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The Dartmouth
April 14, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Homecoming: Lies! All Lies!

Without doubt, Homecoming is a time to remember and cherish the traditions which have made Dartmouth great. Some people might go so far as to say that this is the essence of Homecoming -- they are almost right. Homecoming is indeed about remembering traditions -- even more than a time to remember, however, Homecoming is a time to misremember the traditions that made Imaginary Nostalgia College really really great.

I have heard from people who know about such things -- my smart friends with fancy majors in things like psychology -- that our memories, over time, tend to become more monochromatic, more self-aggrandizing. As time and cramming for finals and chemical punishment poke holes in our recollections, we fill the gaps in with little heroic details, changing our past selves from pawns to queens. Hence, having forgotten much of my own first Homecoming, I can say with pride that I touched the fire, caught fire, outran H-Po on fire, discarded my melting clothes, did the Blue Light Special (still on fire, a little), and returned in time to do my 106 laps around the fire faster than most. Particularly considering I had taken half my body weight in a cocktail of MDMA, LSD and tar (not black-tar heroin -- just tar. I drank it.) to pregame, I would say it was a pretty ragey night.

Obviously, that's at least partially untrue -- by the standards of rage my freshman year, that would have been a pretty low-key night. Unremarkable. Boring, even. I've never been much of a Rage-god, to be perfectly honest.

I don't say these things to brag -- in fact, the amount of acid I ingested three Homecomings ago ate a hole in the part of the brain that enables me to brag -- but rather to prepare those of you who plan on remembering this Homecoming for the inevitability of hearing wildly inflated narratives about past Homecomings. Of course, most everyone will know to regard with cool suspicion the laudatory accounts of old Dartmouth -- the alums who floated a keg each and used the empty metal husks to crush diversity initiatives and political correctness.

The real people to watch out for, this Homecoming, are the recent alums and upperclassmen who have gotten a little bit glassy-eyed, and all of a sudden turn moony and sad. These people are often our friends, and we will want to believe them when they say that their freshman year, the whole class rushed the field, or that the bonfire was so big that it burned South Fayerweather Dormitory to the ground. But be firm in your resolve -- these people (even me, gentle readers) are filthy terrible liars whether they intend it or not.

Recently -- with the senescence of my own college experience becoming an ever more frightening specter -- I have noticed myself already romanticizing the last four years. Perhaps not in the typical fashion -- I don't believe that I arrived for the last great hours of a party paradise right before it succumbed to some sort of evil administrative destruction. And as unbelievably small and immature as the '09s seem to me now, I can remember a time when my (thinner and) shorter frame played obnoxiously passionate foosball over the protestations of a mellow '03. But still, I think back to the halcyon days of freshman year, and remember that the weather was perfect all the time and college seemed like an experience with an infinite, shimmering future. I don't remember, for some reason, how I was up until 3 a.m. studying genetics and how I had sworn off girls for the rest of Spring term (also, embarrassingly enough, to study genetics). I guess I misremember with the best of them.

It strikes me (especially at Homecoming, I think) what a strange and unnecessary psychological mechanism this pastime glorification really is. You'll have to forgive me for forsaking the veneer of cynical emotional deadness at the apex of on-campus cool, but man, we don't even need to exaggerate Homecoming. That giant parade of first-years was cool no matter how drunk anyone was (I wasn't), and when it started snowing for one of the first times of the year as we turned the last corner before they lit the fire, I couldn't help but feel a little twinge of pride at the College on the Hill. I don't remember if anyone rushed the field or not -- I don't really care -- and the guy who touched the fire got arrested and had to go to court. Maybe there was more than one guy -- again, it doesn't really matter. It was great regardless.

Ultimately, the things we glorify about Homecoming are up for grabs. There's no universal human value associated with rushing the field -- or even beating Columbia, though it would be nice to really stick it to them -- and it's really not some huge loss that the freshmen don't lose their beanies of shame 'round this time anymore. For that matter, it would be great to see some new traditions. Maybe the '09s will spray-paint the Collis Columns green (please do) or do a mass sky-dive onto the Green -- and that would be every bit as cool as someone rushing the field. It would probably even be better. So when you see me around the fire tonight, yelling "TOUCH THE FIRE! TOUCH THE FIRE YOU [participial obscenity] [scatological obscene noun]-HEAD. YOU [religiously offensive oath]-ed FRESHMAN! TOUCH THE FIRE! I'LL THROW YOU IN THE FIRE IF YOU DON'T TOUCH IT IN FIVE SECONDS, AND THEN I'LL THROW YOUR MOTHER IN AFTER YOU! AND THEN--" know that I don't really mean it. Besides, I'm going to take so much acid this weekend I'll probably think you're a koala.