Web Exclusives: Raising Kate

a PAW web exclusive column by Kate Swearengen '04 (kswearen@princeton.edu)

July 7, 2002:

Summertime, and the living is hard
Princeton kids just don't stop

Luke is going spend his summer mowing lawns in the suburbs of Chicago, and that's what I like to hear. Summers should be bald of ambition. They should be about green grassy hills, sweaty deck chairs, and menial labor. They should smell like lawnmower exhaust, taste like hotdogs and orange popsicles, and leave ugly yellow sweat stains on crisp white shirts. Summer is fireworks, volleyball, and picnics. It is baseball and cicadas. It is sun block running into your eyes, evenings spent outside, and the constant throb of dance beats in the background.

But try telling that to most Princeton students. Summer has morphed from a respite from the stressful academic year into a three-month sentence to be filled with classes, prestigious internships, or exotic travel. Here's what some Princeton kids are doing this summer.


My friend Mike, a chemical engineering major, has a job in Boulder, Colorado, the land of timeshares, blue skies, and millionaire cattle ranchers. Mike is lucky to be able to pad his résumé in such environs, and I told him as much in an e-mail. He fired back with this response:

"This is not a cushy job. I am conducting very important experiments. My job is to study the biodegration of toxic organic molecules by microbes in the presence of heavy metals...not that that means anything to you."

Mike went on to explain to me that although his dormitory room at the University of Colorado-Boulder affords him a lovely view of the Rocky Mountains, he is not surrounded by beauty:

"Believe it or not, I miss Princeton already. The reason I miss it so much is because I miss the cute boys. Yes, that's right, I said it: there are cute boys at Princeton. There is no, and I mean no, eye candy here in Colorado."

When Mike says that he misses the Princeton boys, I know things are really bad. The two of us were hallmates last year, and we spent a lot of time griping about our romantic prospects in general and "Height Flight" in particular (the mysterious phenomenon that makes male students taller than 5'10" choose Columbia or Yale over Princeton).


Sarah is at the University of Texas, taking courses on ethical theories and contemporary moral problems. Texas seems like an odd locale to learn about such things, given that ethical quandaries there take a backseat to the Second Amendment. I told Sarah that going to the Lone Star State to take a class about ethics and moral problems is like going to Saudi Arabia to take a course about democratic theory, but she seemed unperturbed. It seems that Tom, Sarah's latest Princeton squeeze, who has extraordinarily long eyelashes and plays the bongo drums, lives in Austin, and this may have played some small part in her decision to study there.

But Sarah seems to be happy in Texas, and she recently sent out an ecstatic e-mail in which she marveled at the unique culinary establishments west of the Mississippi:

"I have eaten so much food. Texans love to eat. There are tons of food places that just don't exist on the East Coast, like Whataburger and Church's Chicken and Jason's Deli. I am going to come back like 50 pounds heavier."


In a fit of masochism and self-hatred, I wrote to my friend Taufiq to find out what he's up to this summer. Taufiq is a Woodrow Wilson School major. He writes long, earnest letters to the Prince on behalf of Palestinian refugees, has beautiful manners, and is a member of Whig-Clio. He is disgustingly on track, and I knew that he would be involved in something incredibly prestigious. I was not disappointed:

"I'm in Washington, D.C., right now, doing an internship at the Canadian embassy. I'm working in an office that coordinates with International Financial Institutions (World Bank)."



My friend Cate is working at an art gallery in Chelsea this summer. "Gallery sitting," as she calls it, is a highly desirable job that is hard to come by, but I have the feeling that no one would have turned Cate down. She's from Nantucket, holds the knife in her left hand when she eats, and looks as if she just stepped out of the Gorsuch catalog. She is polite and cultured, begins her e-mails and phone calls with the words "Hey, Doll," and even managed to look elegant in the unisuit she wore during her freshman year on the crew team. I asked her, half in jest, if her gallery job would require a new wardrobe.

"I wish," said Cate. "My mom said maybe a new pair of shoes."

Manolo Blahniks, no doubt.

You can reach Kate at kswearen@princeton.edu

You can reach Kate at kswearen@princeton.edu