Spending time in Columbia spaces as a Barnard student can often be intimidating and stressful, but we can always manage to find guys who make us feel as though we belong. Senior staffer Betsy Ladyzhets explains the phenomenon of the “Columbia Boys I Trust” list.
This past Sunday, as I considered the events of the previous night, I came to an important revelation: there were two guys I needed to add to my “Columbia Boys I Trust” list.
The “Columbia Boys I Trust” list isn’t an official document by any means. It’s not taped to a notebook, stuck on my fridge with a magnet, or even hidden in a secret file in the bowels of my computer. The list is all internal. I believe that if I wrote it down, it would somehow become less genuine, or at least lose its natural ability to grow without me consciously realizing it.
The list began some time around the end of my freshman year, when I realized that there were two guy friends whom I could always count on to swipe me into JJ’s (this was, for you underclassmen, back when Barnard students couldn’t swipe themselves into JJ’s at all). My friendship with these two people extended beyond access to fried food, of course; I could also count on them to laugh at my terrible jokes, let me rant to them about how frustrated I was by my First-Year Seminar, and listen to me read aloud from the comment sections of my fan fiction. A JJ’s swipe was important, but more important were the conversations we had inside JJ’s – conversations that made me feel as though I belonged there.
Since freshman year, the list has extended. It’s grown slowly but surely, with more conversations that have led me to realize more commonalities with guy friends. One might ask why this isn’t a “Columbia Students I Trust” list; it’s a valid point that Columbia students come in more genders than male, and the animosity between CC/SEAS and Barnard is far from a gendered issue. However, Columbia, for me, has always been constructed in masculinity, since so many aspects of the school, from the majority of its famous alumni to the tiny number of female bathrooms in Hamilton, seem to be solely supporting male students. As a result, finding a Columbia boy whom I, a Barnard student, feel as though I can be completely honest with is more validating than finding a similar relationship with a Columbia girl.
I asked around a bit before writing this post, and discovered that I’m not the only Barnard student with a “Columbia Boys I Trust” list. Several friends I talked to had similar lists, although they weren’t all conceptualized the same way. I also asked these friends what will prompt a Barnard student to add a Columbia guy to her list.
“I need to be able to say, ‘I hate men’ in front of a guy for him to be on the list,” one of them said. Other responses varied, from knowledge of the inner workings of the Diana to willingness to buy them tampons. However, all of the criteria seemed to be in some way similar to my own: the guys we trust are people who make us feel valued at a school that excludes us from its flu shot fairs and makes us wait for an hour to get into EC. We don’t have to filter ourselves around these guys, or worry that they’ll not take our opinions seriously because we’re “just Barnard students.”
This is probably because I’m an English major and huge nerd, but my “Columbia Boys I Trust” list as a concept has always reminded me of Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. In that novel, Woolf poses a question about the nature of connection: she asks if it is ever possible for two human beings to ever truly understand each other. It’s up for debate whether or not Woolf thinks that such an understanding is possible, but in my experience, it is. More specifically, it’s possible between a Columbia boy and a Barnard girl, two groups who are endlessly set in opposition. And it doesn’t take an intense bonding experience to form such a connection, either – all really it takes is one good conversation.
When family members, coworkers, and prospective students ask me about the Columbia/Barnard relationship, although I think about long EC sign-in lines and the lack of female bathrooms in Hamilton, I also think about my “Columbia Boys I Trust” list. And I say, well, the relationship is complicated and different for every student, but it’s not all bad. Actually, it’s pretty good.
Photo via Betsy Ladyzhets