Rohit Khare (khare@w3.org)
Tue, 2 Sep 1997 00:27:24 -0400 (EDT)

Earlier this evening, I had occasion to recap some of my summer's ups
and downs to an unFoRKed FoRK (yes, there are a few...)

Upon rereading, it sounded pretty melodramatic and overblown.

Yes, yes, I know what you're thinking, that is indeed how all Rohit
pieces are. Nolo contendere...

The "problem" was, I was succeeding at making my social life sound very,
very pathetic. While it certainly had gumdrops-and-sprinkles-on-icing
in the eventful department, what with TRAVELMAN's documented proclivites
and assorted romantic accidents of late, I contend that it's all frosting
and no cake.

Every few weeks, something entirely out-of-the-ordinary hits on
impulse, and I can ride that rush for a while: a houseguest, a trip
out of Boston, meeting a FoRKee face to face, a triumph at work, or a
new publication. In between, though, still lurks what was named five
thousand-odd posts ago: The Void Which Is Rohit's Social Life.

In between I live my (real) life alone: I eat alone, I study alone, I
go to movies alone, I drive alone, I gym alone, I shop alone, I sleep
alone. Email knits together my world instead. If I need to share good
or bad news, it's always a long distance call, usually back to
California. If I want to do any of the aforementioned activities with
anyone else, it requires planning: The few Bostonians I ever bothered
to befriend in my thirty months here are an unimpulsive lot, tied down
by distance, age, s.o.'s, marriage, kids, or an innate lonership (hi
Rajit!). Furthermore, I neglected a whole range of promising
introductions by complacently hanging onto my online community.

Peeling away the onion, the next most proximate cause is that I have
never had a peer group. In the modern Rohit era, since I left home for
colelge courses at 11 in 1986, I have constructed myself outside the
family through my achievements. Every significant friend I can
remember having has been older than I am. Not merely because I was two
years younger than my cohort: it was because even then I aimed above
my cohort.

That very first summer out, I signed up for a global geopolitics
course which was the most outre in the entire Hopkins catalog: the
rest of the entire class was 15-16, leftist kids wrapping up their
final CTY years. Yeah, I had fun, I *loved* dissecting the NYT every
morning and poring over my term project ripping apart the
by-then-obscure Carter-era Global 2000 report (in a later incarnation,
I would subvert _The Report From Iron Mountain_ the same way). But no,
I never figured out what summer camp was about, least of all the
Friday dances and field trips and the whole damn rest of it.

In high school, I hung out with the upperclasspeople from day one; I
remember trying to snag a lunch table with the co-captains of the math
team :-) By the time graduation rolled around, I was seemingly active
enough, running the school news paper and buzzing about the halls
unsupervised five of seven periods a day, but I barely knew anyone
left. I keep in touch with my former teachers far more than any but one
classmate; it all fell by the wayside.

At Caltech, it was grad students. Part of the reason I think I ditched
Ditch Day was that I feared that I knew I couldn't pull it off alone,
but that I hadn't/couldn't/wouldn't join any of the Lloyd teams,
either. As usual, I escaped on to the next rung, for no better reason
than I could. Same story since kindergarten...

Tonight has been Moving-In night around Boston. Traffic clogged at
every corner by moving vans and out-of-town parents, refuse clogging
the sidewalks. I myself have joined the homeless: everything I have
left in Boston is in the Bonneville this week.

At every turn, then, are clutches of young boys and girls giddy with
the high of newfound independence in the Big City. Clutches at every
restaurant table, cliques at every theater, tag teams across the mall
in identically labeled plumage.

I started to miss that: to reminisce how I felt, perhaps even back
on my own first summer night at Harvard in 1990 -- and came to a
screeching halt. Because I didn't remember the group, just me.

Now, how self-centered is that? I hope you're not surprised: y'all
should be damned sure of that by now! :-)

Seriously, though: I have no idea how to make my way in the world of
'small stuff' because I never have -- and fear I never will catch up.
True, the logistic intellectual growth curve will eventually level
off: sometime when I'm dead and buried in my 30's and 40's (2005-25,
for the easily amused), I'll be surrounded by my peers. For now,
escaping continues to offer non-answers. W3C was 30-somethings; MCI is
more seasoned still. Mind you, I'm glad to be a peer among such
distinguished colleagues, and to even call a few my friends. But
'colleagues' is precisely the catch: friendship founded on the mind,
animated in large measure precisely by the 'potential difference' in

[Of course, without having taken up an instrument, sport, consistent
debating position, or being innately cute (hi Henrik!), it's basically
my fault I'm not meeting people... The objective truth is that I'm
boring (because I aim so far above people's heads) and annoying (same).]

I don't know who I could possibly call at 9:30PM to say, "hey, let's
grab some Japanese noodles and watch the newbies get fleeced on
Newbury!". Worse yet, I don't know anyone *at all* who'd call me to
ask the same. That's another latent metric I haven't faced up to in my
relationships: I'm always the needy bastard, calling and writing and
cajoling. In my own mind, at least, I'm always martyring myself as
instigator (viz, the "host" comments in Re: Your Date). On my phone
bill, it seems to be objectively true, too.

FoRK is a damned good coping mechanism -- perhaps too good. Right now,
I'm venting my spleen, assured than I'll be heard even if I can't
ring up a single person in RL to hear me at this moment. I'm time- and
place-shifted out of my own body, and it feels GOOD! I don't have to
face the fact I'm the only person here on two floors of skyscraper.

And, natch, there's the next layer of the onion. An important reason I
don't have 'peer-friends' is all-too-unrealistic expectations. I
identified a simple cycle for my correspondent. Putting aside all the
psychological root causes, the observed fact is that I'm forever
repeating an overexcitement-disappointment-embarrassment/rejection
cycle. Result A: I haven't left any room in my life for the banal, the
'simple pleasures'. I'm shocked how much I'm enjoying walking to work
by the Charles each morning. Never done that. Probably won't :-)
Result B: I have developed a theology of swift, sure retribution to any
good in my life (a/k/a "the universe exists to mock Rohit").

Writing all this down makes me feel more secure in my conviction that
I am apart; that I'm not failing for lack of trying, I'm just not "a
popular taste", to quote some cherished Japanglish. Why I need to feel
better by feeling inhuman is another pathology entirely...

Thinking of all of you,

PS. Of coures, this may merely be my semiannual mood swing
talking. I'm beginning to perceive that I have a sunny and not-sunny
cycle. The same kind of news I'm taking in relative stride and
discussing (relatively) dispassionately tonight would have destroyed
me totally last winter, or the winter before that. One more reason to
move back to California: I was only depressed post-birthday to
Feb/March instead of Oct-April :-)

There are a lot of things you can't learn from a guru, only your
peers. This is the Tech article that prompted me to write tonight:
(well, aside from the fact I couldn't cheat and just whine over the
phone to Adam or Ernie because they're out of town :-)


Insider Tips Hold Key to Fun, Healthy Drinking

Guest column by Michael Behr

I celebrated my 21st birthday this Thursday, which means that legally
I am now allowed to drink. That's not to say I didn't drink before
Thursday. One of the things all you freshman will discover at 12:01
a.m. Saturday morning is that if you want alcohol in college, it's
incredibly easy to get.

Wednesday, at Louisiana State University, a Sigma Alpha Epsilon pledge
died from alcohol poisoning, and a few brothers were hospitalized. See
how easy it can be?

In this column, I'm not going to tell you how bad alcohol is or why
you shouldn't drink. (People who know me would fall over laughing if I
did.) Actually, I think you should try alcohol sometime during your
college years, legally or not. College is for learning more than
you're taught in the classroom.

Learning to handle alcohol is something that you're going to have to
do eventually unless you run off to the woods and live as a hermit for
the rest of your life. It's best to learn these little life lessons in
a relatively safe environment, and MIT is a heck of a lot safer than
that big scary world out there. Just remember to exercise at least a
bit of common sense.

MIT people sometimes have a tough time with common sense, so here are
a few tips you might want to keep in mind.

Eat something: Everyone has heard this one. If you're planning to
drink, have some bread or fatty food in your stomach before you start
drinking. It slows the spread of alcohol to your system. Eating
afterwards is pointless at best, and at worst will upset your stomach.

If you want to make the next morning easier, drink some water before
you go to sleep. Hangovers are mostly dehydration caused by
alcohol. If you see someone vomiting, let them vomit until they stop
dry heaving. Forcing water or bread down their throat in between
heaves will just give them something to bring up. Once they've
stopped, have them sip water, or let them suck on ice cubes for a
while. And if they start turning blue, or feel cold to the touch, get
them to the Medical Center as soon as possible.

Know when to say when: The only times I've ever seen people get into
real trouble from drinking were when students who only started
drinking after 21 went drinking with friends who had been drinking for
years. The situation often runs like this: A couple of friends have a
few drinks, maybe do a couple shots together. Do you see where this is
going? Like most people, they recognize differences in alcohol
tolerance in the abstract, but when it comes to themselves in the
specific, they seem to have trouble. You really do have limits.

Take your time: Remember that it takes a while for alcohol to take
effect. If you feel a little buzzed right after a drink, you'll
probably feel a lot buzzed five minutes later. Try to remember that as
you put your glass down for a refill. You can drink a lot without
feeling the effect, and then all of a sudden it hits you.

Get up and walk around: When you're sitting around drinking, you often
don't realize just how far gone you really are. Get up and walk around
every so often. Drinking and dancing is a lot of fun, and it serves
the same purpose. On the other hand, if you've been drinking, and you
can't stand up, it's time to wish everyone good night.

People act weird: As the LSU student discovered, you can drink
yourself to death, and many people know firsthand that you can also
make yourself very ill. But alcohol can also change people's behavior
- both your own and others'.

Some people are happy drunks: a little bit of alcohol, and suddenly
they collapse in fits of giggling. Others become angry, and will try
to pick fights with anyone and anything that moves, even if they're
the sweetest, kindest people otherwise. After drinking, many
ordinarily reserved people throw themselves at prospective bedtime
partners. Actually, a lot of the time they drink in order to be able
to throw themselves at other people. And I don't need to mention all
those nasty evil people (and yes, they're really here at MIT) who are
more than willing to take advantage of the inebriated. There's no
rule of thumb here, just remember that people can act completely
differently after drinking.

Of course, most people will read this and forget it before the paper
has even dropped to the bathroom floor. Some things you have to learn
for yourself. But if bad things happen when you drink, and keep
happening, you really should sit back and ask yourself why.

With that, I wish you luck and bid you adieu. I'm off to have a drink.

This story was published on August 29, 1997.
Volume 117, Number 38.
This story appeared on page 4.