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Does Love Exist At Swarthmore College?

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No!!!!!!!!!

 

* * *

Okay, so it might be a bit more complicated than a “no” and nine exclamation points (maybe ten would’ve done the job?). But two months and some change at Swarthmore and it’s easy to get the feeling that it’s a desolate wasteland where the concept of a “crush” fits in neatly with its less colloquial definition. Why is this the case though? Is there something in the Sharples water that comes out of the fountain that constantly, without fail, reads REFILL even though there’s no way that it could possibly still need refilling? Something emitting from the fire moose that causes more than just temporary casual discomfort?

Coming to Swarthmore, I was elated at the thought that I could finally, for once in my life, have potential romantic interests. Fantasies involved stolen kisses in the fall-time amphitheater, romantic afternoons on Parrish Beach, and more, but little did I know that romance at Swat begins and ends with pathetic Tinder messages and avoiding eye contact in Sharples the morning after.

This disappointing realization has led me to the pose the question: why the fuck is Swat like this? I mean hey, you have to be at least a little smart to be here, so why the complete and utter lack of any sort of emotional intelligence here? I’ve weighed the hypotheses, run the tests, and analyzed the data. Or at least I would’ve if there were any actual cases to study here. Unfortunately, the point three semi-functional relationships on this campus couldn’t be reached in between their constant PDAs to remind all of us that we are alone and will never have that. In lieu of actual case studies, I decided to reflect on some of my very own brushes with Swat romance.

It’s certainly sad that it’s not even three months in, and I already feel as though I’ve exhausted any and all Swarthmore options. Tinder currently just creates ring upon ring of faded red that reaffirm that we are in tragic suburban Pennsylvania. Swat parties consist of running into guys who 1) your best friend already hooked up with, 2) you already hooked up with, 3) your best friend is in love with, or 4) you’re in love with (and terrified to even make eye contact with). The idea of finding some manic pixie dream boy who will sweep you off your feet is long dead once you realize that the men at this school get winded walking up Sharple’s hill and are without a doubt, not going to be sweeping anyone off their feet.

Still, you play along with the game. Tell yourself that a real world  four is a Swarthmore seven  and a real world seven is a Swarthmore eleven. To an outside observer, this could be seen as desperation, but at Swat, it’s adaptation. If we’re going to be here for four years, there’s a necessary irreverence that needs to be taken with Swat’s romantic scene. Everyone here is just a some-degree-of-awkward teen/young adult who doesn’t know what the fuck they’re doing, even if it looks like they’ve got it all figured out. Experiences here will range from mediocre to downright strange, but regardless of how they end up, you can – at the very least – leave with a good story and a laugh, and most of the time that’s enough.

So does love exist at Swarthmore College? In the typical, fairytale way, I’m going to argue that it’s highly improbable you’re going to find your Prince or Princess charming here. But that doesn’t mean you can’t love the foolishness that comes along with trying to find love in this loveless land. View every embarrassing hickey as a battle mark that you have pride in, greet every awkward 2 a.m. hookup with a huge smile and a wave in Sharples the next morning, sweep yourself off your own feet at Paces (i.e. slip on the sticky ground and laugh about it with your friends for the next week).

Love doesn’t exist at Swarthmore College, and that’s okay.

What It Is and What It Isn’t

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It’s interesting how you can think one way about a particular thing and then learn something that blows your mind, leaving you to question so many different things. This happened to me this week, and it’s a lot of fun when this happens because your mind is being stretched in ways that you didn’t think were possible, but it also stinks because it is the only thing you can think about. Thank you, Lisa Wade, for making this the best-worst, intellectually stimulating week yet.

For those of you who do not know, Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and author of the recently published book American Hookup, which is about the emergence of sex culture on college campuses. I, myself, have not read this book but a friend of mine highly recommended it to me, so it’s on my list. However, I have recently entered a new era in my life which includes listening to podcasts, and I stumbled across two featuring  Lisa Wade that made me think about hookup culture from a different perspective. With that being said, I highly recommend listening to “Hookup Culture with Lisa Wade” and “Hookup Culture: The Unspoken Rules of Sex On College Campuses”.

There is something about hookup culture that I both love and hate, which leaves me in a really confusing place. I am a firm believer in experimenting with other people to figure out what you like and what you don’t like. Do you like girls or do you like guys? Do you like sex a little rougher or a little softer? Lights on or lights off? Hooking up allows for individual growth as it is an experience that ultimately leads to self discovery. So, with all of this positivity I have towards hook ups, why do they leave me feeling so dirty? And Lisa Wade helped me finally answer this question that I’ve been asking since my junior year of high school: it’s not the physical part of the interaction that bothers me, but rather the culture that surrounds it.

Hookup culture itself is a relatively new form of socialization that arose in the 1920s. This is the period of time when the rise of industrialization attracted people away from rural parts of the country to cities. This change of setting allowed for the hookup culture to take root and flourish due to the close proximities in which people were now living. Along with this, cities offered nightlife, which is where the culture of hookups ultimately began. Also, the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, granting women the right to vote, helped influence the women’s movement of 1960, often called the Second Wave. This 1960s movement pushed for more equality for women. This equality would grant women more freedom outside of the house, encouraging more sexual freedom since women were then allowed to publicly embrace their body and sexuality, adding to the hookup culture. So, like I said, hookup culture is a relatively new phenomenon. But, before I go any further, I want to make it known to my audience that I will be focusing on heterosexual hookups… as that culture bothers me most and is the one that Lisa Wade talks about in the mentioned podcasts. There are, of course, similarities between same-sex and opposite-sex hookups, but I will be focusing on and critiquing that of opposite-sex hookups.

Examining the society in which we all live today, we embrace masculinity; not the “looks” of it but rather its normalities. However, when a girl crosses the gender boundary and takes on more masculine characteristics and lifestyle, she is looked down upon. There is a clear distinction between the roles and expectations that men and women are supposed to embody. However, when thinking of the qualities that are most rewarded and looked upon highly in our society, they are the traits and qualities that embody masculinity. Since men are the “most” ideal humans, as they contain the most “ideal” traits, it is they who women should follow; it is they who should lead. This attitude seeps into the infrastructure and culture of hookups that normalize the idea that men should “choose” who to hook up with, not women. These thoughts and ideas in our heads soon become actions, creating the hookup culture that I have come to hate.

It is the so-called “script” that the majority of hookup participants follow, myself included. It first begins with the girl wanting to be desired by the guy so that he chooses her. Maybe her shorts will be a little shorter, shirt a little tighter, boobs pushed up a bit — I mean heck I’ve done this before, and I know I’m not the only one. Then what follows next is the guy comes up from behind and latches onto the girl, and she looks around and if her friends nod in approval, she goes for him. We did this in high school, and, honestly, it did not even phase me because that is normal. Our society embraces the man and what he embodies, so us women and young girls find it rewarding when the man chooses us. I was at a concert where this happened to me. I was dancing and the guy came up and we started grinding and then he proceeded to grab my boobs. Back then my friends and I were all excited because he wanted me and my boobs, but that is so fucked up. It’s fucked up how we all unquestionably follow this so-called script and don’t even question its ways.

Lisa Wade believes that the hookup culture is deeply connected to rape culture due to this script. This is because the hookup culture calls for a carefree environment that turns into one of carelessness. Hookups are typically a one-and-done deal, a  hit-it-and-quit-it, if you will. Feelings aren’t supposed to accompany a hookup, but if they do, you are seen as desperate and clingy according to the script. Having feelings is apparently feminine and therefore bad, and that is why the hookup culture deters these emotions. It’s the idea that wanting someone is worse because in this culture you are just supposed to want something–the idea that women are sexual objects created to please men.

So, a couple things. Hookup culture sucks. Hookup culture rocks. Podcasts. Lisa Wade. Mind. Blown.

You’ve just crossed over into the friendzone

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The splash zone is fun to be in, “The Twilight Zone” is fun to watch, and the subduction zone is something I’m sure natural science students love to learn about. But the zone that no one likes, the zone that makes people cringe, the zone that screams GET OUT is that of (drum roll please) … the friendzone.

We all know what this is. It’s the time when you ask someone if they want to see a movie and they reply with “who else is coming.” Or maybe it’s the time when your high school crush texts you saying “OMG Sasha interrogated me the other day,” and then you reply “TELL ME,” and then he texts you back saying “She’s like are you and Lauren in a relationship or something lol,” and then you ask “What did you say?” He replies “I told her we were just close friends.” That, that right there is an example of a HARDcore friendzone. And I just want to let you know that I scrolled through my texts all the way back to 2015 just to find that.

Friendzoning is an art form that honestly can never be mastered. Picasso himself probably wouldn’t have been able to do it. Neither Van Gogh nor Dali. The only person who maybe could’ve done it was Frida Kahlo because she is awesome. I would have put my money on her, no question about it. But at the end of the day, friendzoning is just awkward. However, there is a spectrum of awkwardness and I, of course, have reached the highest level of it, more than once.

It happened when I was in the 4th grade. I was swinging next to Tommy, the cutest boy

in the whole class who had the bluest eyes and the Justin Bieber hair, making him that much more to die for. The bell rang so he and I started walking back to our classroom. Little did I know that at this moment, my whole life was about to change. I asked Tommy if maybe we could be more than friends. He, or course, replied with, “Best friends?” and I said “No, no something more than that!” At this point anyone, and I mean ANYONE, would’ve known what I was talking about, but not Tommy. No, no, Tommy thought I wanted to be “mega best friends”! And on that day, Tommy slipped through my fingers forever. This is the day I discovered the friendzone.

My embarrassment level was through the roof, and I thought I was incapable of doing that same thing to anyone, but then 6th grade happened. I remember it as if it were yesterday. I walked into my classroom and sat down and found a note folded inside my desk. I opened it and read: “Will you be my girlfriend?” There was a box next to the word “yes” and a box next to the word “no” where I was supposed to mark my answer. First off, there was no name saying who it was from. Second off, what the heck, and third off, THERE WAS NO NAME SAYING WHO IT WAS FROM. Maybe it was from David who definitely never brushed his teeth or Sam who picked and flicked literally every time I looked at him. Or maybe it was Tommy, good lord the things I would’ve done if it were Tommy. Being the idiot I am, I simply folded the note back up and put it in the desk next to me and then that person passed it down until it landed on Mike’s desk. Mike, being the loudest and most obnoxious kid, stood up and yelled asking who put that note in his desk and read the note out loud! Poor Ben, his face got instantly red. I still can’t believe I did that. I am so so so so so so so so so sorry Ben. I hope he and I can one day move past this even though we haven’t talked in seven years.

There is a saying that goes “It’s only awkward if you make it awkward,” and I find this true for friendzoning. The two ingredients to create the best possible friendzoning friendship are communication, and simply being yourself. Don’t avoid a conversation or eye contact, say “hey” when passing, and just be yourself! Mind games are immature so don’t engage, just don’t do it! But for clarification, “hey,” “heyy,” “heyyy,” “heyyyy,” and “heyyyyyyy” do indeed mean different things. “Hey” means “friends,” “heyy” means they think they like you, “heyyy” means “take the hint already,” “heyyyy” means “dtf,” and “heyyyyy” means they are drunk. I repeat, all of that is NOT a mind game.

It is essential to understand that friendzoning is natural and very important, because it represents individuals doing what they want and what is important to them. One is not obligated in any way, shape, or form to give something in return if someone is being nice. People can just simply be friends; in fact, people who are sexually attracted to a certain gender or genders can just be friends with people of that gender(s) — it is very real and very possible! Pop culture portrays friendzoning as such a horrible thing, but it is not! Sure, it may suck to be friendzoned but it is an act greater than simply placing someone in a “no benefits” zone. It is the freedom of choice, individuality, and the use of a voice play an important roles in the “art” of friendzoning. If you are the one being friendzoned, listen to what your friend wants and respect it. Just like what I did with Tommy (written with a heavy heart…still).

Now, if you are trying to friendzone and still want to salvage the relationship, this is what you do.

First, give subtle, yet obvious hints. Drop a “you remind me of my brother/sister.” Or if you are given a compliment, you may just reply with a “thank you.” You are still remaining polite and nice, just not picking up what the other person is putting down.

Second, always suggest group hangouts, ALWAYS. If you like spending time with that person but do not want to give the wrong idea, invite friends! Show that person that you only like hanging out with them in a friend-environment, not so much one-on-one.

Third, don’t ignore, but don’t lead the person on. My 6th grade boyfriend broke up with me by ignoring me even though we were neighbors, which honestly made life that much more awkward (thank god I moved). So, don’t ignore.

And lastly, be completely and utterly honest. Voice your opinion and your wants in a respectful manner. It’s helpful and important to voice your opinion, wants, and desires when trying to salvage and maintain a relationship.

Friendzoning is something that is normally out of everyone’s comfort zone, but welcome to life. So, what is the moral of this article, you may ask? Don’t have friends. Don’t talk to anyone, don’t look at anyone, and don’t breathe on anyone. Just get a dog, because they are really good friends, almost on Tommy’s and my “mega best friend” level. Just kidding. Do what you have to do, and move on, that’s the moral of this article. Actually, kidding again. I still love Tommy, that’s the moral of this article.

 

On Friendzoning

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Back in the ’90s, the following exchange brought forth raucous laughter:

“It’s never gonna happen.”

“What?”

“You and Rachel.”

“What? Me and Rach—whatta…why not?”

“Because you waited too long to make your move, and now you’re in the friend zone.”

“No, no, no, I’m not in the zone.”

“No, Ross, you’re mayor of the zone!”

“I’m taking my time, alright, I’m laying the groundwork. I mean everyday I get just a little bit closer to—”

“Priesthood!”

This conversation, from Friends, suitably, is credited for coining the term friend zone, a phrase that somehow persists even if it has lost much of its comedic pop or social relevance. Nevertheless, I have been tasked to write an article on its many aspects for Valentine’s Day. So, where to start?

The friend zone is a place of nightmare. To be friendzoned is to be banished. That is what a lot of people would like to believe. It is when a man, typically, develops feelings for a woman, typically, and those feelings are unrequited—hardly uncommon. As the phrase suggests, the man has become a friend of the lady and has failed to woo the lady. His desire to mate has been thwarted due to a combination of misread cues and likely his own obliviousness to her intentions.

The man then uses the friend zone as a way to not only come to grips with his own inadequacy as a sexual being, but also as a veiled insult to the woman, and to guilt her into not reading the thoughts of his own mind. It has been labeled misogynistic, perverse, a plea for entitlement.

The Internet is flush with references to the friend zone. There are countless articles with titles derivative of ‘Avoiding the Friend Zone’ and memes devoted to those lost in the friend zone as if it was the Bermuda Triangle of romance. On that note, there is also no shortage of metaphorical comparisons drawn to highlight the apparent bleakness of the friend zone.

Ali Benazir, a self-titled “Happiness Engineer,” actually called the friend zone “Justfriendistan” and said that it is a “territory only to be rivaled in inhospitality by the Western Sahara, the Atacama, and Dante’s Ninth Circle of Hell.”

To which I respond: Huh? Has Ali Benazir ever read Dante’s Inferno? That is the true stuff of nightmares, maybe because it concerns actual Hell. But her hyperbole does reveal the priority that regular people, that we as humans, place on navigating relationships, and how nerve-wracking, self-destructive, and un-fun it is to be on the constant lookout for the pothole that is the friend zone.

Honestly, I find the whole concept absurd. To be a good partner is to be a good friend. The two are not mutually exclusive. If we believe them to be, then that only gives dimension to the vacuum of imagination our cultures have when it comes to managing healthy relationships. I’m not saying that in order to be a good lover you must first pass through the “Atacama” that is the friend zone. I am saying that friendship is the sharpest weapon there is to fight for a romance, because quite frankly, then you can cut the bullshit and get to the feelings without sacrificing intimacy. But to do that requires you to be open to the entirety of a person and not to simply see them as walking genitals.

On the off chance that this is too daunting a task, I hear the priesthood is always looking for new members and that the Atacama is lovely this time of year.

 

(I use man and woman as the two halves of the whole in this article but friend zone may apply to all sexual relationships if the term has or is to have any significance.)

 

Social Interactions in Sharples

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There are a multitude of experiences, commonalities, and quirks shared by Swarthmore students. Add the plethora of traditions and the collective grind of academia, and the Swarthmore experience feels like a unified struggle.

However, perhaps nothing brings together Swarthmore students like the ever-polarized SHARPLES! As the only dining hall on campus, Sharples is a hot spot for hungry students after they’ve languished under the ungodly expectations of professors the whole day.

The lunch rush is a sight to behold. Your best bet for avoiding the long line in Sharples during the lunch rush is going to the grill. If you wish to satisfy your tastes at any other station after 12:20, a long line awaits you.  I know a lot about line trends and students’ individual feeding clocks because once upon a time, I used to spend as much time in Sharples as in a Seminar. During my freshman fall, I was known as Mr. Sharples. I’m less inclined to spend unbelievable amounts of time in Sharples nowadays, but I’ll never forget the memories that came from my time learning in Sharples 101.

Freshman fall: on a typical school day, I wasn’t thinking about my chemistry problem sets, my 100 pages of seminar reading, or any of the extracurricular engagements with which I had needlessly burdened myself. It was pass/fail and all I could think about was Sharples. Not necessarily the food or the understated ambiance, but the people. Who am I going to meet today? What whacky new stories will grace my ears this evening? Anticipation kills. I’m having Sharples withdrawals as I sit in my classes. Watching the clock is an exercise in torture as the minutes tick by way too slowly.

But then – the time comes. Classes are over and dinner awaits. I’m there at 4:30 on the dot, a little bit after Sharples open for dinner. I want to meet everybody, so I always arrive as early for dinner as possible. Most days, I wouldn’t make any dinner plans with anybody because they were so restricting. Armed with a smile, a generous sense of humor from the big G O single D himself, and a myriad of interesting stories, I’d greet everybody. I’d shamelessly interject myself into group discussions, and soon I had lovely friends and acquaintances from all social circles.

Such behavior earned me the admittedly deserved reputation of a “homie hopper.” For those unfamiliar with the definition of a “homie hopper,” it can best be defined as a person who chooses not to settle down in a specific friend group for the sake of enjoying the benefits of numerous friend groups. Integrating yourself with so many diverse groups of people starts with “playing the game,” as my friend Angel Padilla ’18 puts it. Playing the game involves asking and receiving basic introductory questions about hometowns, majors, summer plans, and the less personal bits of information that rarely pique anybody’s interest. However, asking these questions is essential to establishing a foundation of friendship, and these questions sometimes even procure gold.

After getting through the often-unavoidable awkwardness, my efforts were rewarded with raucous good times, bellowing laughs, and deep bonds that will never be severed. Sharples is also a great place to satisfy other motivations. Let’s ponder a hypothetical situation in which you peep a fine lass or lad who tickles your fancy, but you have reservations about approaching said person. Having many friends is great because the object of your affection may be sitting with people you know, and your connection with those people allows you to make yourself present before said person. From that point on, you can put your best self forward and woo the person of your dreams. I have employed this technique many times in my short Swarthmore career, and it’s almost foolproof.

Sharples is truly a microcosm of different cultures, attitudes, and backgrounds. It isn’t always a harmonious experience, but there is a general sense of tolerance and acceptance present among the student body when we pack into Sharples like a bunch of sardines. Despite the contentious debates and tense moments that naturally follow from such close proximity with so many people in one building, we’re all in this together; respect for peers is always at the forefront. Given the current sociopolitical state of America, it might behoove certain politicians to examine how we do things in Sharples for tips on how to run this country.

The Hookup Rollercoaster

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How do you write an article on the culture of hookups and relationships? This culture deserves a book because it is one of the most complex and ambiguous topics I have ever come across. With that being said, welcome to my column of the hookup and relationship life.

Relationships help us all grow because we succumb to the idea of depending on another individual, letting them into our hearts. We have to become vulnerable, feel raw, and completely expose ourselves to the thought of having our heart and spirit broken into a million pieces. Of course there are many different types of relationships, but all help us grow and navigate ourselves as we figure out what we want, what we like, and who we want to grow with. With that being said, after many many drafts of this piece, I came up with the conclusion that a hookup is a type of relationship– the type that fascinates me most.

Hooking up. What does this phrase even entail? Just as the culture itself is confusing, the definition of the phrase is confusing as everyone’s definition is slightly different. One person can be talking about making out, while someone else is thinking sex. When using the word hookup, I have figured out that one needs to specify because if not, who knows where your listener’s imagination is going? However, if you think the definition is confusing, wait until you get to the essence and meaning of the hookup, because that is when the imagination puts on a pair of hyper jets and sets the gear to ludicrous speed. Here are a few of the many phrases that sprint through one’s mind after a hookup: Do they like me? Should I text them? No, they should text me first. But what if they are waiting for me to text them? Do I make eye contact? Do they even remember me? Was I good? I probably sucked. Maybe that’s why they didn’t text me. Should I say hi or just pretend like I don’t even know who they are. Why do I feel like trash?

Or maybe you’re thinking: Shiiiiiiiiit. That was something else. That was like tripping on acid. Sign me up for round two.

Or maybe you are even thinking: Well, that didn’t turn me on, at all. Maybe I’m into girls? Maybe I am into guys? Maybe I’m asexual?

Like I said, hyper jets on ludicrous speed. But it is that not knowing — the precise inability to pinpoint how you are feeling that occupies all of your thinking space and tends to drive you crazy.

Emma Morgan-Bennett ’20 said that the “hookup culture plays a particular role in our generation, since, as the newest generation, we have transitioned from secretive hookups and secretive sexual expressions to explicit expressions of affection and explicit expressions of sexual desire”.

In our generation, there is no hiding as we live in a time, for the most part, that accepts certain actions and feelings. Hookups are normal as we are all humans with sexual feelings and sexual wants, and there is no shame IN that.

Jordan Reyes ’19 feels that “people usually make a spectacle about it [hookups], but it should be a normalized thing”.

There exists a stigma that hookups are a dirty act, and I am here to tell you that they are not. It is an act of self-discovery and an act of growth, and I cannot stress that enough. But at the same time, there needs to be a balance of respect for yourself and respect for others.

“I think casual hookups should be casual hookups, and that’s fantastic. But you also need to know that there is another person at the end of the line and it’s all about communication,” said Morgan-Bennett.

Reyes himself approves of hookups, “as long as things proceed with consent”.

The hookup culture is a complex and intricate type of relationship, a type of relationship that no one should be ashamed of. Look at each hookup not as a mistake, but an opportunity to discover something about yourself. And if the hookup was a mistake, admit it and learn. Hookups help us all grow, as long as you respect and are respected. Hook up because you want to, not because anyone else wants you to.

Help! I dated Kellyanne Conway, get me out of here

in Campus Journal/London Calling by

Welcome back to London Calling. How were your breaks? Did a relative get a bit too sloppy when they were knocking back bottom shelf whiskey? Did an ex text you “HNY” out of the blue at 4 a.m. on Jan. 1? Did you take advantage of the extern program? I did, and it was a wild ride. From the moment I stepped into the office I was given one assignment: watching footage of Kellyanne Conway.

This special kind of hell came as a surprise to me. I had expected to spend the week perfecting my sexy intern act, pushing out my ass as I lean against a copy machine, bend-and-snapping to pick up paperclips, trying to be helpful for my employer — “Is there anything else I can do for you? Bring you coffee? Suck your dick? Send you my resume?” Unfortunately, my boss and most of my coworkers were happily married, so I buckled down with America’s newest sweetheart. I learned to recognize her by the pattern of her crow’s feet, the angle of her crooked smile and the pitch of her nasal squeak as she pivoted away from a direct question. As I grew familiar with her mannerisms and habits, I became more and more convinced that I recognized her from somewhere, and it wasn’t the stand-up routine she performed in the 90s (look it up). There was nothing original about Kellyanne, nothing surprising about the way she spun lies with a beaming smile. A few days into our relationship, it dawned on me: Kellyanne and I had dated.

Of course I don’t mean this literally. I would say Trump’s senior advisor isn’t exactly my type, but that’s exactly my point: could I in all honesty claim that I’ve never been interested in polished, compulsive liars? That I would never fall for a snake in a blond wig? I can imagine sitting down with Kellyanne on either side of the kitchen table, each of us clasping a brimming glass of Pinot Grigio that’d we’d drink in tiny, fast-paced sips. She’d stare at me intently with the half-squinted eyes and soft smile she saves for performances of true empathy. Then, I’d start:

“Kellyanne, you need to be honest with me. Was Rachel saying the truth? Did you really go fuck Jasper?”

“Now listen Tom I don’t think that’s fair, I don’t think that’s fair because she clearly didn’t mean that, and beyond that I think it ignores the real question, which is why are you still bringing Jasper up, a month after that night? Nobody else is talking about it! It’s unfair that you’re not giving me the chance to show you how well we can work together for this relationship.”

“But Kellyanne, you still haven’t answered the question. Did you fuck him? He told Cheryl you did, you’ve got to explain what’s happening here.”

“Tom you need to understand the difference between what offends you and what affects you. Maybe you’re offended by what Cheryl said — and why would you trust that sore loser, she never forgave me for getting my job — but that doesn’t mean you’re affected by it.”

“But Kelly—”

“Get over it, sweetie.”

For those of you more unfamiliar than me with Kellyanne’s track record, apart from the context this whole interaction is a pretty close paraphrase of things she’s said to the media since the election. It may sound obsessive to draw such a close parallel between this politician and my ex (still hate you babe!), but I think the connection informs our relationships with both of them.

Back when we were dating, our biggest issue was trust. I’ve never been crazy about monogamy, and have always valued the freedom of sucking a stranger’s dick in an alley if I so please, but it’s always been important to me that my partner would inform me of his sexual whereabouts, for reasons of both sexual health and intimacy. When I learned he’d been flat out lying to me, before I could even think of ruining his life I was overwhelmed by a feeling of profound stupidity: how come I didn’t notice him being vague, covering up the holes in his alibi? Kellyanne reminded me that great liars are so earnest that they make you want to believe them. There’s nothing shameful or daft about deciding to give people the benefit of the doubt. What matters is how you behave once you learn the truth.

Speaking of which, I think that seeing Kellyane as an ex really helps put into perspective how one should deal with her “alternative facts.” When you catch a partner clearly betraying your trust, is your reaction to write a stern thinkpiece debunking them with a mildly inflammatory headline? No! You scream, burn pictures of them, and spread informational flyers about just how scummy they are throughout their neighborhood (or dorm, or dining hall). We’ve got to stop engaging with her and taking her seriously, point blank.

This doesn’t read much like a sex and relationships column, but I don’t think that sex and relationships are on anybody’s mind today. Here’s a story though: when I told the guy I’ve been seeing about my foray into the world of Kellyanne, he held my stare and asked:

“If you put on a blond wig and a nasal voice, do you think you could sustain an impression of her when I fuck you?”

And you know what? I think I might do it, just so that I can imagine that through the vessel of my body we could dislodge the massive stick that’s stuck up her ass. And regardless, angry sex is hot.

An exercise in entropy

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It’s an oft-stated and well-treaded fact that systems tend toward disorder. This tendency is called entropy, and to say that systems tend towards disorder is to say that the available energy in a system (energy that is available for work) decreases. Another way of saying this is to say that signal gradually fades to noise.

Picture the development of life, for example, as a constant war against entropy. For life to blossom, there must be structure of various kinds at various levels. A balance between internal and external environment is necessary to maintain this structure. As we live and breathe, our cells constantly seek out and work toward this balance, towards homeostasis. This entails seeking out matter external to the system that can be turned into energy to be used by the system, this is called work (this is the meaning of work I’ll be using, not the one with the connotations of employment). But, the centre cannot hold, and so goes the structure; our telomeres shorten as we do, and entropy wins out. This is observable, but to move from the observable to the non-observable we can see a similar story play out in the social world.

It’s easiest to begin with a simple observation: why aren’t we all friends? Why is the default mode of interacting with a stranger that of a non-friend, that of a distant entity? This isn’t to say that we avoid interacting with strangers entirely, or that we mistreat them, but that we have the capacity to see them as other. The easy answer, perhaps, is that it is because we do not know them but that fails to explain the existence of people we do know but still feel are strangers. If we think of the social world as a system of relations, then the “stranger” relation is the least informative one, and here we can begin to see the relevance of entropy. The stranger default stands in opposition to the structure of the social world, it is the state toward which things tend. A simple experiment can confirm this: neglect a friendship for a month and attempt to return to it as though there was no period of absence. Chances are, you have begun to be a stranger to them. Relationships require a constant input of energy (i.e. work) to exist.

This is all to say that relationships require maintenance because the very order which they bestow is constructed, I think. It seems obvious, but ideas to the contrary permeate our culture. The notion of love in fairy tales and romantic comedies as a happily ever after suggests a relationship that requires no energy to be input into the system. There are no perpetual motion machines in the real world, and so it also seems there are no perpetual motion friendships. Happily ever after must be sought after.

Is there a social homeostasis? There must be a goal of social work that involves a balancing, so in this notion there must be something like a social homeostasis.This is a harder notion to observe, so the only claim that can be made is that social homeostasis involves the balance of energy put into the system and the “returns,” I’m not a fan of this model, as it seems soulless to think of relationships as having a return—and that being a metric by which they are judged—but I have to admit it is probable. Reciprocity seems to underlie most relationships, and governs our expectations. So perhaps it is possible to be a good friend to all with no expectation of return, perhaps, but I do not feel it is a positive state to be in because of the reciprocity norm present in our culture.

The limits imposed on us as students similarly serve to further isolate us. The lack of leisure time, especially during particularly taxing semesters, forces us to choose between keeping up academically and keeping up socially. This issue, of course, is not unique to students but seems to be a consequence of the increasing qualifications necessary to “keep up” in getting a promotion, providing for your children, buying a house, etc. The rat race has social (and thus also mental) consequences that should not be ignored.

This seems very bleak, but there is no reason to think that this is anything more than a matter of perspective. The energy we spend on achieving an outcome can make it feel all the more fulfilling and can be the way in which we create meaning. As the fox said to the Little Prince before departing, “It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.” Perhaps this is enough to face each day with a smile, to look into the eyes of a dear friend and tell them what they mean to you. But, can you say you would not be deeply hurt if that smile were not returned? This question lurks behind every interaction and is at the heart of the middle school experience; “Do my friends actually like me?” The answer: “Don’t think about it.”

The tendency towards disorder in the social realm is troubling, the whole thing seems to cast doubt on all relationships, but it is important to remember that this is only one potential reaction. The inherent difficulty in friendships could be the very thing that makes them so fulfilling, as the fox said. Of the seemingly many days I have had, I cannot honestly say the happiest has been alone and I feel this points to a larger truth. Perhaps this is all just another (long-winded) way to say that relationships, much like everything else, are ephemeral and must be tended to, much like the Little Prince’s rose.

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