At some point in our lives, parties were fun. It may have been around the age of nine or ten, when birthday parties involved weekends and presents and board games and cake with about an inch and a half of incredibly sugary, pure white frosting. Or it might have been fifteen or sixteen, when parties meant lying to your parents and hanging out in some basement for hours upon hours of what was, in retrospect, particularly inane conversation. Maybe your party timeline is different than mine. I think it must be–after all, everyone has a different moment enlightening the joy of the social. At one point, you experience bliss from spending precious, exuberant time with people whom you don’t know very well. And at some point, you realize that all you want is to spend time with the people whom you do know well.
The University of Chicago has been called the place where fun comes to die. We don’t really know who first named it as such, but many of us propagate this notion ourselves. We can’t help it. I’ve had fun here, but not the same kind that my friends at other college seem to value most. And when I do have fun, it’s often not within the context of the UofC. There is plenty going on in Hyde Park, but the bitter shadow of the Regenstein Library and the fact that most so-called “fun” things begin to repeat themselves ad nauseum by the end of one’s second year in the neighborhood means that the UofC can turn into a place that is concretely un-fun quite quickly.
The truth of the matter is that Hyde Park feels very isolated. Even early on, the University system presents problems. Dorms are far away from one another, and while residential houses can be tight social units, it is usually only unto themselves. For most people, frat parties lose their novelty after a period of time. While it’s quite refreshing to see the wasted kids from a first-year Core class talking about Dante on the stairwell at Phi Delt, this kind of random, lubricated social interaction loses its luster after the third or fourth stumble down the steps. Talking about what circle of Hell every student belongs in stops being charmingly witty and starts getting clichÃ© and staid. A visiting friend from another school told me when I took her to a party, “Everyone here just assumes that because I know who Kant is, I want to talk about moral philosophy.” Although I think she sells the UofC a little bit short (I also think talking about moral philosophy can be fun, but this is probably a personal flaw), there is an accuracy to this particular form of insult. We can replace not having anything to say to each other with conversations about books like nobody else.
I don’t mean to imply that students at the University of Chicago can’t have fun. In small groups of good friends, evolved fun is readily available. But somewhere between pretension and groping, there exists a lovely middle ground that most parties in Hyde Park eventually fail to provide. At a certain point, social networks congeal, and we find ourselves at the same kind of parties with the same kind of people weekend after weekend. These people are not really our friends; we just run in the same circles. And while getting absurdly drunk around one another so we can actually loosen up enough to converse is entertaining every so often, when it happens time and time again, we have to ask ourselves: why exactly are we spending our free time with these people? College is about growing up. And maybe the death of “fun” is sort of a good thing.