Mize: Let's Get a Meal

What does it mean to sit down and eat at Dartmouth?

by Frances Mize | 4/23/19 2:00am

We arrive at Dartmouth in all our intensity and meet an equally intense schedule. The D-Plan does not let its presence go unnoticed: It smothers both our academic and social lives. As we are broken into quarters, with breaks in between each quarter, our time here is sectioned off from itself. In my own experience, this makes each term, each parcel of time, feel like its own lifetime. Each quarter seems to have its own narrative arc framed by its clear beginning and its ever-looming end. And that transforms the way we think about our relationships with one another. That said, what I term as the “let’s grab a meal” mindset is a clear case study of the problems that result from this transformation.

Many of us here live strange lives in which most of our eating experiences happen in one of four places around campus. At this school, the meal is an island of calm, a holy ground that we inexplicably choose to share with strangers. That cool guy from your class? You need to get to know him — ask him to get a meal as soon as possible. The nice girl you admire from that club meeting? Grab a meal with her stat. There are so many interesting people at Dartmouth, and with people wanting to get to know interesting people, that “let’s get a meal” might as well be carved into the Baker Lobby floor.

I think the “let’s get a meal” mindset is in its own way a kind of spectacular thing. Who has the social wherewithal to constantly be asking strangers to lunch? We have taught ourselves how to sit down with someone who may be a perfect stranger and enjoy lentil soup from Collis in our reusable bowls. And we may well have an engaging conversation before rushing off to our 2A. 

I think that these meals, as our anchors to one another, should be treated delicately. No matter how deep a conversation may be, a one-off conversation doesn’t result in a relationship. And at the rapid pace that the D-Plan sets, there are a lot of opportunities at this school to get to know people and then lose track of them. I myself have had amazing meals with people I will never know beyond the confines of a harshly-lit light side booth. 

That is a problem. In our fast-paced Dartmouth lives, we need to be wary of turning people into human representations of that one time you ordered stir fry. Relationships take time to become true and meaningful, and time is something that we should relish at a school that aggressively tries to that it from us. If we truly care about our time at Dartmouth, we cannot just carve it up and parcel it out to strangers. We need to dedicate our time, and ourselves, to more than just getting a meal sometime.