Even though by now I’m used to it, Princeton’s social scene is the weirdest. No one ever admits this: everyone talks it down and is like, “Oh, yeah, the eating clubs are just like frats!”—which I found incredibly unhelpful never having attended a school with fraternity houses, so, for all the comfort that comparison brought me, people might as well have been reassuring me that the Street was fine because the eating clubs are basically like Wiccan convents. I think, actually, that no one really knows what an eating club is, which is why the people who want me to write this are so insistent on it: even at Princeton, we’re fascinated by our own social scene and its nebulous, unquantifiable nature and what it means about us: What is the Street? What happens there? Is it fun or are we all just trapped in some kind of groupthink? And at the heart of it, of course: are we as douchey as they say we are?
This article is anonymous. This is lame, I know. But the thing is, I’m still figuring out where I fit in at Princeton, what parts of the social scene I’ll embrace or reject during my time here, and I realize this could change. Also, I really do want to speak honestly about my experience, so I’d rather not have my name associated with allusions to my debauchery or my tendency to make ungenerous characterizations of certain eating clubs and thereby offend people I like a lot (am really intimidated by). All the context you need to know is that I’m a freshman girl and that, for all the irony and sarcasm below, I love it here.
Cap & Gown
Pre-Princeton, when I was reading all these “Eating Clubs Exposed” articles, I noticed that every time the reporter asked someone at Cap what they looked for in a member, the answer was always, “just someone chill.” Which I found hilariously vague at the time but now I see how true it is: Cap is just laidback. I think it’s because there’s less of clearly delineated feeder system, so it always manages to attract a huge array of people who are connected by their shared chillness and not their shared frat or whatever. Usually really good things happen to me at Cap, though I still don’t know how to play Ring of Fire and am really intimidated by the shade of red in the basement.
I’ve only been to Cannon once or twice and usually found it to be just like Cottage with the oppressive athlete problem, except they’re younger athletes so I usually know at least some of them. I like all the games in the basement; those are fun and a good way to avoid the dance floor, which is admittedly pretty sick. It’s also super lushly decorated; I think it’s the most mansion-esque of all the clubs, though it looks a bit like a bunker. Also it is too huge and so always looks more empty than it is.
Charter is a nerdy Cottage. It’s like, if I were an engineer and knew anyone in this eating club besides the people I came with, this would be an awesome, fun time. But when I go, (which, admittedly, has been thrice) it’s usually pretty empty, and I am significantly removed from the dominant demographic. So, I just stand awkwardly with my friends and talk about maybe introducing ourselves to someone out of boredom—which is the same situation I usually face in Cottage. Most often, we end up playing a drinking game with some random boys whose names I never get, and then losing, and then leaving.
The vibes in Colonial are deeply wack. My first night out ever at Princeton was at Colonial; my first college beer was at Colonial; the first time a kindly upperclassman told me to rub my nose and stir my pinky in my beer to help it stop fizzing—which remains one of the most valuable pieces of advice I have ever received—was at Colonial. But, post-frosh week, I went twice to Colonial and both times was physically knocked to the ground, repeatedly, by some of the most intoxicated people I have ever encountered, so for my own health I’m trying to never, ever go back.
Cottage and I have a very strained relationship. I hate the athlete-bro-bullshit culture where guys chill in packs and just stare at pretty girls as they walk by and make no moves—ever—towards them. There’s always groups of sorostitutes heading out to the dance floor, as the guys lounge by the windows and doors and watch them lewdly, which is a gross word but the right one for this situation. I hate having to flirt with randos with wristbands for beers, and hate it when they just stick a beer in my face with no attempt to engage in conversation, and hate it more when they misinterpret my big smile-hair flick-arm squeeze-”thank youuuuu!” combo as genuine interest in them as people and not just my way of obtaining alcohol to alleviate the pain of being in their weirdly awkward club. That said, I have had good nights at Cottage but only when I’m in full out slut mode, and by that I mean hard-core hitting on strangers and being embarrassingly forward and just generally making my momma proud.
I’ll always hold Cloister near and dear to my heart, as the majority of my formative frosh week moments took place there. The first times I went to Cloister, I didn’t know that Princeton parties don’t always happen outside & in the rain & that getting a beer isn’t usually a mosh pit scene. I actually made a lot of lasting friends as we pushed against each other in the mad press for beer. It’s also the place I literally climbed through windows to escape awkward boy situations, the place of my first street hook-up, the first time I ever fell down eating club stairs. Academic year Cloister is different, though—I rarely go, except in the case of special parties like Two Articles night, which was baller and much enjoyed.
On most occasions uttering the phrase “I am going to/was at Ivy” gets you death glares, because: a) it sounds so pretentious, like you’re name dropping on purpose and b) because people are jealous. I have been both the receiver of death glares and the death glarer and hate both roles. But, inside, I always love Ivy because there’s a lot of people I love inside it. And there are also people who are super insecure about the fact that they’re in Ivy and hesitate to make conversation with you without knowing how they can use that conversation to climb up the social ladder. But a large portion of people in there are just awkward souls like me, only they dress well (read: expensively and/or in flannel) and hide their discomfort but remain tolerant of me and my general cynicism about the universe. Also, I usually just, like, hang and don’t really ever have to dance with anyone, which is always good news for me.
… about that.
Terrace can be happy times and also very sad times. The thing with Terrace is that, if I go there, I’m at the end of a very long night and still trying to wring every ounce of a good time that I can out of it, which means that I’m starting to get desperate and questionable decisions will be made. A lot of my most uncomfortable situations have been compounded by horrible run-ins at Terrace. But, sometimes (often), Terrace will redeem my whole night of loathing everyone on this campus by hitting me hard with some super chill (high) people, who just like to sit on couches and hand me cookies. And, also, it can be just awesomely out there, like when people tackle each other on the pool table or there’s a dog hanging out on the couch. Also, I’m crushing on probably half of the Terrace population and secretly wish I could be as cool as they are.
I LOVE TI SO MUCH I WILL HAVE ALL OF ITS CHILDREN ALWAYS. This may have something to do with the fact that usually I’m at TI at my most drunk, which is very drunk, and I’d probably have fun at precept at that level. But also I like that TI is actively un-douchey. In fact, I think TI is nice, but not the way Grandma’s nice—the way Owen Wilson is nice: nice to everyone but you still really want to be his best friend and just hang out for a while. I like how Domingo literally gives zero fucks and anyone who exerts a little effort can usually get inside, which means that inside there are legitimately millions of peopl. Also, even though I loathe dancing with every part of my sober body, the TI dance floor and drunk me get along super great, and boys even seem to agree, which is an A-plus occurrence to have happen. The only downside is how early it clears out some nights, when every one decides they’re going to go to Ivy and lounge against the wall and keep an artful smirk on their face.
I was in Tower once, to visit a friend who had just gotten picked up for Triangle and who was sending me texts like “WHXER R UUUU!!” and who, when I found him, was feasting on a Phat Lady and who let me eat like, half of it, which is probably my most transcendent drunk munchies moment to date. Other than that, I can’t really say I know much about Tower other than what my several theater-inclined friends tell me about it: they go a lot and really love it. But I can’t say, never having really spent more than ten minutes there.