Alice Mao

Ever since quarantine lifted, I’ve been getting home at around 2 a.m. almost every night. Even on weekdays, I take the long late-night walk from Davenport to Pauli Murray. No, I’m not woefully drinking or enthusiastically studying into the a.m. It’s just that most of my friends are in the old colleges — where we do casually drink or indifferently study into the early hours of the morning.

I met most of these friends through subgroups of the “Yale University Class of 2024” GroupMe, predominantly the “Yale ’24 Modern Art Enthusiasts” chat, which is for first-year LGBTQ+ identifying Yalies. Before coming on campus, it was nice to talk to other gay first-years, especially considering there was a very little LGBTQ+ population in my high school. We often held Zoom meetings where we would just stay up all night talking about random things. Quarantine gave us all this extra time to spend and bond with each other, and through that, some really strong friendships were formed.

As to not completely dox my friends, I’ll call them by different names. I met Syd, one of my closest friends at Yale, through the chat. He lives in Branford, so I do my homework and study there quite often. On the weekends, though, a small group of friends and I spend our nights in Daryl’s suite in Silliman, another good friend of mine. I feel horrible for him. We’re usually both the designated sober buddies and watch over everyone else there. However, I tend to have just as much fun sober as those tipsy or drunk. Have you ever listened to “Friday Night Placebo” by Sidney Gish? Well, yeah. I too sink into the music just like the Dead Sea and try and go further till buoyancy floats me.

Even in high school, I would have the greatest time sober. Since being at Yale, I’ve only drank once or twice. The first time, I might have had one too many shots and texted some guy I liked many, many times. Lots of “You’re such a good person” and “I don’t even like you” messages with a sprinkle of depressing Mitski lyrics. Yeah… it was not one of my proudest moments. Not to mention we fully went to brunch the next morning and kinda pretended it never happened.

I might have been the butt of the joke for a little while because of that, but since then, my friends have been putting themselves in worse positions. Yeah, worse than my 151 texts. They’ve been rushing to get into relationships and situationships. They want the hookups, the boyfriends and girlfriends, love, even.

We jokingly made a flowchart — like the one in “The L Word” — of the relationships, crushes and affairs that have happened over the last month, and it was a beautiful and hilarious mess. There were lines connecting people all around, some labeled “kissed,” “entangled,” “likes,” “dating.”

I couldn’t even begin to break that chart down, but let’s talk about some things. Remember Syd from Branford? He’s actually entangled with another one of my close friends, Jeff. Syd, Jeff, Daryl and I played video games and talked quite often over the summer before coming to Yale. Not once did Syd and Jeff ever show any signs of interest towards each other then. One week out of our residential college quarantine, though, they began hanging out a lot and are now borderline dating.

Syd is actually quite popular amongst the gay first-year students. I can think of about five different people who have shown interest in him. One of them, whom I’ll call Freddie, was interested in Syd for a while. One of the first weeks out of quarantine, he got unbelievably drunk and began doing karate, jumping off of things and doing kicks and flips — all in Syd’s presence. Not to mention he told Syd many things that he probably wouldn’t have said sober. Now, he says he isn’t embarrassed by what happened that night but trust me, as his friend, I was embarrassed for him. It’s been a couple weeks since then, and Freddie’s already looking into someone else.

Two of my friends — let’s call them Joan and Debbie — have known of each other for a while, through Instagram and the first-year LGBTQ+ GroupMe. They didn’t really talk very much before coming to New Haven. The first time they met and hung out on campus, however, ended with them making out.

When the Yale Marriage Pact application came out last week, my friends rushed to fill it out. I doubted that an algorithm with such a short application could actually find my soulmate, but I also completed it, thinking it was a fun idea. The results of the project came out Tuesday night, and my friend group was literally refreshing their emails waiting for their matches. Some of them messaged their match immediately, taking advantage of being matched with someone they found attractive or interesting. Others were dissapointed with their match, but overall, the laughs the Marriage Pact brought them were amusing.

Though I found it both endearing and hilarious, I actually wondered why my friends were rushing in search of some sort of affection a month into school. I thought about that for a while, actually. I mean, even I was guilty of wanting some sort of intimacy this early.

I realized that in the first-year class alone, Yale already has a way bigger out LGBTQ+ population than my high school did. When I think back to my highschool of more than one thousand people, I could probably count all the out LGBTQ+ people I knew on just one hand. My friends here had similar experiences. Likewise, some of my LGBTQ+ friends here aren’t out back home — some aren’t even out to their parents. Not being able to truly be yourself and express your sexuality can be damaging, especially when you’re growing up. I sort of lived in a glass closet in high school. I think most people knew, but I didn’t necessarily come out to anyone.

Two of my friends here have told me they couldn’t even do that. They had to conform to some heteronormative way of acting that restricted them from being their true selves. Because of reasons like these, most of us have very little experience with relationships, sex and romance. It’s almost like we were deprived of those things, and now that we have the ability to openly pursue them, we’re doing it eagerly. 

And you know, what? I don’t think it’s much of a problem. For a lot of first years who fall under the LGBTQ+ umbrella, college is a new realm for exploration. Many of us now have the opportunity to experiment with love, something some of us couldn’t do in our hometowns or schools. Those late night outs consisting of drinking and flirting mean way more than it seems — they represent the freedom to be ourselves.

Bryan Ventura | bryan.ventura@yale.edu