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The Better Half: A Tale of Two Dinners

Ever wonder what partners talk about when they get together?
Many students, especially those with partners, often noodle this question. After all, as partners we are privy to the most intimate of secrets in our students’ lives…
To get some insight, here’s a tale of two dinners.

Tale #1:
“Are you free tomorrow? There’s a section dinner,” my partner informed me one night.
“Where is it?” I replied.
“I don’t know.”

It wasn’t until a few hours before dinner that my partner told me the venue – a trendy restaurant in Beacon Hill. While I got ready, he was on the phone ordering a cab and arranging pick-ups of fellow section mates.

Moments after our first stop, the conversation flowed as I remained silent: How awesome was the auction last night? Did you see how crazy so and so was? We raised a ridiculous amount of money! EVERYONE is talking about it!

Later at the restaurant, we met more students as the conversation continued, ranging from internships and end-of-year golf to write-ups and the professor who can’t seem to end his class on time. Thankfully, someone ordered several bottles of wine and appetizers. Finally, I had a purpose: to help drink the wine and eat the food. Don’t be mistaken, everyone, including my partner, tried to include me in the conversation but I had to face reality – I was an outsider to HBS life, which was the topic at hand.

Midway through the main course (and several glasses of wine later), the topic shifted. Where are you going on your honeymoon, someone asked. Now this was a conversation I could enter with ease. From there we talked about traveling and movies. I even found myself drifting into conversations without the need for an HBS interpreter. By the end of dinner, I was having a great time getting to know some section mates.
Of course, dessert brought with it a return to HBS talk, but I felt content to silently sip my wine. It turned out to be an enjoyable dinner, after all.
Tale #2:

Monday afternoon when I checked my email, a partners’ “online conversation” was already taking place regarding that week’s Friends Night. (Friends Night is our Thursday ritual of eating, drinking and gabbing while watching the NBC lineup.) The host was making dinner; all we needed to bring was dessert and wine. Over the next few emails, we arranged who was bringing what and who was driving.

As our four-person carpool headed to Friends Night, the conversation flowed among all of us: How was work? Are the wedding plans coming along? I found the cutest spring tops on sale. By the way, how is his internship search going? I’m sure his interview went well. What are you going to do if he ends up in New York this summer?

When we arrived at the apartment, an array of cheese and cracker appetizers greeted us. We poured ourselves some wine and joined the other partners gathered around the coffee table, where the conversation ranged from Oscar fashions and dinner recipes to problems at work and the search for a gynecologist.

As the night went on, the wine bottles emptied and the homemade desserts disappeared. Our conversations turned even more personal, filled with stories best left untold. It turned out to be yet another enjoyable Friends Night.

When HBS students get together, they seem to talk about HBS. But for us, being partners is only a small wedge of our life here. When partners – or rather friends – get together, we talk about all sorts of things. Some nights it’s girl talk; other nights it’s deeper issues requiring the support of our friends.

Yes, we always ask about our student partners (or vent about how infrequently we see them), but the topic quickly shifts away from HBS by the time appetizers appear.

April 16, 2002
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