Abandoning the eating club scene
One senior decides to go it alone, becoming an independent after
pursuing Prospect's path
By Kristen Albertsen '02
No, I am not self-employed,
nor am I any more confident than your average 20-year-old; I look
forward to Mom's home cooking and my birthday money as much as anyone
else. Nevertheless, I am Independent, with a capital 'I'. I belong
to no eating club at Princeton; I do not call Ivy or Cottage or
Terrace my home. I eat tuna out of a can and cereal out of a box.
I wasn't always
When I first arrived
three years ago, I saw myself as a typical Princeton freshman. I
voiced opinions I was not sure were mine, I laughed at jokes I didn't
find funny. I tried to cultivate a clarion soprano and a mean backhand,
and I signed my name on a hundred lists and received a hundred emails
in return. I was searching for myself in the context of Princeton's
One Saturday night in
the early fall of that year, I discovered my first eating club.
I don't remember which one it was; they were all nameless
to me at the time, 11 different possible means of self-definition,
complete with mahogany pool tables and beer. As the weeks progressed,
my friends and I would venture out to the Street on weekend nights
and quiz one another as we passed the clubs, testing knowledge of
names and stereotypes. Deciding what face we wanted to wear that
evening: a civilized affectation in one, and wild and crazy grin
in another. We would begin the night in groups of 10 or 12, and
slowly lose members along the way: She was going to stay here for
a little longer, he was involved in a pool game there. Soon we started
crossing clubs off the evening's repertoire: That one was
a loser club, the other impossible to get into. And the circles
in which we rotated grew smaller, both in size and scope.
In the spring of freshman
year, several friends and I settled on one particular club. On the
weekends, we would walk down Prospect with assurance and purpose,
our jaunty gaits directed at our chosen club. We knew upperclassmen
behind the bar and on the dancefloor. We were invited to private
Wednesday night parties. I, for one, felt older, mature, sure of
who I was and where I belonged.
We were all lucky enough
to join our chosen club in the middle of sophomore year. It was
a fun, socially motivated year. That year we took a lot of pictures
and ordered a lot of late-night pizzas.
Midway through junior
year, I started to feel confined by the social mold I had so carefully
constructed for myself. Meals, instead of fun, were frustrating;
so many superfluous and banal dinner conversations eked out of relationships
saturated with convenience and over-exposure. Saturday nights, instead
of a blast, were boring; the same games, jokes, and beer. And the
thought that nettled me incessantly was that I knew how neat and
smart and cool my friends were, and yet we had grown so similar,
in experience and expenditure of time, that there was nothing new
left to say. I decided my strong friendships did not need to be
dictated by scheduled interaction, nor my sense of self dictated
by where I belonged.
And so I quit my eating
club this year, my senior year, to the surprise of my parents, friends,
and even myself. I have encountered sadness and resentment but also
understanding and encouragement. I've been meeting fascinating
new people, and been having fascinating new conversations with some
of my oldest and closest friends.
When I tell people that
I am an "Independent,"I receive looks of curiosity and
intrigue, as opposed to the social sizing-up to which I was formerly
accustomed. Call me an iconoclast, a recluse, a defector, an individual.
I don't really feel like any in particular. The decision I made
would not be right for everyone. In fact, I am still not completely
confident I made the right decision. But I lived three years on
one side of the orange and black rainbow, and feel it's time to
experience the other. It's been a liberating one, this departure,
a precursor of many to come.
Kristen Albertsen '02
is majoring in comparative literature. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org