In the same way a Yale student might tear through the Fagles edition of the “Iliad,” the subject of love at Yale has been approached with animality and fervor, highlighted with alcohol, fraternities and Co-op dances, and eventually tossed aside, — a creased, yellowed reminder of Ivy League passions.
And though there are those who say Yalies are incapable of romance, fear not, Class of 2005, because Yale students don’t just love their academics.
Indeed, there is love yet to be found, had, made and lamented in New Haven.
Aphrodite has been known to make a cameo on Cross Campus, in the stacks at Sterling Memorial Library, and in the various suites on Old Campus and throughout the 12 residential colleges.
Many an effort has been made to dissect the nature of Yale love, and so follows a makeshift guide to finding love (or at least some play) at Yale.
The random hook-up
A popular response to the demands of a relationship — time, attention, remembering someone’s name — is the random hook-up, a common practice for Yalies, like scores of other hormonally-charged post-adolescents.
These noncommittal trysts have evolved into a ritual at Yale that begins with body shots in someone’s common room or pitchers at Naples and ends with the icy walk of shame at six o’clock in the morning, wearing the same leather pants and tube top as the previous night.
Most often, random hook-ups are breeding ground for little more than a one-night stand. But they have occasionally been the wellspring from which long term relationships have oozed, thick, syrupy and saccharine, full of air-kisses and endless lovey-doveyness.
Erik Ward ’03, who met the love of his life and long-term girlfriend Jessica Block ’03 shortly before he began making out with her in the backyard of Beta Theta Pi, said, “I was hugging a tree, and then I was hugging her.”
Though they were both dating others at the time, “that didn’t stand in the way,” Ward said.
“It’s not that I’m happy with who I have,” he added in retrospect. “It’s that I have who I want.”
It seems as if the random hook-up is a rite of passage for Yalies confronted with the perils of college romance. Particularly, that is, with Yale freshmen who are almost immediately over-committed and spread as thin as a Harvard student’s ego after The Game.
Random hook-ups can be found almost anywhere, if you’re looking for them, but good places to begin the search are in suite parties, fraternities and Yale-sponsored dances, like screws and Co-op dances.
But for those looking for college-level social maturity, the random hook-up, which hearkens back to the awkward days of high school more than anything else, is not the place to start.
Now critical of his former social scene at Yale, Ward, who does not seem to speak for most, said, “Not dating around here amounts to the once-every-third-week, nasty-girl hookup.”
Will and Grace
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Co-op, the most visible organization of its kind on the Yale campus, hosts four dances, arguably the best on campus and not confined to any particular sexual orientation. The Co-op also organizes speakers, film screenings and events for National Coming Out Week and National Pride Week.
Josie Rodberg ’03 met her girlfriend Maya Gideon ’02 “doing Co-op stuff” at the beginning of her freshman year.
Resulting from the open community cultivated at Yale are not only the loose definitions and open discussions of sexuality that have become trademark, but also a phenomenon that platonically couples straight women with gay men.
“Without exception, every Grace has her Will at Yale,” said Ming Thompson ’04, referring to the NBC show based on one such relationship.
Because Yale has such an active campus life, even with (or perhaps in spite of) the metropolitan pulse of New Haven as its backdrop, relationships and friendships alike are most often cultivated within Yale’s ivy-covered walls. Most of Cupid’s arrows are fired at campus-sponsored events and activities, and relationships tend to arise from common extracurricular interests or from attendance at selective or campus-wide events, like the infamous Co-op dances. It is in this arena that true romance blooms at Yale in the form of nauseatingly sweet, finishing-each-other’s-sentences, long-term relationships.
Rodberg, who is the head of the Women’s Center at Yale, admitted that she and Gideon, like the rest of the elite formed from stable couples, do “a lot of vomitously cute things.”
If you’re not successful at random hook-ups but are still gettin’ some, chances are you’re deeply committed to a monogamous relationship.
In other words, the couples at Yale are not merely seeing each other — for the most part, they are seeing absolutely no one else, and they might not even be seeing any daylight.
One such couple, a pair of graduated seniors who met during their freshman year and first hooked up on the roof of the tower in Silliman college, are archetypal Yale sweethearts.
“Downtown” Dave Brown ’01 compared his relationship with girlfriend Liese Fritze ’01 to a class with a changing syllabus, saying, “Liese is an A.”
They went on dates to Yorkside and Louis’ for hamburgers, got each other funny presents and took classes together. Brown was a lightweight rower; Fritze was on the squash team. And every night, when he walks her home, he rides an eight-year-old bicycle very slowly and she walks alongside, as they will presumably do someday with 3.5 children, meandering the streets of Anytown, USA.
These couples are the bittersweet reality of true love at Yale. They will always be there to remind you how lucky you are to be in love too. Or they’ll be there to nag, like phone calls from your mother about the future heart surgeon you haven’t met yet, that for another moonlit night in New Haven you must either find yourself a random hook-up or be resigned to time in a weenie bin, curled up with the rage of Achilles.