COUNTERPOINT the wellesley college journal of campus life september 2019 volume 53 issue 1
LETTER FROM THE EDITORS
Welcome back! We are so excited to embark on another year with you in the pages of this magazine. After a summer spent building sheds and strumming her guitar with high schoolers on the Navajo Nation (Cseca) and playing with lasers and seeing how many fans she could fit in a dorm room (Marina), we are ready to plunge back into Wellesley life. Some of us on Counterpoint staff are seniors in vehement denial about our impending graduation, while others are fresh-faced first-years who have just joined our vaguely subversive family. Some of us edit the words and others design the layout of these pages, and others do both—but we all love the work, and we all love you. This magazine would not exist without your contributions. One of our favorite things about Counterpoint is that we accept any article within our submission guidelines, allowing us to magnify voices from every corner of campus. This year, we are trying to vary our content and include even more of those voices by reaching out to more cultural orgs and students involved in campus affairs, from the housing crisis to the climate strike. As much as possible, we want to get a full picture of life at Wellesley—the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful. Whether you are involved in a campus event or simply want to share your thoughts with us, we would love for you to submit, however “unpolished” you think your writing may be. We want your voice in our magazine (as long as it’s not in the form of poetry—the lovely Wellesley Review can help you out there). After years of working towards receiving Guaranteed Percentage funding, we finally achieved this goal last spring. Being a GP organization means College Government recognizes us as an org that is essential to the entire student body. It also means we can put more issues in more hands, publish more articles, and most importantly, focus on the project at hand: creating a space where students can voice their opinions, concerns, musings, and dreams. We believe that writing matters, that art matters, and that making students’ creative work accessible to people is a worthy project. Words and images can change the world, and that change can start on this very campus. Whether you have submitted to our magazine many times or are reading your first issue, we are eternally grateful for your support. Never hesitate to reach out to us with an article, a suggestion, or a love note—you are what makes this magazine great. Thank you.
Cheers to another year, Cseca Gazzolo ’20 Marina Furbush ’21 Editors-in-Chief
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Images: Hee So Kim '23 (cover, Jessica Liu '23 (left)
E D I TO R I A L S TA F F Editors-in-Chief Managing Editors Features Editors Staff Editors
Francesca Gazzolo ’20 Marina Furbush ’21 Corinne Muller ’21 Vanessa Ntungwanayo ’21 Zaria George ’22 Seren Riggs-Davis ’21 Abby Schneider ’21 Cheryn Shin ’21 Sage Wentzell-Brehme ’21 Marney Wood ’21 Stella Ho ’22 Vivian Nye ’22 Parker Piscitello-Fay ’22 Sanjana Ramchandran ’22 Ava Yokanovich ’22 Sophie Bunnell ’23 Anna Calderon ’23 Taylor Garcia ’23 Wilson Haims ’23 Angelina Li ’23 Talia O'Shea ’23 Amish Rasheed ’23 Tori Stiegman ’23 Katharine Tracy ’23
COUNTERPOINT THE WELLESLEY COLLEGE JOURNAL OF CAMPUS LIFE SEPTEMBER 2019 Volume 53 / Issue 1
CAMPUS LIFE ANONYMOUS
DEAR OFFICE OF STUDENT HOUSING
EACH PATHWAY SINGS OF THE PEOPLE I LOVE
A R T S & C U LT U R E FRANCESCA GAZZOLO
I HATE LISTICLES
IDENTITY MAR BERRERA
D E S I G N S TA F F Layout Editors
Clara Brotzen-Smith ’23
F E AT U R E S
B U S I N E S S S TA F F
POLL: REMIX RITUALS
Website Manager Sage Wentzell-Brehme ’21 Stella Ho ’22
Publicity Chair Social Chair
Cheryn Shin ’21 Parker Piscitello-Fay ’22
Olivia Funderburg ’18, Allyson Larcom ’17, Hanna Day-Tenerowicz ’16, Cecilia Nowell ’16, Oset Babur ’15, Alison Lanier ’15, Kristina Costa ’09, Kara Hadge ’08
The magazine accepts non-fiction submissions that are respectful, are submitted with sufficient time for editing, and have not been published elsewhere. We encourage cooperation between writers and editors but reserve the right to edit all content for length and clarity. Email submissions, ideas, or questions to the Editors-in-Chief (fgazzolo or mfurbush). The views expressed in Counterpoint do not necessarily reflect the views of the magazine staff or the Wellesley community. Counterpoint does not solicit specific pieces from students, rather we publish the pieces that we receive each month and do our best to publish all appropriate submissions that we receive.
Dear Office of Student Housing Dear Office of Student Housing, I want to say you’re trying your best. I want to make excuses for you and tell myself that this is my fault. I want to believe that you care about Wellesley’s student body, our mental health, our well-being, our sleep. I wish I could thank you for making our lives easier, fostering a hospitable living environment for all of us, and making sure we feel cared for by securing a room and a bed for every student. I’ve really wanted to believe that the Wellesley administration and Student Housing in particular cared more than this. I am disappointed to find out you don’t. The housing crisis at Wellesley is unacceptable and deeply upsetting— and I’m not the first to say it.
After a summer interning in New York, I was excited to come back to Wellesley to continue my studies as an English major, resume work at my job on campus, and invest more time into the orgs I’m involved in before going abroad in the spring. The last two years have been difficult for me, primarily due to academics, being thousands of miles from home, wrestling with my mental health, and other issues that are typical of college life. Wellesley has never been consistent in making accommodations for my struggles. Here is where I take a moment to thank the administration who has helped me—thank you to the workers at Student Financial Services, the Stone Center, Health Services, the Office of
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Residential Life, and the class deans. You made a way for me to stay at Wellesley when I faced difficulties in my classes during my first year due to mental health issues, when I cried in SFS because I couldn’t afford to pay tuition, when I had severe tension headaches that kept me from completing my work, and when I suddenly got placed on forced financial leave at the end of this summer. Thank you for helping me stay in school. I would not be on campus without you. Though I’ve received accommodations from so many generous people at Wellesley who are doing their jobs, our resources are inconsistent and our systems are broken. I don’t say this without reason. On August 6, I received a distressing and life-altering email from Student Financial
Images: wellesley.edu (left), accfs.com (right)
Services. The notice arrived without prior warning from SFS, and it came as a shock to me and my family: “Our records indicate that you have not registered for courses for the Fall 2019. At this time, I am writing to notify you that your housing assignment has been cancelled and you’re being placed on a financial leave of absence from Wellesley College for the Fall 2019. This leave is effective as of June 2, 2019, and will remain in effect until the conditions outlined below are satisfied.” There is nothing more embarrassing than being kicked out of school because your family can’t afford to pay the bill. There is nothing more disappointing for a parent than the call home with the news that their eldest daughter—their daughter who was the high school valedictorian, who goes to the most prestigious women’s college in the nation despite being the first in her family to attend college—is not allowed to continue her education due to an unresolved balance. There is nothing more lifeshattering than going from college student to college drop-out in a matter of minutes. In order to return to Wellesley, I was required to repay my outstanding balance, as well as pay tuition for the Fall 2019 semester in full by the first day of classes. I’m thankful that my family found a way to resolve the balance, and I was able to return to Wellesley this semester. However, this didn’t happen overnight and without unbelievable stress and sacrifice. My return to Wellesley has been anything but smooth, and though I believed my return to campus would ease my anxiety, it has
only heightened it. After resolving my balance, I was placed on a waitlist by Student Housing in order to receive a room on campus. Their offices asked me to make arrangements to live somewhere off-campus in case I didn’t receive a housing assignment before the beginning of the semester. Fortunately, less than a week before I moved in, I got
housing—I would be living in a quad with three other underclasspeople who I had never met. Though certainly preferable to the outrageous price of renting a room in the town of Wellesley, which exceeds $1,800 a month, my living situation has been a severe inconvenience and source of anxiety since my return to campus. After two years of living in some of Wellesley’s worst accommodations—a “dingle” my
first year and another small room that required me to bunk as a sophomore— am I being entitled when I say that I think I deserve better than this? “At least I don’t have to bunk” is the mantra that has carried me through these past three weeks. But am I the only one who thinks that “at least I don’t have to bunk” is a pretty low bar? Most Wellesley students don’t even have to bunk once, let alone twice. As students on financial aid, we tend to settle for Wellesley’s worst—at least I find myself doing that. But I only settle because I don’t know what it’s like to have anything better. Students on financial aid are constantly at a disadvantage when it comes to dealing with just about everything at Wellesley. My family not paying on time means that over the past two years, I have either been unable to sign up for housing, or I have received the lowest priority number when signing up for rooms due to the financial hold. (To my sophomore year roommate, thank you for choosing to room with me despite my priority number.) It also means that for every semester except my first semester at Wellesley, I have had to individually email professors alerting them about the financial hold, asking them to reserve a spot for me because I could not register for courses with the rest of my class. Being a student on financial aid means that I work 15 hours a week, sacrificing sleep, time studying, and social activities, just so I can make up for what my parents aren’t paying of my tuition bill. Being a student on financial aid also means hordes of paperwork being processed every year, begging my parents to be better this year about sending in their W2’s and tax returns on time, going through the appeals process each year when SFS increases my tuition again, and being punished with that dreaded “financial hold,” even if
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financial needs, but my physical, mental, and emotional needs as well. Obviously, every student on financial aid has different experiences, some worse than mine and some better, but what I know is true for all of us is that our time at Wellesley has not come without sacrifice. This semester’s housing fiasco has disproportionately affected students on financial aid, as most of Wellesley’s failing systems tend to do. I am tired of being treated like a second-class citizen on campus because of my financial status. If this school is going to claim diversity, accessibility, and progressive values, I’m not being entitled, ungrateful, or unreasonable in demanding better treatment than this. I also want to acknowledge that Student Housing’s inability to accommodate students on campus has not just impacted students on financial aid, but also includes sibs who considered taking a leave of absence but never fully committed to leaving, students returning from a semester off, students whose plans to study abroad fell through, and
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students who require special housing accommodations, such as medical singles or accessible housing. No one should have to live in basements, repurposed offices, forced triples or quads, rooms without windows, rooms that aren’t rooms, rooms with dangerous living conditions because these dorms are falling apart at the seams, or the College Club. To all of my sibs who have been affected by the problems with Student Housing this year or in the past, I’m so sorry. Whether you’re still living out of your suitcase as you wait to be placed in a room, you’re settled down in a space that is anything but suitable or, like me, you haven’t unpacked for four weeks because you’re just waiting for the minute you can switch rooms—you are not alone. To the Office of Student Housing— Do better. For information about articles published anonymously, please contact the Editors-inChief (fgazzolo or mfurbush).
Images: twitter.com/womenwhowont (right)
the reason for late payment is a delayed appeal decision from SFS. It means avoiding conversations about money on campus, it means staying at Wellesley over Wintersession to work, it means saying no to internships and other opportunities in favor of a summer job at home, it means dealing with rude students when driving the access van, it means not going abroad because your family can’t handle the extra expenses despite grants from the Office of International Study, it means picking up a Computer Science minor because you can’t afford to just be an English major, it means cutting back on orgs to make time for more hours at work, it means not going to therapy because you can’t afford to pay for your sessions with an offcampus therapist anymore and the Stone Center has proved to be unhelpful. Wellesley is a need-blind institution, meaning students are admitted based on their academic and personal merit, regardless of their financial situation. Yet this policy seems deceptive when the college is unable to address not only my
BY PHOEBE AMORY
counterpoint / september 2019
ARTS & CULTURE
VALAR DOHAE RI S All Men Must Live BY FRANCESCA GAZZOLO
have waited seven years for the final fifteen-hundred-page novels of A Song of Ice and Fire to take their rightful place on my bookshelf. The television series forged from the books ended last spring, and… well, here I would like to give a great big mournful Shakespearean O! How it did end! Suffice it to say I would not have been surprised to see rioting outside their filming location in Belfast. We fans are still licking our wounds three months later, and internet discourse shows no signs of slowing down. But we still have two more books to go, so only George R. R. Martin can save this story now. My bookshelf waits. I met my best friend seven years ago through these books. Heather was a friend of a friend, a quiet freshman whose quips often went unnoticed amidst the boisterous lunchtime conversations of a motley crew of theatre-choir-band kids. We both watched Game of Thrones and she convinced me to pick up the first book, then the second, then the third and fourth and fifth. Buried somewhere in our eight quintillion texts are the messages I sent her when she convinced me to stay up past my self-enforced bedtime to watch the premiere of the second season. We have been best friends ever since. Sansa Stark was always her favorite. The eldest Stark daughter starts out as a demure wife-to-be, but grows more than almost any other character in the series, eventually taking her seat at the head of the table as Queen in the North. I bounced between favorites, from Ygritte page 8
(still my one and only) to Jaime Lannister to Davos Seaworth to Samwell Tarly. Besides unintentionally incestuous lovers and Iron Throne combatants Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen, Arya Stark was perhaps the most popular character on the show. As a Stark, she always had my affection, but she never captured my heart like the others. I could never trust her with my heart. At the outset of the series, Arya is the quintessential ten-year-old tomboy. Her father Ned and bastard brother Jon are sympathetic to her interests: the former arranges lessons for her in “waterdancing” (a martial art native to the free city of Braavos, a place Arya will soon call home) in King’s Landing, while the latter gives her the shortsword she dubs Needle. She will later kill with (and for) this sword, always with the pointy end. Over the next five seasons, Arya witnesses her father executed for treason, watches the river run red with the blood of her mother and brother after the Red Wedding, and stabs men with smart mouths. At night, in the cold comfort of a cell or the underbrush of the woods, she recites a list of names to herself—the names of those she wants to kill. She meets an assassin named Jaqen H’gar who gives her a coin that will grant her passage across the sea to Braavos, a place where no one knows her name. The coin is inscribed with the words Valar morghulis: all men must die. The House of Black and White in Braavos is a house of killers. Arya has
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murdered for fun and for vengeance, but now it is her job. She is charged to kill a man she does not know, but instead kills one she does: Ser Meryn Trant, who murdered her water-dancing instructor in King’s Landing. However, Arya is not supposed to kill for her own reasons. She is supposed to forget her old world, forget herself, commit to the endless pendulum of life and death under the Faceless God. She is supposed to be nameless destiny, not Arya Stark, and she is blinded for her transgression. Sightless and coinless, she begs on the street. Another servant of the House of Black and White, the Waif, is sent daily to beat her. Arya learns her ways and ducks her blows, and soon casts off her name once more. She returns to the House, her sight restored. Only in her dreams, through the eyes of her direwolf Nymeria, can she return to the North. Arya tells no one of these dreams. She is no longer Arya Stark. She is a girl with no name, an assassin with no mission but death. In a series built upon murder and war, she is the concentrated expression of that violence. But Arya disobeys her charge again, and the Waif must punish her once more. Arya emerges triumphant from the battle and tells Jaqen H’gar that she is Arya of House Stark and she is going home. A girl remembers. Does a girl truly remember? She remembers her name, her family, but there is no love there. Upon her return home, she kills Walder Frey, the murderer of her mother and brother. She bakes his
Major Game of Thrones spoilers ahead. Content warnings: minor descriptions of violence, suicidal ideation
sons into a pie, slits his throat, dons his face, then poisons his massive family at a banquet. A girl carries on. Arya hears that her brother Jon has returned to Winterfell after a long exile at the Wall, the barrier between Westeros and the wild North where an undead race called the Whitewalkers march toward the living. For a moment, we see the ice around her heart begin to thaw. She has been ticking off names on her list with surgical precision, but now…Winterfell. Her brothers. Her sister. Her home. She changes course. She must return. Alone in the woods on a winter evening, she comes across a pack of wolves. She looks into the eyes of her own direwolf, the same wolf she had walked as in her dreams, but Nymeria does not recognize her. Is it because the dog is feral, or is it because Arya has lost her way so completely that her own pet no longer recognizes her as a Stark? When Arya returns to Winterfell and runs into Sansa’s arms, we are reminded why she has become who she is: her family. Six years ago she watched her father’s execution, and the blood that ran from his heart turned hers cold. From that moment, she knew
nothing but revenge. All that training and fighting and killing had been for that little list of names, the list of people who had wronged those Arya loved most in the world. When she returns to Winterfell, Arya finally has people to live for. People to die for. Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss said they had known for three seasons that Arya would slay the Night King, the leader of the Whitewalkers— all her waterdancing and Wa i f - s t a b b i n g would have been for naught if she were not the one to plunge that Valyrian-steel dagger into his three thousand-year-old hate-boiled heart. But this was also the final piece in her arc, the moment when her own heart returned to her. This was Arya making a choice. Arya Stark stared death in the face and she chose life. She is both the savior of the world and a twenty-year-old girl, a girl who squabbles with her sister and swears at her brother and wants to have sex just once before she dies. After the defeat of the Whitewalkers and two tyrant queens (don’t remind me), Arya sails off under the
banner of House Stark to discover what is west of Westeros. Because she loves this world. She loves this world so much that she must use every ounce of strength she gained while hating it, to save it. I have never stared death in the face. If anything, I have glimpsed it through a door just ajar. I do not like dealing in might-haves, but if I had not met Heather, I might have opened that door. I might have lurched through in a moment of unutterable pain, during a trough in my high school years when I was too anxious to sleep or starving myself or feeling inexorably lost. Heather and I never spoke about those things; we referenced them in a passing joke maybe, but never had a serious talk. But that is okay. I have enough serious talks with parents and therapists and other friends. It is a beautiful thing to know someone who understands your soul so deeply that they do not have to ask what is wrong. You can just talk about Game of Thrones and everything is alright. I love Arya Stark and I love Heather, and they have both taught me to love this world. They have taught me to revel in the uncertainty and the vulnerability and the knowledge that I will change, and that I cannot know what that change will look like. They have taught me that the terrifying is just around the corner, but that it is not really so terrifying. They have taught me that people can learn to love this world, to love themselves, and that their misery is not permanent. Arya Stark loves water-dancing and weirwood trees and mincemeat pie and her family. Heather loves Vampire Weekend and Beto O’Rourke memes and British politics and the Scottish countryside. I love Stephen King novels and Irish music and Lake Michigan and writing. We love this world. What do we say to death? Not today. Francesca Gazzolo ’20 (fgazzolo@wellesley. edu) is ninety percent sure she saw George R. R. Martin at a Lowe’s in New Mexico.
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ARTS & CULTURE
I Hate Listicles oes anyone actually enjoy reading fucking listicles? I did a marketing-centered internship this summer, and it taught me that I do not want to go into anything remotely in the realm of marketing. I had to write blogs on topics I didn’t care about, craft pointless social media posts, and act like marketing mattered to me at all. I felt like Diane from the Netflix show Bojack Horseman in her unfulfilling job at the fictional “GirlCroosh,” forced to write asinine articles for some imagined consumer. I guess I’m just tired of being advertised to and being on the other end of advertisement really brought that home. Listicles are so shallow, so commodified, and so inane. They are made to garner the most views and
are dumbed down as much as possible into a series of headlines in the form of an article—all to appeal to what PR teams imagine their content consumers to be. But does this perfect content consumer actually exist? I don’t know a single person who is dedicated to this form of reading and actively seeks it out, aside from an accidental click on Google. Listicles feel like capitalism eating itself—like baking a cake after you’ve convinced yourself there’s someone to eat it. Listicles are the perfect example of a product created for no damn reason. And I say product because these listicles are being paid for—an organization couldn’t operate without funding. The funding just comes from advertisers that appear on the site, or if it’s a company-run blog, they’re hoping that view time translates into dollars. Your gaze pays the bills. It’s what websites sell to companies that want to sell to you. And even though the majority of marketing schemes are unsuccessful, people seem to think that listicles are a very effective way to do this. Many major websites are changing to be as advertiserfriendly as possible to generate more business and keep the cash from their unwitting scrollers rolling in. I’ll highlight how by exploring the least advertiser-friendly major website I know: Tumblr. The development team has managed to keep the site downright inhospitable to most advertisers. I give the website this assessment because a) the advertisements I see there are nonsensical and seem to come from the random whims of Tumblr staff rather than any targeted strategy; b) it’s mostly anonymous, which means that user data is harder to collect and counterpoint / september 2019
sell; c) its feed is still chronological and doesn’t employ an addictive algorithm, making it harder to control what users see; d) most of the people on Tumblr are batshit crazy; and, finally, e) most content isn’t censored so anything horrible can be posted. Websites that produce massmarket listicles are part of the larger corporatization of the internet and its content, reflected in the changing user experience: we have gone from a user interaction-driven model to data-driven one. I doubt the people who write them actually believe listicles or other mass market articles are worthy of their authorship (I know I didn’t). Maybe everyone is just too afraid to speak up and say that it’s pointless, convinced that they are the only ones who don’t see the value. Or maybe the increasingly niche and strange titles of listicles, personality quizzes, and other pieces of that ilk are a type of camp, performed by the authors in a perverse act of self-awareness. According to RuPaul’s post-Met Gala interview with Stephen Colbert, to perform camp, “You have to be able to see the façade of life, the absurdity of life from outside of yourself.” After all, isn’t it camp to write an article titled “The 13 Shittiest Buzzfeed Lists” in which #6 is “15 Hedgehogs With Things That Look Like Hedgehogs?” The person writing it must realize the absurdity and either relish it or revile it. The ubiquitous nature of advertising is starting to dissolve the illusion that we are the consumers—companies are paying for our gaze. We are ultimately the product. Rose Griesgraber ’22 (rgriesr@wellesley. edu) thinks listicles should be abolished as a marketing tool.
Images: thenextweb.com (top left), unnoticedbojackhorsemanthings.tumblr.com (bottom left), Mar Berrera '20 (left)
BY ROSE GRIESGRABER
My Body BY MAR BERRERA Content warnings: gender dysphoria, mentions of transphobia
y body feels like a political statement, even though it never asked to be one. Wherever it exists (or doesn’t, according to the Wellesley College administration), it must be prepared to justify and explain its existence. My body dissociates when I hear my professor call me by my dead name on the first day of class because I forgot to email them ahead of time. I add emails to the neverending list of things my body needs to have a moment of peace. My body feels Photoshopped, like an omniscient artist is playing some sick joke. My body is covered in tattoos because every inch I mask with memories and loved ones helps me begin to recognize pieces of my skin. My body can consume a horrendous amount of dairy in one sitting. My body cannot process lactose, but thankfully it’s only uncomfortable for those around me. My body and bodies like mine have a tendency to try to escape or destroy themselves in various ways, and I’m joyous that mine still exists. My body is missing a kidney! Don’t worry, I have one massive kidney that can go all night long, baby. My body is powerful when it breaks the school bench record.
My body felt like a right foot putting on a left shoe whenever I put on the clothing I was forced to wear for the first eighteen years of my life. I assumed that everyone else around me also felt like they were being stripped naked and mocked every time they got dressed. My body needs to feel powerful and capable because it constantly feels like it’s under attack. My body can’t handle being stared at, so please, if you’re checking me out, throw in a smile or wink so I know you’re not going to harass or physically assault me, because that’s not a far-fetched fear for a body like mine in a society like this. My body and non-cis bodies like mine have been recognized by the New York Times.. And yet my body isn’t recognized by the administration of Wellesley College, the first place I have ever called home, the first place I ever felt like I had something of value to offer, the first place my body could exhale in peace and safety. Mar Barrera ’20 (mbarrera@ wellesley.edu) just wants everyone to feel safe and at home in their bodies like turtles do in their shells.
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t’s a shocking thing to realize that language isn’t perfect. Language is the one constant in all of our lives: whether we speak one, two, or three languages, we can all turn to words or signs to express ourselves. Even so, there’s nothing like immersion into a new culture to prove that languages have holes. Languages are man-made, so they shift and adapt to the needs of the people speaking them. Yet because languages are man-made, they can also be inadequate. A single word cannot always capture a thought, a feeling. Translations aren’t always exact. Words can fail us. When we’re thrust into a new culture, especially one that demands a knowledge of a different tongue, it’s not just our own inadequacies—the gaps in our knowledge—that grow apparent. When we’re forced to learn new vocabulary, to go hunting in a dictionary for an obscure word, to ask for explanations, we sometimes have to accept that a single word is often not enough, but multiple words are necessary to communicate. The awkwardness and inconvenience of words and grammar is especially prominent in English; the frequent need for lengthy prepositional phrases and relative clauses to communicate a simple idea is one of its major shortcomings. That’s one of the reasons I love German— a straightforward concept can be expressed without as much fuss. One of the more beautiful aspects of German (and the bane for learners of the language) is the ability to form oneword compound nouns. Germans can create new, complex words by simply throwing pre-existing words together. Unlike English speakers, Germans don’t page 12
need to refer to Latin, Greek, or French stems to create a new word. The result is often ridiculously long compound nouns, such as the word Donaudampfschiffahr tsgesellschaftskapitän (the Danube Ship Navigation Company Captain), made eternally famous by Mark Twain. These compound words can be incredibly useful for describing a single concept without the need for a long train of adjectives. Yet even these complex words have their inadequacies, as I discovered during my summer working abroad in Dresden,
Germany—my first time in Germany and my first real experience with loneliness. Several years ago, I happened upon a website entitled “The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.” Compiled in this dictionary are words mostly derived from the Romance languages, German, and Japanese that somehow encapsulate those feelings that always seem impossible to adequately identify, those feelings whose pulse the English vernacular never satisfactorily touches. Among my favorites of these words are ellipsism (“the sadness that you’ll never know how history will turn out”), vellichor (“the strange wistfulness of used bookstores”), anthrodynia (“a state of exhaustion with how shitty people can be to each other”), and sonder (“the realization that each
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random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own”). I found comfort in knowing that there are terms for these obscure feelings that most people on this chaotic planet of ours experience, but which they may never really take a moment to consider. That’s a strange psycholinguistic reality: oftentimes, even if we are confronted with an emotional experience, we may not be aware of it, or at least of its depth, until a label is slapped on it. For me, there’s a certain melancholy surrounding this entire dictionary, induced by the realization that, like me, so many people have the desire to be able to identify how they are feeling, especially when that feeling is unfamiliar or incomprehensible. If I can identify it, I would think, then maybe I can make it go away. Label it, and poof. This summer, I went looking once more in “The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows,” in hopes that its linguistic magic could help me. Though my ability to communicate increased doubly through my time immersed in a new language, I also began to see more holes in language, and I began to find inadequacies in my ability to express myself. I could speak better than I ever could before, in two languages rather than one, but instead
Image: Adobe Stock Photo
BY CORINNE MULLER
of feeling more empowered to speak my mind, I found myself shrinking into myself instead. My bilingualism should have opened doors for me and pulled me closer to the people behind those doors,
but I found myself feeling increasingly isolated. I went looking in “The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows” because I wanted to find a word that captured the feeling of being alone amidst crowds— the loneliness that comes with transitions and new places—because loneliness felt insufficient. Surely, we can be alone, but not lonely, and we can be lonely, but not alone. Homesickness wasn’t the right word. The feeling was not exactly one of missing a place, but of missing a language and of certain people. It was the missing of specific company. Ironically, the first word in the “Dictionary” to attract my attention was German. The word, Waldeinsamkeit, literally translates to “forest loneliness,” but English does not do justice to the deeper nuances of the word. The word, which has roots in the Romanticism of the 19th c e n t u r y,
originally—and still most commonly— refers to the satisfying solitude found when venturing alone in the woods. In most contexts, a speaker uses Waldeinsamkeit to describe the sense of peace that comes from removing oneself from the modern chaos of distraction, technology, and urban life. It’s very appropriate that this word stems from Germany, a country half covered in forests and famous for its production of philosophical literature on Romanticism and transcendentalism. Waldeinsamkeit was an antonym for what I felt. I was not alone in the woods, with pine trees towering above me, birds chirping, and a fairytale castle just visible in the distance. I was alone in a city of half a million people, with people speaking a language I had once found charming, but at that point found more abrasive than not. Instead of feeling like the whole world was open to me, I could only see walls before me. “The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows” led me down another path, to the German adjective mutterseelenallein. This word sits at the opposite end of the spectrum of Waldeinsamkeit. Literally translated, it means “mother’s souls alone.” When you’re mutterseelenallein, you’re so alone that it feels as though even your mother has abandoned you. You feel as if, instead of extending its arms wide for you, the world has turned its back. This word is (pardon the pun) the mother of words for loneliness. But this word, so extreme in its meaning, failed me too. Am I stuck with no better words than lonely, isolated, and alone? I’m not satisfied with these terms—they don’t speak to the root of the emotion. In a world of seven billion people and nearly seven thousand spoken languages, surely nearly everyone has experienced this feeling. Some language must have a word that encapsulates it in all of its complexity. I hope I find the word someday, because, even though I am sure many others have experienced this feeling too, it would be good not to feel alone in the struggle to
identify it as well. What do we do when words are not sufficient? What do we do when language—this supposedly syntactically and semantically infinitely flexible thing— is limited? What do I do when I feel like my own language is inadequate? Ironically, this summer, when I craved nothing more than to hear English, I turned once more to German for a solution. Though I did not find the right word, I wonder if I should turn to German—or to Latin, Japanese, French, or Spanish—to create my own word to match my emotion. A word for me. A word that the rest of the world doesn’t have to agree on. The best I can think of is Fremdumwelteinsamkeit, meaning “foreignenvironmentloneliness,” but this feels too clunky, and even more too literal. Anyway, does a
self-created word carry the same weight as one used throughout a culture, one whose usage carries the voice of a people, a history, a literature? My search for a word to describe the specific brand of loneliness I experienced abroad may be personal to me, as every experience is uniquely personal to an individual. The disappointment in language, however, is undoubtedly unoriginal, and surely has been felt since its evolution alongside the human brain and modern cognition. And in this simple fact, I feel less alone. Corinne Muller ’21 (cmuller@wellesley. edu) encourages others to check out “The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows” if they want to feel more connected to the rest of the world.
counterpoint / september 2019
“Dancing” • “Getting ready” • “Being able to feel free and have fun” • “Taking photos with friends” • “Drinking the Snapple peach tea I’d been saving as a reward for getting through the second week of classes.” • “saw boys on Wellesley campus” • “My friend bullying the DJ into playing Dancing Queen” • “Premix pancakes at Tower” • “Pizza” • “alt-Remix” • “Playing boardgames” • “Reading in bed and getting a good night’s sleep!” • “Leaving” • “This one dude blew his cotton candy flavored vape straight into my face” • “Playing cards against humanity afterwards” • “Hooking up with someone from MIT” • “not going to remix tbh there are a lot of issues associated with it including non-inclusivity and an awful drinking culture surrounded it” • “playing clue” • “hanging out with friends beforehand” • “Definitely the concert” • “Dancing while sober and having the best time” • “Community” • “men, man” • “Leaving and going to Black Remix and having fun there” • “the free pizza” • “Beginning a romantic relationship” • “Just letting loose after a long week of classes :)” • “Beanbag chairs” • “Doing laundry” • “friend cry at midnight” • “Casa Cervantes” • “When oliners joined my pregame” • “Catching the loco to Boston” • “eating nutella sandwiches at POM” • “Free ramen” • “Netflix” • “uh” • “Not being on campus for anyyy of it” • “Sorry if this is rude but I hope that this is the last time I will have to listen to Closer by the Chainsmokers ever again? Why did you guys play that song? :( cmon man” • “The grinding” • “Bee movie” • “watching avatar the last airbender afterwards with snacks” • “dancing in the middle of a circle for the first time” • “more like lowlight... the dj was awful”
Craziest Remix story... “Got pushed around for like 2 hours straight” • “Sprained my ankle. Oof ” • “my white shoes got dirty :(” • “I heard someone was having sex just like, outside the quad” • “all of it :D” • “Eh don’t think I have one” • “... I did not have a good time” • “I cried at the end of Coco” • “The boys asked to see my friend’s room as soon as we walked into Remix (she respectfully declined)” • “Watched a guy climb up a tree to get into the remix venue and then proceeded to see him get yelled at and lowkey tackles by security• “Turns out beetlejuice was directed by Tim Burton” • “what happens in remix stays in remix” • “My friend accidentally punched me in the face and now I will probably have a scar” • “I crowd surfed for approximately 7 seconds” • “Someone passed around a flask” • “Almost getting trampled by really tall guys” • “men, man” • “none I’m boring” • “Crazy? at Remix??” • “The BC boy who tried to convince me that he was a Japanese Youtube star” • “My roommate being escorted from the police station” • “I am from Paris, France and randomly met a Babson guy whose high school I had applied to for 9th grade. Weird and incredible at the same time!” • “Made out with a guy at the party which is unusual for me as I'm not much of a party person” • “Punching a drunkard in the kidney to get him off my friend” • “not gonna tell u” • “Bee movie” • “moshing” • “The 20 shit talk with girls I didn’t know while in line for the bathroom” • “accidentally got pushed into a girl’s chest when she was making out with a boy” • “Ran into a high school acquaintance who tried to hook me up with one of his frat brothers” • “just involves a lot of puking..” • “Saw a guy partying on crutches.” • “A drunk girl wouldn’t stop smelling my hair and telling me how good it smelt. Then, I thought she was done, but she got her boyfriend to start smelling it.” • “A Babson guy introduced himself and then immediately asked my roommate and I if we wanted to go back to his room.” • “Dancing in a mob of making out first-years” page 14
counterpoint / september 2019
Highlight of your night?
Did you go to Remix?
Psych! I’m abroad 0.8%
Was this your first Remix?
No 16.8% No 41.4% Yes 82.4%
Sort of ? I didn’t get in last year • I have never been
What did you do before Remix? Napped Ate a lot of carbs Pregamed Attended a res. hall Premix event Got ready with friends Watched Euphoria at Collins Cinema Nothing Other 0
counterpoint / september 2019
ACROSS 2. What they finally added to select common rooms 4. You’re gonna have to be at least 20 feet from a building if you wanna do this 7. The dining hall has these items used to cook a very common dish but still fucks it up 8. Without this, your caffeine fix has to come from the dining hall
11. What you burn to cover up the smell of the more illegal thing you burned 13. The numerical “limit” of people who can be in a single at one time 14. Man’s best friend 16. Did your bagel get stuck in this? 17. Good for your Ramen at 1:00am 18. Apparently these will go off if your fairy lights even touch the water pipe
DOWN 1. Legend has it these were bred in Tower several years ago—do some of their cousins still hop across the courtyard lawn? 2. Just put it in the fridge 3. The cause of 99% of fire alarms 5. These technically aren’t allowed, but the number of outlets in the dorms means that every single person in existence disobeys that
rule 6. “Rockin Around the Christmas ____” 9. You are, in fact, allowed to have these scaly friends in your room! 10. Number of nights you can have a guest in your room 12. A staple of Bath & Body Works 15. The more illegal thing you burned