As a doe-eyed, inexperienced baby pre-frosh, I imagined parties at Princeton in three ways:

A) The frat boy dream. Hordes of sweaty people dancing with the apparent intent of getting even sweatier. Muscle-bound econ majors doing keg stands while some poor lightweight pukes his third beer all over a pretty girl’s shoes.

B) Intoxicated geniuses spewing pretentiousness. Screams of, “Oh, no, I got a stain on my new Lilly Pulitzer.” People taking shots of hundred dollar vodka for every amendment to the Constitution they can’t quote verbatim.  

C) Nonexistent.

Unfortunately, my first night of frosh week did not immediately make the Princeton party culture clear to me — at least, not for the first two hours, while my roomie and I stood on Colonial’s front porch and waited for the bouncer to let us in. Although, those two hours did teach me something: drunk sophomore guys can be really annoying when they’re pretending they don’t know what “get in a line” means.    

My memories of the last few weeks — the nights out, not all the other cool (and also uncool, let’s be real) freshman experiences — could be summed up in a series of snapshots: slipping on a beer-soaked dance floor; some guys pissing in a fireplace about half a foot away from my jacket; the sloppy, fluorescent scrawl of “WINTER IS CUMMING” on Quad’s basement wall. That last one seemed way too witty at 1 a.m.

But looking back, I’ve come to feel that the weirdest thing I’ve seen on the Street was the very first thing I encountered — the bouncer. That’s certainly not “22 Jump Street” prepared me for. I mean, who told the eating clubs that they were actually New York’s hottest dance spots?  

This goes doubly for the clubs that proudly assert themselves as “pass only.” We’re a month into school, and I’m still not convinced that Ivy isn’t all just an elaborate hoax. 

As I’ve begun to feel a little less lost here in college (or, at least, as I’ve become able to get to class without using Google Maps), I’ve come to the realization that party culture at Princeton is a little bit of A, a little bit of B, and a whole lot of needless exclusivity. It’s people on the meme page joking about never getting into Cap. It’s our one friend-who-has-a-friend-who-knows-some-upperclassmen glumly waving goodbye as she goes where the rest of us cannot follow. 

What’s perhaps even more irritating is that fact that it’s all completely self-aware. I’ve never been to a place that is so fully understanding of its own systemic social hierarchy. Or so proud of it. 

This past weekend, one of my lovely new friends made a solemn oath never to go to any party that you need a pass to enter. I’m inclined to follow her.

(And yes, feel free to call me out on this when I turn into a hypocritical upperclassman.) 

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