Sex and the Ivy

A Retrospect

Filed under: Blogging, Life — Elle January 10, 2009 @ 6:27 am

I’m starting out 2009 the way I started out 2008: in the beautiful Alps, minus one sex scandal, plus one gorgeous man and his cute pup.

If you asked me last January how I felt about the upcoming year, I probably would’ve kicked you in the face. I was naked on the Internet (literally and figuratively), lying to my mother, and dating out of spite. I spent the holidays calling police departments in three different cities and crying hysterically in airports. In what can only be accurately described as a “total breakdown”, I killed Sex and the Ivy, retreated from campus, and ran off to Switzerland with two of my best girlfriends to have recuperative sex and ponder my lack of future career options.

Then for six spectacular months, I lived in constant elation (because I was falling in love with Patrick) and constant fear (because I thought my best friend was going to off herself).

Now, I’m cohabitating in a Beacon Hill one-bedroom with less closet space than my previous dorm. I’ve shed the 20 pounds I gained in freshman year, but not my freshman year friends, who have long outlasted the fairweather acquaintances from my partying days. My flakiness as a student has me on academic probation until fall, but my mom is — against all odds — not freaking out, since I’ve finally come clean about the last two years of my life. And now that Wall St. has been virtually wiped out, my friends are actually jealous that I have an entire extra 12 months to figure out my life, since it’s not like going corporate is an option for anyone anymore — sex bloggers or not. But though I might seem incredibly unemployable according to my Google search results, I still managed to land a completely legitimate non-profit job that I happen to love. Who would’ve thought that graduating later would actually be a sanity-saving move? Who would’ve thought that I actually developed marketable skills from my blogging experience?

Like I wrote back in March, about a month after Patrick and I started dating, “I’ve moved on.” I grew up and grew out of the blog that defined so much of my time at Harvard. In some ways, I’ve grown out of Harvard. When I return, I think I’ll feel much less like a student and much more like a person who studies (and hopefully there will be lots of studying, since I do need to graduate). Despite the occasionally traumatizing consequences, I’ll never regret my decision to write this blog, because now I have undeniable proof that writing is worth it. I wanted my experiences, fuck-ups and all, to resonate with people. I wanted to not feel so alone despite being the only Harvard kid I knew to admit that I sometimes hated this place we were supposed to be so proud of. I wanted to be sure again, the way I was at 8, at 12, at 16, of what I wanted to do in life.

Freshman year, I was a small fish from a small pond, too naive to be anything but impressed by the money and prestige of my Ivy League peers. I drank straight from vodka bottles and forgot myself in a riot-proof dorm in the Yard. Every day since then has been about remembering. Thanks to the two years I devoted to this blog and the year I spent not writing it, not only do I finally recall the girl I used to be, but I think I now know who I want to become.

Where It Stood, Where It Stands

Filed under: Depression, In Retrospect, Life, Morning Afters — Elle December 28, 2007 @ 7:51 pm

First off, check out this Sex and the Ivy-related point and counterpoint on Gadfly, a blog written by “a bunch of people who went to Harvard and now have many opinions.” Full disclosure: I am acquainted with both writers and the author of the defense is my very tall and Canadian hubby on Facebook, though I assure you there was no prodding on my part.

Second, I’m too busy with papers and writing projects to write a proper entry, so here is a piece I wrote a little over a year ago about the last time I came apart at the seams. It is very fitting for the current situation, but I dare say that I am doing better this time around than the last. (Well, at least I’m not completely ignoring my friends.)

“At a place where everyone delivers without fail, how do you tell people you just can’t deal?

On Thursday evening, I had my life under control. I went to office hours. I went to makeup sections. All my assignments were done. My TFs didn’t hate me. My iCal was organized. My email had under 100 messages. I changed into a cute outfit to kick off the weekend. I saw Vix for coffee. I made my dinner date with Nate. I met HN and Rody at the Fogg, followed by a gay mixer at the law school with CK. I boozed and schmoozed and met lovely people. Someone called me “fabulous.” Life, around 10pm, was pretty fabulous.

Flash forward several hours to Friday morning. I woke up hungover, topless, and missing a few crucial memories from the previous night — namely, the violent outburst that rocked Mather’s thin walls. By noon, I pulled myself together … mostly because I had to. I saw my therapist. I made it to mentoring. I met my committee at Toscanini. I had dinner with JB. I went to Death Cab. I came home to a party, drank generously, and then called it an early evening after the subject of my aforementioned tirade called it quits for the fifth time in as many weeks.

I was piss drunk and pissed off. By 4 a.m. I was also awake, answering the first text message I paid attention to all night since passing out. I should’ve slept past it, not called back, not answered the door, or for that matter not done a whole series of things leading to a monumental error in judgment.

Since then, I’ve been dropping the ball on basically everything. I have not really left my dorm room at all — not for work or class or meetings. Cumulative time spent outside of Mather since Saturday night? Four hours. Four non-Mather hours in four freaking days.

My goal is to get my life back on track by tomorrow evening. Starting with class today.”

– “Day Four” November 8, 2006

Several of my friends have expressed pretty serious concerns about my, uh, mental state, so here’s an update: I wrote my therapist Anna a very lengthy email last night, basically saying that I only have about a week left at home and I need to stop fixating on everything that’s arisen and concentrate on my work (plenty that I’m behind on) and actually go out with my friends. I think even my mother is a bit alarmed by the fact that I’ve more or less stayed in bed for a week. It’s not crippling depression; I think I’m just really … tired. It takes a lot out of you to get angry at someone, to get over being angry, to get angry all over again at someone else, and then to get over that. And that doesn’t even take into account the horrendous bureaucratic maze I’ve had to make my way through in terms of police and lawyers, etc. All in all, the past few days have been altogether draining (additionally so because of another unexpected, unneeded crisis that erupted on Christmas night).

It’s also really frustrating because the people who best understand the insanity that’s been going on are my friends from school, specifically my blockmates, who are all over the place. I’ve been calling Tiffanie nonstop because we’re in the same time zone (she lives in Irvine) and this isn’t really healthy. Even my ex-boyfriend from high school told me the other night to shift my mindset and pay attention to what’s in front of me, not what’s thousands of miles away. “When you’re home, you should leave everything you have going on in the East Coast on the East Coast,” he told me. And that’s fair, though I feel in this situation, it’s an impossible request to ask of me, since I can’t reasonably divorce my thoughts from the people or the events or the relationships that have all changed quite dramatically over the holidays. The timing sucks. I’m not coming home again until June at the soonest and I can’t even devote myself completely to California.

In any case, I lack the emotional and mental energy to really be productive. On the bright side, I finally have time again, which is nice so I guess I just need to get my mind somewhere peaceful. I am finishing crucial forms at the moment, trying to concentrate on papers, and embarking on a first step toward a potentially great project. I am only beginning now to return all the emails I received last weekend, so if I have yet to get to yours, my apologies.

I don’t know when or if I’ll blog again about anything significant until mid-January nor do I really want to write about any of my current romantic interests. There are a couple guys I’m casually seeing (or like five, haha, depending on who you ask and whether you count non-Bostonians) but I haven’t discussed the blog extensively with any of them nor do I care enough to write about them or even ask if I could write about them. I’ve been going at a snail’s pace with guys lately and been altogether reserved (sexually and definitely emotionally). I’m really excited about one person in particular , but … I don’t know. I don’t think I’m opening up very well for someone who plans on making a career out of introspection. I guess I’m just really caught up in being me and dealing with my issues without anyone’s help. Even writing to my therapist was a HUGE leap and her job is to help. Relationships require that you let the other person in. In a way, having a ton of drama that none of my friends or family can fix for me has made me more determined to forge ahead on my own and it is very hard to revert back to my old mindset. I guess we’ll see.

Honesty & Rage: Part I

Filed under: Blogging, Life, Mental Health — Elle November 7, 2007 @ 4:56 am

So about the whole well-adjusted approach to junior year thing? Yeah, not so much.

I’m beginning to realize that I still have a ton of unresolved anger from the last 365 days and I’m not quite sure how (or if) I should let go of it. So I’m just going to be honest about what is pissing me off, even though nowadays, I’m really vague and impersonal here (obviously, a reason for this, but fuck that). There are two major issues and I’m going to talk about one tonight, leaving the other for another PMS-y evening.

So Sex and the Ivy fucked up my sophomore experience in a lot of ways, but mostly, it came down to the fact that I had little to no privacy even when I was off-line. People were (and still are!) incredibly intrusive, sometimes in extremely disrespectful ways, and I basically broke down from the initial shock of being recognized and approached while going about my daily life at Harvard. I know that it seems like I asked for the attention, putting up a public blog and all, but ask my friends and any reporter who’s ever interviewed me: I already kept an online diary previously and this was just another journal; it wasn’t supposed to blow up the way it did. And though anyone who knows me will agree that I’m totally dramatic, no one will say that I exaggerated the consequences of the website. I definitely wasn’t driven to therapy because it was trendy. I needed it to cope!

Just so you kind of get where I’m coming from, a sampling of what I had to deal with last year:

* Identities of guys being revealed by total strangers who had Facebook-searched them to death.

* Having my personal information repeatedly posted on Being approached at Lamont. Lacking library-related privacy in general.

* Routinely introducing myself as “Lena” to people who responded with “I know.”

* Getting trash-talked by people who did not know me in front of people who did know me. (Um, hello. I do go to this school. What makes you think I don’t find out about this shit?)

* Being accosted by a drunken idiot at Red Party who followed me and yelled in my face “SEX AND THE IVY. TRUE OR FALSE?” about six times while I tried to escape a post-party mob.

* Being accosted by drunken Yalies at Harvard-Yale.

* Come to think of it, being accosted at parties in general. More or less, every time I went out and was in the presence of alcohol/drunk people.

* Having an actual stalker. (This was basically the low-light of the year.)

* In addition to being called a whore, slut, disgrace to Harvard/Asian/all women; having my family attacked. Like when people make accusations against my father for sexual abuse, because that is clearly the only explanation for my idiosyncrasies.

The fact that I had such a terrible experiences with people disrespecting my privacy means that I became extra paranoid and protective about it. Even now, I still occasionally flip out over privacy issues, though usually no longer my own. As a general rule, I don’t ever use real names on the page, unless the person is a public figure a la Julia or Rachel. I try to treat others’ reputation with as much delicacy as possible, which is why I never “out” anyone, not even the guys who turn out to be assholes deserving of public condemnation. So when I have overzealous readers come up to me and declare that they’ve figured out via random pieces of information that Aidan’s real name is _____ _____, I kind of flip the fuck out. Now granted, Aidan specifically was a lot easier to figure out by virtue of my lack of care in the early blogs, but he’s not the only person whose identity has been compromised. It pisses me off, because I don’t think that who these guys are in real life is that significant. It has no bearing on how people should view my writing or my representation of the relationship. Plus, revealing some identities would actually ruin lives, and it’s ridiculous that there are people curious or malicious enough to dig that deep.

Recently, I was interviewed by a person who I was POSITIVE had an agenda in revealing someone I was previously involved with. It seriously takes something huge to get me riled up nowadays, and this incident left me completely pissed because it wasn’t just my own name on the line. In retrospect, I think I really misjudged the situation, and I probably overreacted (though my friends definitely agreed with me at the time). But I couldn’t help it. We couldn’t help. I’ve been so used to having my privacy routinely disrespected that I automatically assumed the worst.

Along the same lines, I am immediately disinterested in people who are interested in my blog. My social circle has closed in dramatically over the past year because I don’t trust most people, their intentions, or their preconception of me. Considering the number of people I have met from just getting approached, you’d think that I’d be BFFs with a third of the school. The reality is that Rody and a couple sophomores are the only people who have ever made the jump from readers to friends and they happened very early on last fall before the minor breakdown, etc.

This year, I’m totally fine discussing my website and usually gracious about questions, but depending on my mood, I can be more or less receptive to being approached in public. I can understand why someone might want to strike up a convo about my website, but if they don’t know me (or know a good friend of mine who did an introduction), the appropriate forum is email, not coming up to me while I’m grinding with someone on a Saturday night. That’s just really awkward. For both of us.

An example, from this weekend while I was at a party:

Random Guy: “Hey, you’re Lena Chen!”

Me: “Uh, yeah.”

Random Guy: “You had that discussion with that conservative lady, right?”

[me thinking: if by "conservative lady" you mean my friend Janie Fredell, sure!]

Random Guy: “Well, I want you to know that I’m all for your side!”

Me: “That’s … great.”

Random Guy could’ve meant one of two things: 1) he’s all for sex, or 2) he’s all for me having sex. Both of those things are extremely awkward. I don’t need to know either of those things. Thus, the second he left, I turned to my friend (who I had been grinding prior to this awkward exchange) and said: “Got recognized. Night’s over. Time to go!”

Which is a pretty good reflection of how my entire sophomore social experience worked. Got recognized, declared the night over, and went home. See how this whole blog thing might have been a little intrusive upon my college experience?

Quickies: Piercings, Tweets, & Philly

Filed under: Life, Quickies, Rody — Elle November 5, 2007 @ 11:47 pm

Fantastic sushi and ice cream-filled weekend, which — save for a bout of PMS — could not have been much better. And I didn’t even drink! So a few tidbits on the week:

* Spent Saturday night in gay gay company — as in both merry and homosexual. Saw Rody (whose campus presence I miss dearly), danced on tables a la Paris, and spent the better part of the evening shamelessly and publicly sucking face with an old friend, also a junior. He asked me, “Lena Chen, why don’t we make out more often?” Um, because I have a vagina?

* Just found my BCBG dress online in black and gold. It is always so weird to see a clothing item I think there’s only one version of in a completely different color palette. Thankfully, I prefer my version.

* I have a craving for another piercing, but I should probably wait this desire out. My right nipple is fully healed from early September, but the navel has been giving me some major issues. (Gross details ahead!) Last week, I had to actually re-pierce myself. The morning after a hookup, I found the piercing closed because the jewelry had come off during the night. So I made the boy wait in my bedroom while I took a sterilized needle to the bathroom and pierced the closed openings with it. Egh!

* Interesting article in the Times this Sunday about Twitter, my new “micro-blogging” addiction. The piece mentions (in a sketchy we-didn’t-interview-you way) my pal Julia who’s basically live-blogging her life at this point. If you have a short attention span and love interconnectivity, sign up for Twitter and follow me on the site. I find it highly amusing and have it synced with my mobile so I get other people’s updates throughout the day.

* Picked up a kubatan at an army surplus store on Newbury St. over the weekend. I left my pepper spray in New York and I’m going to Philadelphia this weekend so I figure I better get armed. I tried to inquire about tasers but apparently they’re illegal. Hm.

* Official details for the weekend excursion. Friday afternoon: New York, Friday evening to Sunday morning: Philly, Sunday afternoon: New York, Sunday night: Boston . Greyhound, all the way. 15 hours on the bus, $50 total travel expenses. Staying with the fab Jessica Gold.

* Last but not least, the writer’s strike is on, bitches. Pals in the industry, hang steady.

Molecules of (Social) Life

Filed under: Life — Elle October 31, 2007 @ 10:35 pm

I’m seriously going to fail the Science B-47 midterm if I don’t start studying already and stop Twittering, emailing, and fucking around with this site (which broke around 6 p.m. EST if anyone was paying attention). I’m currently sitting on my numb-because-of-gym-bootcamp ass tonight instead of going out trick-or-treating. Consider the posted photo of me as “Chinkerbell” my blurry, unflattering attempt at festivity. Cannot wait for my weekend to start tomorrow evening.

The American Repertory Theatre’s stage adaptation of Donnie Darko is playing at the Zero Arrow Theatre in Harvard Square. Tonight was opening night and ZAP gave it raaave reviews (I’m sure the hors d’oevres biased him). Is anyone interested in catching this show with me? I’m pretty sure the only other people who might be interested — Terra and Sue — have already seen it or have made plans to.

Besides, I need to celebrate the end of my midterms tomorrow with something other than “Cardio Kicks” at Hemenway (post-exam exercise is so much better than a nap). Zero Arrow Theatre is right smack in between Terra and Sue’s apartment and Berry Line, my favorite frozen yogurt place. Can someone say perfect date + meet the roommates?

Also, I was too late in registering for the tickets to TechCrunch Boston again. So frustrating! I check Google Reader all day specifically so that I won’t miss stuff like this, but today I happened to be in section for Molecules of Life and thus was actually paying attention ’cause you know I do have an exam tomorrow and everything. There’s going to be one more round of tickets in early November, and I don’t care who I have to murder to get my hands on them. (Already missed PodCamp last weekend so there’s no way I’m not going to this.)

Wish me luck. By noon tomorrow, I’ll have my life back.

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