Harry – yer a wizard.
- Rubeus Hagrid, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J. K. Rowling
The first year of law school is an incredibly stressful time. There are barely manageable reading loads, the constant fear of being called on unprepared, taking exams without yet receiving one iota of feedback to know how you’re doing, and then trying to get onto Law Review and looking for summer work. You know, little things that only decide the course of your career upon graduation.
All this stress necessarily creates a need for release. Some will turn to alcohol or recreational drugs. About one in ten law students abuses Adderall at some point. Not a release per se, but still a way of managing the stress. Everyone else goes for the obvious outlet: sex.
Even The Paper Chase, the quintessential law school movie, is more about romance than Contracts. And thank goodness for that. Kingsfield’s daughter was far more interesting than promissory estoppel. For as ballyhooed Kingsfield is, he’s not what drives Hart’s development in the story. Kingsfield is more setting than character.
At the beginning of my junior year of undergrad, I got mono. The girl I got it from was gorgeous. Tall, thin, legs from here to Gulf Shores, and hair the color of barbeque potato chips. By comparison, I am average height, about average looks, and as for my personality – take what you think of me from my writing, divide it in half, and subtract five. That’s how charismatic I am in person.
She was the daughter of a law school dean. Not the Dean dean, but one of the many lesser deans. Definitely someone who should have been well beyond my league though.
I was aided by a student body where girls outnumbered guys 3 to 2, beautiful Southern belles abounded, and there were more than 20,000 students, most of whom have never seen you embarrass yourself in class.
NYU Law on the other hand had an even number of male and female students, a class size of roughly 450, and Jerry Seinfeld’s estimation that only 4-6% of the population is attractive enough to date would have been generous.
As unromantic as it sounds, dating is at its core a numbers game. If out of 450 students there are 225 women, about ten or twelve of them will be attractive, let’s call it eleven. Assume maybe four of them are already married or in serious relationships, and of that four, only one will cheat, so you’re down to eight.
We were divided into four sections, and those sections had most of their classes together. Assume two attractive, available girls per section. If you’re like me, that means the first time you get called on and have to speak in class, you just eliminated two more candidates. Now you’re down to six.
Drop one for insurmountable religious or political differences, one will only date a 3L with left over summer associate money, one is dead set on dating either an MBA or a hipster artist, one of them is a lesbian, and that leaves you with two.
Strike out with one, and she’ll tell the other.
So, strike out I did. Why not, right?
The Student Bar Association held lots of events for students, which was generally the only time you interacted much with someone from outside of your section. Taking advantage of an open bar funded by the school, I plied myself with liquid courage, found one of the more attractive 1Ls, and unleashed my patented charmless wonder.
A conversation that was every bit as boring as you can imagine two new law students having ensued, and long story short, I left the bar ten extra digits in tow.
Most people would consider leaving with a number to be a victory. Those people don’t talk to enough girls at bars. Getting a number is easy. Girls give out numbers like Scientologists give out stress tests. The hard part is getting them to answer or call you back. Girls, that is. The hard part with Scientologists is getting them to stop calling you.
So, yeah, she never called back.
No big deal, I’ve been rejected before, and was about due for a booster shot anyways. But, a little pointer to women in law school: When you don’t return a guy’s call, he’s going to remember. Sure, maybe you’re not in his section, but odds are you’re going to see him in the library, or the student lounge, or on a journal, or in a class next year once your 1L sections are dissolved.
Or, you’ll see him in the Spring, twice a week in your Administrative and Regulatory State class which is chosen by lottery instead of by section. That is really going to be awkward, for both of you.
So, please, memorize this line: “I don’t think getting involved with another law student is such a good idea.”
That’s all you need, and what’s best is it’s true.
So, that unceremonious failure behind me, I set out to do what any rational young man living in a city of about one gazillion single women would do, I ventured out past the law school, all the way to Murray Hill.
Third Avenue between about 29th and 33rd Streets is New York City’s equivalent of Fraternity Row. It’s a line of sports bars that turn into tightly packed 80s music festivals after 10:00pm.
About a week after realizing I was not going to be getting a call back, I found myself chatting up a very pretty Asian girl who happened to also be an NYU student, but an undergrad. And, to make sure I don’t sound super creepy, I was 21 years old when I started law school. Undergrads were a perfectly acceptable age bracket for me then.
Not to say they still aren’t, but they definitely were then.
Good thing about undergrad students is that so many of them either want to go to law school, or know people trying to get into law school, and generally find the whole concept to be somewhat awe inspiring.
Bad thing about going to NYU is that people are more familiar with the artsy fartsy reputation of the undergrad film and theater majors. Say you’re going to NYU Law, and most people assume it’s an okay school, but not all that prestigious. Even Asian NYU undergrad girl had no idea where it ranked.
Later on I would start lying and just say Columbia.
But, not knowing just how impressive NYU Law was did not mean that this girl was uninterested in showing off. Not one bit.
As is normal when students meet, I asked her what classes she was taking and she leapt at the opportunity to gush about one of her professors, how he was this world renowned poet and political activist and was currently in exile from China, and how she was sooo lucky to get into his class. Most amazing professor, really inspiring, blah blah blah.
BL1Y: “What’s his name?”
Girl: “Bei Dao.”
BL1Y: “The misty poet?”
Girl: “The what?”
BL1Y: “He was one of the misty poets. They used poetry because it allowed them to express their views in really ambiguous ways. That made it harder for the communist party to prosecute them. So you know, misty, like fog, hard to see through.”
Girl: “Wow! How do you know about Bei Dao?”
BL1Y: “I had dinner at his house a few months ago.”
Bei Dao had been a visiting professor at the University of Alabama. He had a dinner for several of his students, and a grad student I knew in his class invited me as her date. He said my Chinese pronunciation was bu cuo (not bad), we drank Tsing Tao, and ate take out Chinese from buffet-sized aluminum pans. Not a terrible evening.
I minored in Chinese, formed the UA Chinese Culture Club, and had a few weeks earlier been invited to a reception with the Chinese consul who was donating a large number of books to the school’s library. I’m sure that’s relevant somehow.
Long story short, when Monday morning came around I was incredibly unprepared for Contracts.
…Because I spent all the rest of the weekend wondering how I had managed to not get laid that night. Seriously. After the Bei Dao thing she seemed really into me. It was like she was being served up in a little paperboard takeout carton with chopsticks and a soy sauce packet. Yet, somehow I didn’t manage to Have a Nice Day.
Maybe it was because as students living in dorms, we both only had twin beds. But, I’ve had sex in the back of a two-door car, so that really shouldn’t have been a deal breaker.
When I said it would be true when you told a guy “I don’t think getting involved with another law student is such a good idea,” what I meant was that it was true this is not a good idea. As for being your actual excuse, we’ll probably see through it when you start dating another law student two weeks later.
I ran into the first law school girl who rejected me, and I mean that as the first girl from this story. And, I also mean the first of many law school girls who rejected me, because yes, this happened again. It’s how I kept track of semesters.
Anyways, I ran into her walking to class towards the end of my 3L year, hadn’t talked to her in a while, but she looked really upset. Nice guy that I am, I asked what was wrong.
“My boyfriend just found out that he failed the bar exam.”
I might be a nice guy, nice enough to ask what’s wrong when you’re clearly upset, and nice enough to not laugh in your face, but come on, I’m definitely going to laugh on the inside.
And then, later on, in private, I will laugh on the outside.
I didn’t realize until writing this the significance of the timing. Graduation was nearing for us, and her boyfriend was a year ahead. If he just found out he failed, he must have taken the February bar exam, and the only people who take the February exam are people who failed it in July.
I think I'll just go down and have some pudding and wait for it all to turn up.... It always does in the end.
- Luna Lovegood, Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix, J. K. Rowling