September 12, 2008. My first Friday night at Deerfield. At 8 o’clock, the girls in my dorm started getting ready––scrounging closets, applying makeup, blow-drying hair. This part felt familiar. I started to get excited, “Where are we going?” I asked. Newly-released movies, parties, and football games come to mind.
In reality, we were getting hyped up to visit some “cool hang out spot” called the Greer. The name sounded a little odd to me. I assumed the place went under the “party” category on my list. After we walked there, I soon dubbed the Greer the most absurd “party” I’d ever been to. Hoards of students from all grades packed into close circles—the epitome of an awkward situation, with nothing to help me relax.
Nine months later, I have begun to understand the Deerfield dynamics. Instead of football games (which I couldn’t believe are played in daylight!), student fans flock to hockey games or lacrosse games. I guess you could say hockey is basically the same entertainment: hanging out in the freezing cold, standing on a bleacher, and screaming while boys slam into each other.
However, Deerfield hockey fans possess the one thing my school always lacked—spirit. Walking with a hot chocolate in my hands, I could feel the energy radiating from the cheerleaders and students cheering on their feet for the players and actually watching the game. While set up in the same way, our football games at home were merely blurry foregrounds with social hour as the main event.
At home, our water polo team is nationally ranked. Along with this success came the “water polo bros” and their chlorine-bleached hair, Speedos, and bro sessions. With its lax-flow hair, pinnies, and brotherly love, I’ve found lacrosse at Deerfield to parallel water polo in California. Praised at school meeting for beating Hotchkiss, they all stood up together in the first two rows. Deerfield’s water polo team won New England Championships this year for the second time in a row; why doesn’t its presence on campus loom as large?
Along with Deerfield’s culture comes the list of strange vernaculars. When I heard some guy “sniped” a freshman at the Disco, I assumed he attempted to kidnap her. “Gaming” was a similar situation—I couldn’t grasp what kind of “game” all these guys liked to play. Someone once called my friend “dope.” How was that a compliment? Also, “brute” has been transformed to an adjective. Is it so hard to add one more syllable to make “brut-al”? I guess the West coast vernacular is composed similarly. At least our words make sense—“hella sweet.”
Dancing in New England is considered “grinding.” I imagine stiff sheets of sandpaper rubbing against each other. It makes sense, since students do cause a lot of friction during “Sandstorm.” In California terms, we call our dancing “freaking.” Not a very appealing name either, although California dances do possess a more insane and wild vibe.
With all of these adjustments to make, it’s been an exhausting year adapting to Deerfield culture. I attribute the large number of dances to the lack of off-campus activities available. Unless you are a day student, leaving campus requires effort and spending. Students at Deerfield can’t grab the keys and escape to the nearest Starbucks or country club hot tub.
Some resort to parietals on weekend nights. Parietals remain an obscure concept to me; 18-year-olds ask permission to be in a room with someone of the opposite sex during a specific time slot. Our school questions the strained relationships between genders while enforcing rules which automatically segregate us.
However, despite Deerfield’s restrictions, the boarding school life offers conformity and unity. Dorm life enhances the atmosphere of all relationships within the community. Constantly surrounded by friends, we adapt and grow increasingly aware of each other’s needs, habits, and routines. We willingly sacrifice time for those who become our second family.
At the same time, this pleasant harmony clashes with exclusiveness. Cliques are dominant. Take walk-through meals—most students consistently sit with close friends. I admit that, if it weren’t for sit-down meals, I wouldn’t have met nearly half the student body.
Yes, cliques are a natural result of spending time with those with whom you feel comfortable. At home, groups of friends are still prominent, but there are less distinct lines as to who belongs. During lunch, I would mingle with a range of groups. An advantage of not living in a dorm is greater independence—fewer separate groups and more chances to socialize outside of the boundaries.
It’s clear that dissimilar environments result in distinguishable social atmospheres. But no matter which U.S. coast, type of school, or sport, we are all teenagers growing up with plenty of hormones, social obligations, and “hella dope” friends.