinner bills) are spent in pursuit of it. All of this is misguided. All of this builds on the idea that dating and flirting and romance are somehow different from our regular everyday interactions, that we can somehow learn to date without learning to interact.

Ren and I have written a bit about flirting and dating, but we’ve spent most of our time reflecting broadly on personal growth and on basic social skills (conversation, honesty, decision making). There is a reason for this. Dating and socializing are the same thing.

For starters, the skill sets are the same. It is difficult to imagine someone who is a chirpy date but a lethargic conversationalist, or a bold flirt but a timid roommate, or a lively stranger but a monotonous friend (admittedly, it is possible to be simultaneously cute and dull). Read the rest of this entry »


Just Friends

A friend of mine, newly in a relationship, posed this question: how do you maintain friendships with members of the opposite sex when you’ve left the realm of singledom?

A lot of times, the short answer I hear is, “You can’t.” Romantic relationships are tough enough as it is; there’s no shortage of potential stumbling blocks even before you add in the cute gym partner. Toning down the friendships that your significant other might see as a threat seems only considerate.

But I disagree with the view that relationships should be ascetic. Having a boyfriend might mean no more food fights at the Delphic and no more sleepovers with the convenient grad student, but it doesn’t mean you have to sit at home and plead the fifth. Turning into a wallflower is the least constructive thing you can do because it makes both of you less interesting. Read the rest of this entry »


Valentine’s Day

I love Valentine’s Day. It’s about as emotionally mature as guys are going to get short of growing boobs and hyphenating their last name. And since it’s coming up on Tuesday, I’d like to provide some quick words of advice.

Do not buy her jumper cables. Do not buy her cable TV. Do not buy her anything that contains the words “Decline”, “Fall”, and “Roman Empire”. Valentine’s gifts aren’t mandatory. If you can’t think of something clever and specific, don’t get anything at all. A two years supply of hand lotion from The Body Shop on Mass Ave is not an acceptable default.

So what is acceptable?

The answer is something she can show off. Rather than expensive, it should be thoughtful. Whether you’re looking for gifts, flowers, or dinner reservations, keep that litmus test in mind. Read the rest of this entry »


Eligible Women

The lack of eligible females is a common refrain heard at Harvard (and everywhere else). Yet I look around and see plenty of girls who are beautiful, brilliant, and determined. Even assuming an overly-generous evaluation on my part, there still seems to be a major discrepancy between the supply of dateable girls and the male perception of that supply.

Some of that discrepancy can be chalked up to bitterness on the male end (as the women of Harvard will be quick to point out), but the result still seems surprising. If you’re a nerd, there’s no better place to find a girlfriend than a school where people enjoy debating the relative merits of Python and Ruby and the relative demerits of Livy and Cicero. Your chances for a meaningful emotional and intellectual connection should be higher. Your complaints, if any, should be over things like looks. 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 »