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Failing at Frowning

January 5, 2011 at 12:55 am
By Collin Hazlett

(In which I return to my continent, my college, and my companions.)

Well, I'm back at Carleton after a long and math-filled adventure in Hungary. I saw a lot of amazing things over there, some of which were theorems and some of which were castles, and while I could go on about either one, I'll save it for some other time.

For reasons that I still don't quite understand, I ended up in Goodhue.

Goodhue is a cozy dorm nested in the Arboretum on the far side of the picturesque Lyman Lakes. By the far side, I mean the opposite side from the rest of campus.

At Carleton, there is really no such thing as a far-away dorm. Everything is within reasonable walking distance of everything else. But if a candidate for "far-away dorm" had to be nominated, the vote would be unanimously for Goodhue. It's not that DISTANT from the Bald Spot. But in order to reach the main body of campus from Goodhue, it is necessary to cross a bridge over the lake and then go up a little hill. ...Okay, that sounds easy, but in winter there is ice and stuff.

A positive side effect of all this is that Goodhue floors are often really tight-knit- since they spend so much time with each other, because it is difficult to leave Goodhue. I don't know my floor all that well yet (Goodhue is mostly freshmen, and I haven't even met the new freshman class until now), but they seem to all be good friends with each other, and our RAs plan tons of events so I'm sure we'll get to know each other soon. (Our RA's are cooking breakfast for our floor this Sunday, and they also apparently read stories aloud to the floor! I am fairly amazed by this.)

So here are my classes for this term:

  • Ordinary Differential Equations
  • Energy Flow in Biological Systems
  • Social Behaviors and Interpersonal Processes (a psychology class)

I've had one day of each of these classes so far, and everything seems to be going smoothly, except that one of my assignments in psychology is proving rather difficult. I have to make eye contact with two complete strangers, and then frown at them. Then I'm supposed to write down their reactions.

I can't do this.

For one thing, it feels slightly morally objectionable. I mean, how would I feel if someone made eye contact with me and then frowned? I would wonder, "What in the world did I DO? Is my shirt buttoned wrong? Is there something on my face? Did I somehow non-verbally insult the person who just looked at me?"

But I can get past the moral qualms. A couple times, I've picked out a person walking on the opposite side of the sidewalk, thought to myself "Okay, this is the one, I'm going to frown at this person!" ... and then we get closer, I make eye contact, I try to frown, and I just burst out laughing instead.

For whatever reason, I just can't do it. It's a really hard assignment.

This kind of thing requires the mindset of a devious anthropology student, not a mild-mannered math major like me.

Oh well. I'll pull it off somehow.


  • January 5 2011 at 2:31 pm
    Welcome Back!!!

    Love your post!  You made me laugh.  Good luck with that assignment!

  • January 5 2011 at 2:46 pm

    First--Zork rules! Second--I was in Orgo II when a student calmly answered a question but then stood up and began a tirade! She announced that this was not the true pursuit of truth, read from the bible for AGES, and sat down. Many of us thought she had cracked under the pressure. Another student went in search of her roommate to contact her parents. The next class she explained she had an assignment to do something socially unacceptable!

  • January 6 2011 at 2:01 pm
    Claire Weinberg

    I'm actually not capable of frowning. Looking angry or sad, yes, but my mouth cannot actually form a frown without looking ridiculous. So good luck to you. (I should probably take that class; it would be good for anthropology).