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Autumn. Leaves shift from their summer greenness to vibrant shades of red, orange and pink. As they span the color spectrum, aging steadily into a crisp brown dryness, the leaves abandon roots and fall one by one to the ground. For some, this scene merely signifies a climatic shift, a transitory phase between summer and winter. For others, it heralds what we have long called “sweater weather,” prompting them to fill their closets with clothes that are too thick for the heat, but too thin for the cold. In that short span of time between both seasons, even our closets become transient.
Expectation drives, expectation cripples. Many students, despite coming to Dartmouth with a staunch readiness to absorb the breadth of knowledge inherent to a liberal arts education, carry the weight of expectations. That weight is sometimes definite, sometimes indefinite, but rooted always in a vision of the future that seems blurry and beyond reach.
Numbers confuse me, science eludes me, but fortunately I possess the “useless” ability to hear the rhythm between words and read too deeply into texts — to transform the female body into a gesture of capitalist resistance, a character’s mixed skin tone into the embodiment of hybridity, a spectral figure into the enduring presence of our past or — if I’m feeling particularly misanthropic — the nonhuman, neoliberal Other.
Though survival at Dartmouth takes no clear-cut path, certain “tools” are universal, even if they manifest themselves differently for each of us. They often range from the mundane to the bizarre, from the obvious to the not-so-obvious.
Menstrual stigmas are rooted not in what is said but in what goes unsaid. We encounter them in the silence between words, in the euphemisms that have spilled into our social script to claim a language of their own, reflexive but prosaic. “I’m under the weather.” “It’s my time of month.” “Aunt Flow is here.” All substitutes for a process whose denotation of blood and connotation of dirtiness have rendered it too “unfeminine” to be called by its formal name: menstruation.
We all know the pain of leaving a close friend. In fact, I daresay that most of us were embroiled in a ruthless game of tug-of-war before coming to Dartmouth, torn between the excitement of reinvention and the sorrow of shedding our old self, complete with its crushes, its follies and foibles and, more importantly, all those people who reified if not constructed the person we once were. We vowed to keep in touch, sure, to honor “Snapstreaks,” to call on a daily, weekly or perhaps monthly basis, but no words could assuage that sinking feeling in our stomach, that squeezing pressure in our chests. Because deep down we knew that we would all change despite ourselves, that physical distance was the first step to emotional distance and that emotional distance marked the end of a close bond. Of course, some of our friendships may have managed to defy the passage of time, but the temporality of “best friendship” is a fact of life, objective and indisputable. So why the pain? Ironically, the answer may lie not in the absence of another person but in an absence within ourselves, because to lose a best friend is to lose a cultural identity.
We often equate sports rivalries with divide; they can create tension between teams and incite conflict among fans. But in the context of the Dartmouth community, divide seems to be a source of unity for the athletes and fans alike.
The 21st century woman. Strong, fierce, relentless. She no longer has to embrace docility and softness as the markers of femininity. She no longer has to confine her identity to the confines of domesticity — the workforce awaits her with open arms. In fact, even her body has become her own: she can flaunt it outside the context of marriage and for purposes other than reproduction ...