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Dark Monday at HBS

Yes, I know what you are thinking. I am thinking it, too. Fast approaching is the much heralded “Dark Monday,” a day so feared that we hear about it before ever arriving at this school. In every HBS Survival Guide in recent years, the following words have sounded the warning bell:

“For those of us who enter HBS in committed relationships, there is no tradition that we fear more than ‘Dark Monday’ … the first Monday after the Thanksgiving holiday. Legend has it that more relationships tank over that weekend than during the rest of the year combined. …Monday rolls around and all the single HBS’ers (read: sharks) begin to hunt for the freshly disengaged.”

To those of us in the bull’s eye of the target audience, like me, this is a warning I could not ignore. Before coming to HBS, my relationship was serious enough that my significant other helped me pack, but not serious enough that I listed her as my “partner.” We were perfect candidates for a very Dark Monday, indeed. But, we read the Survival Guide and have tried to heed its warnings. We bought plane tickets, phone cards and other long-distance mitigation tools, and now I am down over $2,000 in Dark Monday prevention measures.

But has it been enough? As Dark Monday draws nigh, I cannot help but wonder if I have wasted my time and money fighting the inevitable. Can it really be so legendary that only the faithful, who communicate in sappy tones and goopy pet names, will pass Dark Monday unscathed? Or perhaps it is just a story to scare little first-years? Better yet, could Dark Monday actually be an opportunity? For those of us with commitment issues (read: men), perchance it is a golden opportunity to shed the shackles of long distance and graze in greener, more convenient pastures? My journalistic instincts took over. These were questions that demanded answers.

My first stop was to fellow first-years in long-distance relationships. The data was strikingly homogenous. One RC summed up the prevailing attitude succinctly: “I mean, come on. I’m an HBS student. If anyone does the breaking up, it will be me. Dark Monday is only dark for the significant others who haven’t been good enough to their HBS partners.” My peers exhibited relative unconcern, confidence in the desirability and scarcity of such a fine resource (i.e., themselves), and surety that they would do the dumping when and if the time came. But was this feeling among the uninitiated brash, accurate or na‹ve?

I turned to the second-years, looking to their 365 days of additional wisdom. However, few would comment beyond the evasive “you’ll see” with knowing eyes. Was I being duped? Were they trying to frighten me with old wives’ tales or was this simply a case of misery loving company (it is, after all, recruiting season)?

“Neither,” says Ray Follett (OG), one of the few second-years who would speak on the record. “Dark Monday is too painful for me to spend much time discussing, so I’ll be brief: fear the legend.” And that is all he would say. Of course, Ray also recently shot a shark with a hand gun before wrestling it on board his boat and eating it, so there is a possibility he is not perfectly representative of the HBS community.

In contrast to Ray, I have nothing against sharks. In fact, I decided to brave asking our very own “sharks,” those single HBSers upon whom so much blame is heaped. In this group it was even more difficult to get anyone to speak on the record, for obvious reasons. The universal sense, however, is one of “blood in the water.” Ubiquitous sightings and rumors of intra- and inter-section hookups involving those with long- distance relationships are not simply fodder for casual conversation (yes, we all know), but it seems to indicate that the population of available prey will expand on Dark Monday.

Many sharks, however, are not waiting until Monday to begin the hunt, so a word on their two predominant strategies: the frontal assault and the shoulder approach. The frontal assault typically relies on methods like flirting, drinking, and dancing until the shark can capitalize on a moment of weakness. Not particularly creative, but effective, depending on the shark. The second strategy is the tried and true “cry on my shoulder” approach. You know how it goes: a member of the opposite sex (read: shark in disguise) will feign such convincing interest in and support for your long-distance relationship that the shark becomes a trusted confidant. And, when the relationship suffers a wound, you turn to your new confidant, who then capitalizes on the short distance from the shoulder to the lips. Works every time.

Of course, there is always the possibility that some of us in a relationship would prefer to be picked off by a really nice shark, or, for those of us who have never been hunted, a nice anything. And really, if the relationship is going to tank anyway, would it not be preferable to have some sort of rebound relationship waiting, even if it is with a shark? But that is exactly the question: will your relationship tank over Thanksgiving break?

And that, in spite of my finest journalistic efforts, is precisely the question I cannot answer. It does seem ominous, though. The first-years ignore the time-tested warnings, the sharks lick their chops and veterans shake their heads in silence. Even the administration talks about a “transformational” experience. In a few short days, time will tell. As for me, I am accepting applications from attractive sharks. Just in case…

November 14, 2005
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