On a cold Valentine’s night, dozens of seniors and their guests stopped by Pierson’s lower courtyard. There, Yalies iced shots in beer pong on a white table signed by fellow Pierson 2023ers. The sound system blasted love songs like “Kiss Me Through the Phone” by Soulja Boy as seniors chatted among themselves in circles, pausing to sip on vodka Swiss Miss hot chocolate. People hugged and dapped each other up, making sure to take group photos on their iPhones under the bright orange string lights after reuniting. On this Valentine’s Day, a different kind of love was in the air.
As I pushed my way through the bustling courtyard with a Canon Rebel T7i in hand, multiple groups stopped me to utter the phrase that I would hear virtually all of February: “Can we get a photo?” I had started bringing my camera around with me to snag photos for my photography class but kept doing so after I recognized that my photos instill joy in people and produce a sense of community. Every time, I obliged. Sometimes, I did so begrudgingly, because other groups had just asked me to take a photo for them. At this point in the night, my social battery had started to drain from the sheer number of photo-op requests. I decided to make my way toward the courtyard entrance, in the hopes that I could have a brief moment of calm before going back into the sea of seniors.
I soon spotted Marc Bertoni ’23 and one of his friends leaning against a red brick wall and smoking weed. The last time I had seen Marc was during my first year when we briefly met at a student group concert. With the little energy I had left, I reintroduced myself and asked Marc if I could take a photo of him blowing a cloud of smoke for my photography class. He agreed. We soon began to share how the last three years of our Yale experiences played out. Marc ended up majoring in Film & Media Studies and told me how he hopes to enter the industry, or at least an adjacent career. I, on the other hand, stuck with Political Science and pursued a career in journalism.
As I stepped out of the conversation to throw myself back into the fire, I couldn’t help but think: “I wish I had gotten to know people like Marc sooner.” And that was the theme of my February — all of the friendships that could have been during my four years at Yale but just didn’t pan out.
The event in Pierson’s lower courtyard was hosted by the senior society Desmos as a part of “Feb Club.” The tradition, which began in the 1970’s, grants seniors access to a party a day for the entire month of February. Tickets are $30. This year, each party occurred at a different location, ranging from the Founder’s Room in Benjamin Franklin to Elm City Tap House.
You may be wondering what the heck a “Feb Club All-star” is. An “all-star” is a senior who attends every single Feb Club party and completes a photo challenge at each one. The challenges varied –– one night can require a wholesome photo of you and a new friend, while another can ask you to dress up as Dobby from “Harry Potter.” A few days even included video challenges where “all-stars” had to sing lines from Drake and 21 Savage’s “Rich Flex” and hit the Shmoney Dance. Only a fraction of seniors actually attempt for all-star status –– even fewer manage to attain it. You may be wondering: why on earth did I decide to go to a random spot on campus every night to take a silly little photo? For that, I’ll give you three reasons. Firstly, Desmos traditionally gives all-stars a flask with their name engraved on it (it hopefully won’t be a T-shirt this year). Secondly, I had finished my thesis and was currently taking three classes, so I had the bandwidth to scurry around campus each night. Thirdly — and most importantly — Feb Club offered a strong sense of community, and fulfilled my desire to enjoy the end of my Yale career.
I have no regrets about becoming an “all-star.”
By the last Friday of Feb Club, I was sick and tired of having to make the trek to a random location on campus. When Desmos announced that Zeta would host an “Among Us”-themed party, I had little interest in sticking around for very long. “I’ll only be there for a quick five minutes. I’ll just take my photo and then dip,” I thought as I walked over to Zeta. Upon arriving at approximately 10:30 p.m., I noticed that the normally busy basement was relatively quiet. A few people grabbed mixed drinks. Others played beer pong on a large white table. No one danced on the dance floor that occupied about half of the grimy basement.
Fortunately, I knew that one of my friends was a sober monitor for Feb Club that night so I struck up a conversation with them, congratulating them on getting tapped by Whim ’n Rhythm. I asked for and took a photo with them holding a red solo cup for my photo challenge, believing that it matched the day’s “sussy” theme. I thought this was the end of the night, but the other sober monitor standing next to my friend seemed so familiar. I soon checked Desmos’ daily email on my phone to figure out what her name was. Amelia Dilworth ’23. The name felt faintly familiar.
I decided to swallow my pride and admit to Amelia that I recognized her but wasn’t sure from where. We soon figured it out. We were in the same presentation group for Child Development at the end of last semester. I felt embarrassed that I had not remembered her. Amelia, fortunately, gave me a pass, pointing out that we were all wearing masks in the class and our group did not meet in person before the last presentation (sorry, Professors Horwitz and Close).
But I was more struck by the fact that Amelia remembered that I took Foundations in Education Studies my junior fall. And she remembered exactly where I sat — to the left side of the classroom in the middle of the row. Apparently, I said something incredibly profound that made me stand out in her mind though she was not sure. We continued our conversation for another 10 minutes, talking about her interest in the impact of urban development on the sense of community and my interest in education journalism.
I ended our conversation by promising to say hi to Amelia if I saw her roaming around campus. I stuck around Zeta for another hour, greeting friends, both old and new, as they arrived. This is probably the first and last time I will ever utter these words–– but I am glad that I stayed at Zeta that night.
Marc and Amelia are just two examples of people I reconnected with during Feb Club. I enjoyed post-Three Sheets Dominican food with Jocelyne Arguelles ’23 and Sofia Godoy ’24. I had a conversation about the absurdity of having a Bobby Shmurda day with my old Multivariate Statistical Methods TA, Tai Michaels ’23. Matt Weisenberg ’23, someone I met through Health Economics and Public Policy my junior Fall but largely forgot about, joined me and Daniel Lu ’23 for our final Feb Club photo challenge. And so on. There were other people, mostly all-stars, who I got to know during Feb Club. Sara Laufenberg ’23 took a photo of me doing a handstand at Branford’s God Quad after recovering from COVID-19. Annie Giman ’24 allowed me to fake propose to her for a Feb Club all-star photo challenge.
When Feb Club ended, seniors trickled slowly out of Elm City Tap House. As if to say “it’s really over,” a crowd of us stuck around the bar’s entrance to mingle for a little longer. It was a bittersweet moment. Sweet in that I no longer had to run around campus on a random Tuesday to stay in the running for an engraved flask. Bitter in that I wouldn’t get to see many of the people I had met or come to know through Feb Club often. I now have to be intentional about seeking out the people that were so omnipresent during my Feb Club. My time at Yale has been the same. Over the last four years, there have been countless people who I met and thought were cool but never followed up with. No coffee run. No meal. No check-in. Just the unfulfilled potential of a friendship.
If Feb Club has taught me anything, it’s that intentionality is the key to fostering lasting relationships at Yale. Instead of waiting for a silly senior year tradition to help nurture friendships, I wish that I reached out to more of my peers over the last four years.
I understand that even with intentionality, friendship is not always in the cards. But at least we should try. Feb Club showed me that for all of the times I have become jaded at Yale, people still have lots of love to give. Let’s show each other that love — not just in February.