For a year and a half, this little plot of real estate here in the back of the Orient has been my sanctuary from the furore and vexation of academia. Out there, my essays, exegeses, and existentialist ruminations lurch and strain beneath the weight of scrutiny. In here, I am free to bluster and bloviate with all the poise of a Weasel Ball, using satire and self-consciousness as armor against critical inquiry.
But such things cannot last. My position in the Orient ranks has changed and, well, I don't know exactly how to tell you this, but I'm kind of a big deal now. Such responsibility demands certain sacrifices. Professionally speaking, issuing such bloviations as have previously occupied this space may be considered untoward in light of my new standing. In accordance with protocol, I will soon withdraw into the machine until nothing remains but ink and omniscience.
Which is good, because I ran out of decent column ideas a long time ago.
This will be my final revelation. It will not be as terrifying and timeless as Saint John's?there are significantly fewer demons?but much like the Reckoning, it may just have the power save or doom us all. Far be it from me to predict which.
It seems appropriate that my last column should appear on the last weekend of the school year that students dare to enjoy themselves. In the aftermath, it's all, "Oh my God, I have three research papers due in the next three hours," and "Oh my God, my professor is making a lab due on the same day as our final," and "Oh my God, my head hurts and I think I just puked up an iPod."
But during Ivy Weekend, everybody's worries?along with that little voice that asks whether they should really be doing naked star jumps on the Brunswick quad at 11 in the morning?seem to melt away like condensation off a can of Natty Light. I feel as though there is less pressure on me to offer anything insightful, because most of you have already attended one of the ubiquitous "champagne breakfasts" on campus this morning, and are at a point where a few simple poop jokes would suffice.
That's right, I said "poop" in the newspaper. Laugh your hearts out, you goofy bastards.
Where were we? Oh, right: You were wondering why I said "Ivy" Weekend instead of "Ivies" Weekend. You may be thinking, "Doesn't the co-editor-in-chief-designate of The Bowdoin Orient know how to spell?" Well, while I applaud your ability to rally those remaining brain cells into action, I'll have you know that Ivy Weekend is the correct nomenclature. I'm not kidding; check the old yearbooks.
A brief history lesson is in order: Ivy Weekend?est. 1865?used to be "Ivy Day." Rumors abound as to its origin: Some contend that Bowdoin was invited to join the Ivy League and declined; and when students heard that the College passed on an opportunity that would have increased the appeal of their resumes by several hundred percent, they revolted by drinking themselves into a defiant stupor. While it stands to reason that this is the genesis for the corruption of the holiday's name, this version of its "history" is inaccurate.
While Bowdoin's end-of-April festival does not derive its name from the Ivy League itself, it was inspired by one of the traditions of an Ivy League school. According to an Orient investigation last spring (researched admirably by Joshua Miller), the original Ivy Day was named in commemoration of the planting of ivy near the Chapel by the senior class?a ceremony borrowed from Yale University. Other esoteric Yale traditions, such as pistol duels and election-fixing, were considered but never adopted.
In accordance with the folksy zeitgeist of the late 19th century, the original traditions of Ivy Day were adorably quaint: A wooden spoon was awarded to the most popular man in the class, presumably for use in beating back concupiscent fishwives as he strode magnificently through Brunswick in his frock coat and knee breeches. Conversely, the member of the class whom everyone voted "ugliest" was jokingly awarded a jackknife, in accordance with the logic that after deeply insulting a person it is then advisable to arm them with a lethal weapon.
Ivy Weekend changed forever in the late 1870s, when somewhere between vespers and shuffleboard, the men of Bowdoin College became aware of the opposite sex. It was around this time that these mysterious she-humans began appearing on campus during Ivy Weekend, to the confusion and excitement of the all-male student body. Unfortunately, Bowdoin's parietals were strictly Puritanical, mandating that the men and women interact at a distance of no fewer than two furlongs. Consequently, most male-female interactions involved gesturing from behind spyglasses until the College eased these restrictions in the late 1950s.
Then in the '60s, Ivy Day was ripped from its roots in a thunderous maelstrom of rock music and bad facial hair. At some point, the holiday was extended to encompass the entire weekend, presumably because that's how long it took students to finish listening to their live Allman Brothers records. The customary planting of the ivy went by the wayside, and by the time the smoke had been coughed out and cleared, the only tradition that remained was the bad facial hair and the vague recollection that the weekend was called some word beginning with the letter "I." Hence the name confusion.
So to clarify, I'd be happy if I didn't hear these next few days referred to as "Ivies"?unless it's from my roommates, who will inevitably wake me up at 9 a.m. and hover two inches from my face, saying "IIIIIIIVVVIIIIEEEES" and daring me to do something about it.
Looking back at the charming customs of old affords us some perspective as we ponder our relative place among the scholars who have worked and played 'neath the Pines. Many eras have come and gone since a quorum of reformed ministers petitioned Gov. Samuel Adams (always a good decision-maker!) to build a Harvard look-a-like back during the Industrial Revolution, and understanding how we fit into the history of this place is important.
For instance, the Class of 1865 wept openly while marching in lock-step and singing the traditional Scottish folk melody, "Auld Lang Syne." In 1928, students invited dates to the "Ivy Ball" for a night of dancing and a live performance by Duke Ellington. We will be brewing gin buckets and listening to a man make himself sound like a drum set. Who knows what the future holds for Ivy Weekend celebrators? (Robot bands playing laser instruments in space!)
While the evolution of Ivy Weekend is difficult to predict, the future of this column is not: It's time to give up the ghost. So thanks for reading, and stay safe this weekend.