Who among us seasoned Duke students doesn’t look fondly back upon their New Devil Days experience? Well, some of us weren’t actually there. But! For the rest of us, few Duke memories are as sweet as that weekend, so filled with anxious smiles shyly budding with the spring blossoms, names exchanged with all the hopeful reticence of new lovers, roommates carefully selected with the rich subtlety and depth of whatever internalized biases you happened to hold.
And of course, the drinking.
If a Duke class can be said to have a collective moment of birth, of creation, few candidates are as compelling a choice for that moment than the first night of NDD, when campus unites in that cherished Duke pastime: consumption of alcohol (and sundry other substances, contingent on your mettle and the property taxes associated with your high school) with a vigor that is as immoderate as it is communal.
But this year marks a tragic loss for this time-honored tradition: due to the novel coronavirus, New Devil Days is canceled. And so, instead of drinking in a room full of sweaty strangers desperately trying to remember an SAT word to use in conversation because they think that’s what Duke parties involve, this year’s crop of bright-eyed young P-Frosh should simply stay at home and drink alone. They might still try to use an SAT word.
A newcomer to the nuanced culture our fine university boasts might wonder why a newly admitted member of the Class of 2024 would choose to drink alone when they could not drink at all. Perhaps, the hypothetical newcomer wonders, the incoming student would be better served by engaging in some other stereotypically Duke-ish activity, such as stem cell research, reading the complete works of Chekhov in the original Russian or stealing candy from a baby because its clothes are too light a tint of blue. As a rising senior who’s seen Duke students engage in all three of these activities, at times simultaneously, allow me to clarify. Listen up.
The entirety of Duke culture is fundamentally motivated by two factors: students’ deep-seated FOMO, and a need to endlessly consume in order to fill the hole that being in a gifted program instilled in us all in elementary school.
Incidentally, these two motivating factors at once explain our frighteningly high consulting recruitment rate as well as the popularity of Shooters, despite the steep spiritual and physical hazards associated with both.
For better or worse, Duke students, even the new ones, will drink. Because everyone’s doing it, because consumption is apotheosis. And on game days, because of a stubborn, unreasoning belief that if we crack open enough ‘claws, the flood of gently flavored alcoholic seltzer will wash the damn tarheels all the way to hell.
If this all sounds stupid, misguided, or unnervingly medically dangerous to you, know that you’re definitely right. And try to glimpse the gravity of delaying the Class of 2024 its baptism in cheap malt liquor.
And so we mourn. We mourn for the frat house, floor blanketed in a sticky inch of mingled glitter, vomit, saliva, various types of spilled beverage and Natty Light. We mourn for the frat brothers, who will have neither young male frosh to threaten to kick out from their houses nor young female frosh to threaten to let in. And we mourn for President Pincent Vrice, who will lose his annual opportunity to lift his fifth glass of Johnnie Walker Blue to his moistened lips, glance tipsily over tortoiseshell rims, and say in response to his onlooking golden-doodles’ concerned frowns: “Hey, all the kids are doing it.”
For now, the Class of 2024 will have to pour their Aristocrat alone, solaced only by the fact that they have an extra few months to bone up on SAT words.
And the rest of us, as strange as these days of crisis feel, can look forward to the moment during O-Week when a P-frosh describes their condition after seven consecutive Fireball shots as “crapulous.” And we’ll be home.
Rihim Smellamkonda is a Trinity junior who, in theory, supports healthy drinking habits.
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