I am somebody’s Tuesday lunch. I am another person’s Thursday lunch. For others, I am a weekend coffee friend, the courtyard-wave type, a designated section buddy. On a good day, I am a high-five at a party or a serendipitous dining hall conversation. On a bad day, I am just another person passing through, a face that blends in with the sea of those crossing campus. I am morphing into so many things — but none of them are authentically a friend.
One friend texted me to discuss times we might be able to meet up. Another simply suggested, “Every Tuesday. Here.” Both times I felt uncomfortable about being penciled into their schedules. And both times I felt uncomfortable for being uncomfortable with people doing a genuinely thoughtful thing — making time for me. After all, scheduling seems like an inevitability of Yale culture. Brokering our friendships through the economy and structure of time ensures a basic commitment to one another.
As a community, however, it is dangerous to universally permit the practice because of its feigned inevitability. Scheduling is bound up with the process of sterilization. Our relationships are given bounds. Anytime we plan someone else into our calendar, we signal that we are looking towards an end. When the salads are finished or noon comes around, it is easy to put things on hold. There is a subconscious anticipation and recognition of the end.
I don’t know if 30-minutes-a-week is a gesture of commitment or the haunt of a relationship that’s been compartmentalized and reduced to a simple form for the sake of maintenance.
I do know that as a freshman, it is early for me to pass judgment on Yale forms of friendship. But in the past several weeks, we’ve sat in on consent workshops, had late-night Froco meetings on diversity and attended handfuls of academic meetings. Readily supplied at each freshman event was the catchphrase: “Yale is at once a tradition, a company of scholars, a society of friends.” We have the capacity — and indeed, responsibility — to discuss and analyze our community, this “society of friends.” If we are truly a campus driven by the pursuit of excellence, it is natural that we should also seek happier and healthier relationships. What’s reassuring about being a new class is that we are not monolithic. We can redefine Yale’s “society of friends” and we do not need to adopt the narratives of the past.
This isn’t an argument against lunch dates. I believe in food and I believe in people. I especially believe in the combination of the two. Likewise, a few weeks on campus isn’t enough to constitute an understanding of the variety of undergraduate experiences similar and dissimilar to mine. But it is enough time to understand that we could be building stronger, unreserved relationships.
Few people want to consider that there might be something wrong with their relationships, especially in a time of transition. But if we refuse to consider flaws in our connections, we’ll grapple for what resembles a form of friendship and accept what’s within reach. We’ll sacrifice the opportunity to be more creative in imagining the landscapes of our friendships. Too often, I find myself thinking my friendships are sufficient. Trying to conform them to the quantifiable and reducing terms of a calendar is part of this process. Often, our friendships are not perfect — there is always room for growth.
Time management skills are important, but so too are people. There are no grades to keep us accountable for our investments in others. There are few deadlines for texting someone, for throwing surprise parties or for evenings available to look at the stars on Science Hill. When someone looks at me, I don’t want them to see me ending at the end of our 12:30 lunch date. I want them to tell me to stay and occupy this place, our home, where we all take on the infinitely rewarding and riskier task of getting to know the people around us and constructing a society of friends.
Kelsi Caywood is a freshman in Timothy Dwight College. Contact her at email@example.com.