Ah, To Be Young And In Love
This piece has been written by Anonymous. [Author’s note: This is in no way intended to be an indictment of law school relationships or patterns of behaviour. It is merely intended to be a social commentary on a law school phenomenon which I’ve observed over the course of my school run. It is, however, not a work of fiction, and characters, events, and incidences are not the product of the author’s imagination and not used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons (living, semi-living, or going through a history course) or actual events is not coincidental.]
On 1st July every year, those of us who made it through the Russian Roulette of CLAT the brightest young minds of our generation walk through the hallowed portals of our Harvard of the East. They will be greeted by a host of seniors waiting to pass on gyaan, “PI”/take a trip out of them or hit on them. A week later, they will be all indoctrinated into our sacred culture of forced alcoholism and a lucky few will be selected for female impersonation. A day later, they will face NLS’ favourite ritual – a communal sharing of knowledge in an eager-to-learn atmosphere, where students are encouraged to ask questions and hypothesise based on limited factual information prone to constant fluctuation: no, not Eco I – gossip.
In later years, most people slowly start to shrink away from the limelight, and actively try to be as less talked about as possible. However, in the first year, gossip acts as a double-edged sword. First-year exploits either grant you a cult status, or get you the tag of a BT person; a player, or a hoe; as a guy who does “trip” things while drunk, or as someone who can’t handle their alcohol; as a boring pin-up, or a slut. Where you fall on these spectrums plays a part in determining your social life (if any) on campus and its reaction towards you.
Now it’s no secret that NLS doesn’t exactly foster the friendliest atmosphere. We love to outwardly pretend that we’re a premier institution with the brightest learning atmosphere, with a competitive peer group which only encourages academic rigour, because what would we be without competition? Jindal? Even inside NLS’ confines, we’re hesitant to disclose that in fact, it’s not all sunshine and daisies. We’re taught right from the moment we enter law school that we need to succeed at everything, EVERYTHING. And that includes not just academically, but personally and romantically as well. From the beginning of the first year, we’re fed the idea of finding a significant other, and in the days leading to quad parties, with the constant notion of having to get action.
Let’s take a look at our system of PI, which includes the naming of your “Top 5”. It’s not a hard reach to say that this pretty much is an open forum for seniors to either pressurise juniors into either going after persons named, or getting a window of opportunity to go after certain juniors. In the run-up to Freshers, the constant underlying theme to the event is one of, to put it crudely in MHOR lingo, “action toh mil gaya”. First years are regaled with tales of quad parties past, and thus the indoctrination deepens. The post quad party (#RipQPs #Never4Get) ritual is one of intense scrutiny and deep analysis of the hookups of the past night.
This indoctrination extends much beyond the initial months of law school. Some often heard choice phrases I’ve encountered floating around here are ”you’re not relevant in law school if you’re not dating/doing someone”; “He hasn’t hooked up/dated after their breakup, clearly he’s still in love with his ex”; “even THEY managed to hook up with someone at this quad party, and you still can’t?”; “Did you know that X cheated on Y with Z? I don’t know who but someone was discussing it at the mess table lol”; “They hang out too much to be just friends, they’ll end up being a scene”; “You’re in second year and you still haven’t dated? Bro I lost my virginity in first year itself”. Gossiping is, no doubt, NLS’ favourite hobby, and is the channel through which our hookup culture is promoted and revered. This line of gossip, in specific, cultivates the dangerous idea that you necessarily have to be romantically involved, or have a “scene” in law school.
And I could go on and on about law school trends, events, and circumstances, which on a first look, may not be a direct outcome of this dangerous line of thinking that we’re fed, but with a little reflection, definitely are. I’ve seen first years obsessed with the idea of the NLS Ball (with a fervour which is often only reserved for events like Univ Week) – about finding dates, and scared of not being asked, and sad about not being asked. I’ve seen guys pressurised into having to maintain a player narrative about themselves – to be seen as a chill and cool guy – because hey, we all know that commitment ain’t cool and you gotta hang out with your bros and continue to engage in casual locker room trash talk while getting drunk at night, even as you WokeBoi your way through life when you’re with your girl and her friends. I’ve seen people rushing into relationships within the first trimester of law school. I’ve seen people throwing themselves into relationship after relationship, or, alternatively, staying in relationships they might not want to be in because they have no idea what law school would be like without the other person/with them being single.
It’s like dating/hooking up is the norm and not doing so is an aberration. Not dating? Oh you must of course get on Tinder then – that’s the default option. Don’t want to? Too bad lol, you’re reluctantly going to end up with an account anyway, only for random people to take screenshots of your bio and circulate it. And what if you’re asexual? Good luck with that. Law school makes wanting to be single/wanting to not hook up seem like a bad thing, which is funny, given how toxic our pool is, from what we’ve seen of October 2018. And like any facet of law school culture, try as you might to ignore it, or rationalise it, not participating in the culture still gets to you. I’ve often caught myself thinking should I just do it and get over with it? But who am I trying to prove a point to? My ex? College? Myself? The ever-growing void of dread in my mind that says no one will ever love me again? Whoops sorry, that got a little too real.
When you’re so widely fed this notion of having to date, you could find yourself being increasingly dependent on the idea of a significant other as the be-all-end-all, and as your sole anchor in the murky waters of law school. Not only is this an unrealistic burden to place on someone, but it also makes you overlook the red flags because the alternatives of cultivating relationships with other people, or learning to be alone, just seem so much worse. The whole culture of being either with someone or looking for someone makes it even harder to not relapse back into or rebound from familiar patterns, even for those who manage to get out of them. Daniel Sloss put it best when he said that we have romanticised the idea of romance, and it is cancerous. We’re so terrified by the idea of being alone, that some of us will take the wrong person, the wrong jigsaw piece, and jam them into our jigsaw puzzle anyway, denying that it may not fit, because we’d rather have something than nothing.
You might wonder what the point of this rant is – is there really such a problem with our gossip culture and aggressively pro-romantic/sexual relationship culture? I think there is. Don’t get me wrong – I think college is a great time and place to freely explore sexual and romantic relationships. But it’s just as important to recognise that more often than not, college may also be the first time doing so for a lot of people. This, coupled with a lack of open conversations, sex education, understanding of consent, and healthy realistic role models for young couples in popular media means that this atmosphere and culture in college fundamentally moulds how we treat our relationships, whether we choose to experiment, with whom and under what circumstances, and what we set as benchmarks for ourselves and our partners. And because we’re so impressionable when we enter, and the years spent here change us so much, it’s all the more important that we carefully look at the culture we inadvertently cultivate and how it can be a healthier, happier, safer space.
Besides, guys, we’re all young! We’ve got places to go, shit to do, people to meet, history projects to write (#SaveOurSecondYears), internships to have our souls sucked out at, feelings of existentialism and imposter syndrome in law school to cry at – we’ve got our whole lives ahead of us to agonise about all this (and probably with the concerned prods of our parents as well, in a few years), so we could probably do with a little more chilling out, and a little less pressure on ourselves right now.
 While both of these are not the same concept, they have been used together in this article because of the common causes and consequences (as elaborated in this article – validation, desire to experiment, alienation, dependency, pressures, and the like) of getting into them, and the fact that one is often a segue into, or is a semblance of the other. Plus, in the outside world of Actual Adults, we’re often fed the notion of True Love being the endgame (#ripTony #never4get) through pop culture, movies, TV shows, Cosmo – you get the picture – and this colours our idea of relationships and/or leads to mounting pressures through our 20s.
Or, maybe we’re all just a bunch of sappy wusses who love projecting ourselves as pussy loving players on the outside, but on the inside just want someone to forehead kiss and cuddle us. 🙂