***ALL NAMES HAVE BEEN CHANGED IN THE INTEREST OF PARTIES INVOLVED***
It's the stuff that movies, books and songs are dedicated to but no one
can explain: the summer romance. What changes in those months when we're
not at school and everyone looks better because they're tan? What is it
about May, June, July and August (give or take a few weeks for post-season,
pre-season or orientation) that makes romance a little different than
the rest of the year? In short, I set out to learn WHAT HAPPENS TO BOWDOIN
STUDENTS' LOVE LIVES OVER THE SUMMER?
Well, there seem to be a handful of different scenarios that work themselves
out. Some Polar Bears find that upon release from the Bubble they may
take advantage of their freedom. "I really find that over the summer
I tend to go a little wild," says Carrie, a sophomore. "Bowdoin
is such a small community and I am usually really careful in respect to
that. But over the summer, it's like I want to get everything out of my
system because it's not my 'real' life at school." Many other students
I spoke to agree with Carrie. While we may all have chosen Bowdoin for
its desirable small class-size, we quickly learn that the social scene
may be equally as diminutive. Summer can be a time when all bets are off
and the unwritten rules we must abide by at school are no longer applicable.
Gunnar, also a sophomore, takes advantage of what he sees as a respite
from the dearth of dating material in Brunswick. "Dude, the girls
are so hot in my town. I mean, if they all went to Bowdoin, then, like
He is not the only one with this sentiment.
At the same time, other students may feel as if it's not really worth
it to put forth the effort when they only have a few months. Charlotte,
a sophomore, complains, "Even if there is someone I like, it's not
like I'm eager to jump into a long-distance relationship. Why bother?"
It seems that for Charlotte and many of her fellow students, Bowdoin's
relative isolation makes it very difficult to look forward to the prospects
of starting a serious relationship that then must be carried into the
coming year. Dave, a junior, agrees, "I just like to have fun with
my buddies over the summer because I don't want to meet some really cool
chick and then have to be like, 'Peace, I'm going to Maine.' It's like
those couple of months don't really aren't worth any effort or anything."
For another whole contingent, summer vacation means returning to your
high school romances and not having to put in as much effort. Many people
told me how much they look forward to summer because it means a break
from long-distance phone bills, rushing to get out an email while people
behind you wait to use the computer, having to whisper phone calls from
the H and L basement and trying to coordinate one's Spring Fling weekend
with another's exam schedule. All of a sudden there is all this free time
to spend with the person you care most about.
Not all students find this homecoming as comforting. Scott, a junior,
returned to his town, expecting to have everything go back to the way
it was. "All year we would talk every night and be like, 'I love
you I miss you,' but when we got home it was like, not the same relationship
at all. We thought we had kept it together but we totally hadn't. Breaking
up was really difficult, especially after we had worked so hard all year
to stay together-I mean, neither of us had cheated or anything. But things
had just changed too much." [Note: I can testify to the fact that
Scott has not, in fact, ever cheated on his girlfriend. However, many
other friends of mine claim as well that they don't know why things are
different when they go home. Two words: open relationship].
Lee, a sophomore, finds that even though he and his girlfriend broke
up before he left for his freshman year, whenever they go home, they wind
up back together. The combination of the same high school friends at the
same parties somehow leads him to forget that they are no longer in high
school and are no longer going out. (For more examples, see Kevin learn
to get over Tara Reid in the new American Pie 2). Moreover, Lee claims
that he is not happy in this arrangement, but cannot bring himself to
sever the ties. Students like him may not have fully taken advantage of
the opportunities Bowdoin offers to help him grow up and may, in fact,
regress when at home. That is, while our friend Lee complains that he
doesn't actually want to be with his [sometimes-ex-] girlfriend, he has
not yet discovered how to apply both the knowledge he should have learned
in the classroom and the confidence he should have learned on the field
to his personal life. Lee, I regret to inform you, is not alone.
So it seems to me that a Bowdoin student, upon release from this high-stress,
intensely tight-knit community, may find it hard to re-adjust to societal
norms over the summer. She may be tempted to act out and do what she feels
she cannot while at school. Or he may feel that when he leaves such a
demanding environment, it is just too tiring to do anything other than
what he did for the four years prior to Bowdoin. The only people who seem
to be able to maintain any sort of stability are those already in solid
relationships. Perhaps it is because they have already struck a balance
between school and romance during the year so it is much easier for them
to adjust. Unattached students have not yet learned how to find such equilibrium
and thus the elimination of school-related pressure can cause a drastic
swing in either direction. Students who are not quite involved and not
quite single generally find that they are confused and often wind up in
situations that make them unhappy.
That said, here we are, back at Bowdoin, for a new year with many new possibilities. Summer is over and who knows what lies ahead for Polar Bears, single, attached or somewhere in between? We have a fresh start with fresh perspectives and freshmen. Allow me to quote Gunnar, when he said, "Dude, I am just so glad to be back." Thanks, Gunn-o; so are we all.