A Senior Send-off
Three graduating B&W’ers find unlikely love in a hopeless place.
By Mary Elizabeth Dawson, Gaby Edwards, and Gabe Garon
On a balmy Sunday afternoon, the three seniors of The Blue and White, Mary Elizabeth Dawson, BC ’21 (Cancer), Gaby Edwards, BC ’21 (Pisces), and Gabe Garon, CC ’21 (Taurus), met in Riverside Park to reflect on their time at Columbia, take sips of natural wine and spiked seltzer, and see whether they could fall in love over the course of an afternoon. Using the tried and true method of the New York Times’ 36 questions that lead to love, these seniors looked into each other’s eyes and asked the hard-hitting questions, which initiated an unbreakable bond that will undoubtedly last until commencement—and maybe even beyond.
Circumventing the textbook questions Columbia students are so fond of asking (“What’s your major?” or “What company does your father run?” and “Is he looking for interns?”), these unconventional seniors inquired about each other’s families, whether they had premonitions about their deaths, what they valued in friendships, and, most importantly, what they cherished in each other.
The questionnaire is divided into three sets of questions, each more intimate than the last—this allows for trust to grow and, conveniently, for the magic of the drinks to set in. Each of the seniors took turns asking and answering the questions.
I spent my Sunday afternoon with Gaby and Gabe no differently than I would any other: flopping down among the trees in Riverside Park, watching canine passersby, and chatting into the last treasured minutes of daylight. It’s true, I choked down a bit more Catholic guilt than usual because it was Easter, but I told myself that enjoying the spring weather was an equally acceptable form of appreciation for rebirth and new life as attending mass.
Upon clinking glasses (or in Gaby’s case, a water bottle) of our beverages of choice, we set about the task of getting to know each other better. I admittedly didn’t know much about Gabe except that I once left a Jack Skellington wine glass in their Carman dorm our first year, and Gaby and I hadn’t seen each other in person in almost two years. I was in desperate need of a life update from them both. As we discovered, our greatest accomplishment as a group is having compatible sun signs, on the basis of which we justified placing ourselves at the top of the list of seniors worth writing about.
Of course, some of us are more accomplished than others. Gabe humbly acknowledged their win at gymnastics nationals in the synchronized trampoline level 10, age 13 to 14 category—video pending. They also had a tweet go viral last month. Gaby, meanwhile, stands proudly as one of the least incestuous bi girls at Barnard. However, she admitted, “I technically am a part of the ‘web.’”
Maybe this was our signs’ synergy guiding us, but we quickly discovered a mutual appreciation for the comfort and simplicity of a close friendship. We unanimously agreed on the value of friendships that can pick up smoothly where they leave off. “A moment that I always treasure in my friendships,” Gaby so perfectly put it, “is when you can just be quiet and lounge in bed together and be really gross.” I certainly felt our love for each other grow over the course of the afternoon and finally blossom when Gabe mentioned my good taste in tchotchkes.
As is typical in any conversation between friends/lovers, I had to ask Gabe about their relationship with their mother. I’m overjoyed to say I didn’t sense any mommy issues; in fact, they told me, “I love to chat with my mumsy.” They work on the New York Times Spelling Bee together, they watch Ugly Betty together, they talk shit together—quite a duo. She’s a Leo, but I’m overlooking that. Surprisingly—or not—this wasn’t the first time Gabe had brought up Ugly Betty in my company. It’s comforting to know that the seasons can change, Gaby can move back to New York, and people can stop using screenshots of themselves looking cute on Zoom as an excuse to post on Instagram, but we’ll always have Ugly Betty.
Gaby later captured my attention with a frightening but impressive tale of bravery. As the late bloomer of the group, Gaby still had a baby tooth at 14—one last physical mark of her fleeting youth. By Passover, imbued with the strength of her ancestors, she decided that she had had enough. Or maybe it was the Manischewitz. She told us, “I was feeling frisky and I went to the bathroom and I yanked out my little canine tooth.” I was utterly speechless, trying to mentally quantify the willpower necessary to yank out a completely non-wiggly tooth. Of course, Gaby, Girlboss that she is, never thought twice about it. These are the types of strong women we need in our lives: as Gabe put it, “Built different, fundamentally. Genetically.”
By the time dusk settled across the park, I felt tipsy and somewhat socially exhausted, but certainly better for it. We emerged from the park wondering why we don’t have heart-to-hearts like this more often. As for our futures, none of us is sure where we’ll be a few years from now. But, of course, there’s always grad school.
I am not the first nor will I be the last person to say that Plato was wrong, but I contend that my dissent is something new. In Plato’s Symposium, Aristophanes theorizes that in the beginning, humans were attached in pairs: four arms, four legs, two faces, and so on. But Zeus, being the jealous bastard that he is, split them in half with a bolt of lightning. Today, these disconnected halves desperately search for one another, attempting to recover their unity. Thus, the birth of soulmates.
While this is certainly a lovely tale, and one that I had been fond of in the past, my affection for it soured while sharing an afternoon with Mary Elizabeth and Gabe. Now, I am convinced these original beings had six arms, six legs, and three faces. Soulmates come in sets of three.
Having known Mary Elizabeth since our first year when we joined The Blue and White, I was already inclined to fall in love with her. Her spunk and allure won me over on day one. Gabe was a slightly different story. Having joined the publication in the age of Zoom, they were a practical stranger to me,, a virtual face I would glance at during our weekly general body meetings. But despite our dearth of shared memories, our spark was instant and electric.
I can pinpoint the moment when I truly fell head over heels for them: when they answered the question, “If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?” A seemingly ordinary question and, for the Columbia crowd, a seemingly obvious answer—but Gabe defied all expectation. They responded, with a confidence many of us dream of, that they would obviously choose the body of a 30-year-old at the age of 90.
Gabe’s reasoning was bulletproof. They reminded Mary Elizabeth and me, jaded after four long years at this institution, about the shortcomings of critical thinking: all it does is make you sad. And so what if you can use lots of multisyllabic words to connote your sadness? And you know what doesn’t make you sad? Being hot in your 90s. As Gabe put it, to be “hot as shit and dumb as rocks” when you’re that old is an opportunity too great to pass up. Plus, as Mary Elizabeth aptly noted, you’d be a spectacle of envy—you might even star in your very own “Dermatologists Hate Her!” ad.
As twilight descended upon the afternoon sky, the questions accelerated in intensity, and I reached a level of vulnerability unfamiliar in quarantine. After a year of social isolation, I have to admit, being amongst two acquaintances was jarring. Most of my interactions have been with family members or brief exchanges with essential workers, and both require very different sets of social skills. I constantly fluctuate between wanting to bare my soul to everyone and craving indefinite hibernation—so this intimate new connection with two long-admired classmates, and the questionnaire that guided us to it, offered some welcome and comfortable balance.
Towards the end of the picnic, as we mused about the roles that love and affection play in our lives, Gabe brought up a critical point: “There’s an element of romance to every friendship.” Mary Elizabeth and I agreed. There is no sharply defined line in the sand between the love you feel for a friend and the love you feel for a partner. For me, romance is just a flavor of excitement. It’s the feeling of certainty that you and your companion(s) will make treasured memories together, drawn ever closer by the promise of intimacy. My afternoon with Mary Elizabeth and Gabe certainly filled me with that sensation. As a wise person once said (*cough* Gabe *cough*), “Love is love is love is love.”
To picnic in the park is a joy—nay, a privilege—especially with such fine company as Gaby and Mary Elizabeth. It was my first time meeting Gaby, and in some ways I was starstruck. Mary Elizabeth and I have been friends for years. We even watched raccoons frolic in the trash together last fall while drinking bodega “wine.” It was high time the three of us had a reunion, and I was overjoyed.
We entered the park together, each of us wearing a cute little outfit that you will simply have to imagine for yourself. We wandered over to a beautiful patch of grass, laid down our blankets, poured our libations, and began the process of falling in love, with the help of the New York Times, as is custom for Blue and White staffers.
The questions started out innocent enough. Gaby would do anything to dine with Albert Einstein. Mary Elizabeth dreams of becoming a D-list celebrity, à la “one of the Real Housewives’ gay husbands.” I admitted that I require an entire editorial staff to send a single email. I could feel it—we were falling in love. We leaned in and had a three-way kiss. Kidding!
Over the next hour or so, many secrets were revealed. Tears were shed, laughs were exchanged, loving glances were shared. I learned a lot about my two comrades. Here are my findings:
Mary Elizabeth, a true Southern belle and the most famous person to come from Houston, exhibits an astonishing amount of bravery and perseverance in the everyday. She got Ds on every Calc II midterm her first semester at Columbia but fell so deeply in love with mathematics (whatever that is) that she decided to major in it. She peed herself in Copenhagen while walking to a male suitor’s home and continued on with her night. She can do the worm. I attribute her unfathomable fortitude to the fact that she was born on Bastille Day, which is the anniversary of the day Bastille (the band) was formed. I also found out she speaks German, which is sooooo hot, and was incredibly disappointed to find out that she has a boyfriend, whose dog she sings to.
Gaby, on the other hand, is what many call a visionary. When asked how she thought she’d die, she immediately stated that she'd probably “faint on the Eiffel Tower or something and go over the rail,” which I found to be the chic-est thing anyone has ever said. If she had one year left to live (before fainting on the Eiffel Tower), she would do tons of DMT, have “a million ego deaths,” change her hair as much as possible, and get an ungodly number of tattoos. Naturally, if she could know anything about anything in the whole world, she would want to know who really killed Jeffrey Epstein. She’s a woman after the truth. And, of course, in five years, she sees herself living in Berlin or maybe New Zealand, with an incredible haircut (knowing her, one that probably hasn’t even been invented yet), waitressing and running from place to place, living life to the fullest. Above all, she has taste.
It is so rare to truly connect with people during this trying time (your early 20s), and I could not have asked for better people to lovingly gaze at as I giggled and drank “natural wine.” We found love in a hopeless place. We found community at Columbia University. We found each other.