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!

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 »

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 »


As a follow-up to my post on formal etiquette, I’d like to provide a guide to dirty dancing at Harvard. Since so many guys get so many steps of this wrong, I’m going to be thorough.

You and your bros arrive at a large, muggy room somewhere in the quad. Hopefully the place is already packed with CSA girls. If it isn’t, leave and come back later.

The dance party is now in full swing. Maybe you’re standing awkwardly to the side, holding a beer, and looking at your phone like someone is actually calling you. Put the phone away. There is a group of girls jumping frantically up and down in the middle. Move toward the one closest to you. Place your hand firmly on her shoulder and leave it there until you have her attention. Say exactly, “Would you like to dance?” A lot of guys just start grinding up behind a girl, and to be honest, meet very little resistance, but that’s poor form. (Note: Make sure to get rid of your beer in advance. You’ll need both hands free for this.) Read the rest of this entry »

Formal Etiquette

Formal season approaches, and for those of you whose prom experience consisted of breathalyzers, forced poses, and tuxes that made you look like a cater waiter (that is, all of you), this is an opportunity to recoup your losses!

First off, formal is primarily about your date. Don’t let the House Committees, with their themes and live bands and ballroom dancing lessons, persuade you otherwise. It’s Harvard. If you wanted finger food you’d go to a recruiting event.

So who should you take? A debate that my girlfriends and I have every semester is whether to invite a romantic interest or a good friend. The pros of inviting a good friend are that it’s likely to be less awkward; if you plan ahead you may wrangle a good dancer, and since you’re not too worried about impressing him, you can just re-wear the obscenely shiny gold dress that you keep on hand for Gilbert and Sullivan parties. He’s also probably already friends with your other friends, and all in all, this could be another Saturday night out, with fruitier drinks. Read the rest of this entry »

Not So Impressive

It’s easy at Harvard to feel overwhelmed by your peers’ accomplishments. Your friend is a published author, your roommate played at Carnegie Hall, and your classmate is representing the United States in the 2012 Olympics. Your boyfriend knew number theory before you knew numbers. Some people get so overwhelmed, they start to wonder if their admission was a fluke. Everyone else is so amazing, I can’t believe they wanted another Asian from California!

Stop right there. Allow me to dispel some illusions for you. Seemingly impressive people fall into three categories:

1) They’re not actually that impressive, but know how to fake it.
2) They’re actually impressive, and worked really hard to get there.
3) They’re impressive, worked really hard to get there, and are indeed five times better than you at everything. Read the rest of this entry »

Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, and Harvardians are Hitchhikers in the Galaxy

To the layman, or the freshman, descriptions of the Harvard romantic scene must read like charges in the Khodorkovsky trials – completely contradictory. Here are some of the things that have been written about our other set of extracurricular activities:

1) Recreational sex is like women giving out free samples.
2) Our school plays porn to students.
3) You’re single, or you’re married.
4) Harvard is indeed a barren waste-land of sexual destitution.
5) Everyone needs stories to tell at Sunday brunch. Read the rest of this entry »