Monday, June 9, 2008

Finance Reunions

The Unbearable Sweetness of Finance

Gopal treats Princeton Reunions the way MBAs treat “information sessions”—he doesn’t miss a single one. A few Princeton students will opt to come back only for their 5 year reunions (5th, 10th, etc.) and many of those in New York City will at least make an attempt to pretend, right up until they realize they know of nothing better to do, that they “don’t think they’re going to make it back this year.” Not Gopal, though. No—he primes for Reunions weeks in advance. For him, it’s like Goldman coming to Stern—something you just can’t miss because it’s too good to even believe is happening in the first place.

In preparation, he methodically lays out a different pair of pastel or seersucker shorts and a polo for each of the three days. He tries on each outfit with a different set of Oliver Peoples sunglasses and saunters out into the living room of his 4-man apartment.

“Sugar in the RAW, motherfuckers!” he announces, wings spread, bouncing to his own beat. He reaches into his pocket tosses a few half-open packets into the air.

Knowing that if they don’t act clueless, he won’t subsist, his roommates are forced to inquire: “What do you mean?”

And, every time, taking his sunglasses from his face and placing them on his head, Gopal points up at his face and gives the same response: “That’s how sweet I am.”


For those unfamiliar with Princeton Reunions, it is the most absurd event that occurs, ever, in the United States. The annual orgy is held the weekend before graduation, and for three nights (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday), alumni from all classes come back to campus to get shitfaced under massive tents while listening to 80s cover bands, or, as it were, “be sweet.”

At Princeton, Gopal wasn’t the coolest kid; he had few friends and flew miles under the radar of the eating club social scene. In a colony of ex-valedictorian overachievers, he somehow had managed to remain a huge, friendless dork.

Still, every year he came back to Reunions in the hopes that he’d finally blend in and make friends with the popular kids. This past year in New York City, his sweetness level had risen significantly, so his expectations were high. He had completely reinvented himself; he tossed aside his difficult-to-pronounce name and devised the most Anglicizable Indian identity ever—Rohit Harshan, a guy that white people could confidently call “Ro,” “Shawn,” or even “Harsh.” And although it’s unconventional to base a nickname off a secondary syllable, he’d often add: “But you can call me Hitter.” This made the girls swoon.

He had long forgotten his days as Gopal—the guy who couldn’t get chicks, didn’t have “two passes of any color” to get into clubs, and got trumped by dudes more solid than he was. Rohit lived with a consultant from PENN, a guy from Harvard who worked at Sotheby’s, and a civil engineer from Cornell. Respectively, they were: Tight. Lame. Tight. Lame.”—perfect candidates for a new in-airport HSBC advertisement. And in that little world, Rohit ran shit. Most importantly, though, since none of his other roommates worked even remotely close to Banking, they deified Rohit, and the free drinks they milked from him fueled his burgeoning ego.

It was with this new mentality that Rohit rolled into Princeton on the Dinky, a toy train which shuttles between Princeton and Princeton Junction. It was the perfect day for Reunions—80 degrees, sunny, and just humid enough that the strap of a sundress might slip off, or the elastic band at the bottom of the more slutty ones might creep up. Already buzzed from two furtive beers drank on the NJ Transit, Rohit checked in, kissed his wristband for good luck, and started wandering around campus to the various tents.

What welcomed him was magical.

A common legend used to give scope to the level of the event’s egregiousness is that since the Indy 500 went dry, Princeton Reunions has become the single largest group alcohol consumption in the United States. But more importantly, as a result of the makeup of Princeton’s alumni body, the event is, without question, the largest single meeting of elite financiers, both young and old, in the world.

And despite the overlap with the Sex & The City movie opening, this year was no different.

Inside the comfort of the warm bubble that is Princeton, hundreds of young Investment Bankers futilely aped their more polished heroes in Private Equity and Hedge Funds, not yet able to BlackBerry while dancing to Bon Jovi. Older industry titans behaved childishly—Eliot Spitzer (’81) and Paul Sarbanes (’54) pounded (and exploded) one another as they watch John L. Weinberg (’48) spit up on himself trying to chug one to get one at the 50th, while in the kids’ areas, the children of alumni behaved like senior Bankers, banging out deal terms before engaging in any form of play. Michael Lewis (’82) sat on the lawn of Tiger Inn, devising a way to bring an accessibly “quantitative” yet narrative angle to yet another sport, quarters.

At “The 5th,” the tent where the most recent alumni congregate, one freshly minted graduate shouted to a classmate: “I’ll race you to $100MM net worth!” And the two jogged in place for a moment before looking up and saying to one another: “Oh shit—you’re already here, too?”

Princeton Reunions is the most elite slice of the tip-top of Wall Street—“the tips.” There were no talks of layoffs or small bonuses. There was no rehashing of poor performance reviews. The air was filled with the confidence that can only come from the comfort of being completely insulated by a powerful old boy network.

“This is why I’m hot!” shouted a 30 year old man in madras shorts, crushing a plastic cup on his head.

Rohit smiled from ear to ear.

He meandered through the crowds, sipping one beer after another. For a while, he played it cool, convincing himself that he was just “settling in,” as he progressively got drunk and still hadn’t spoken to a single soul. Even jacked up on Bud Heavy, he was unable to channel the confidence that served him so well around his friends in New York. He felt trumped, outdone, like he had on his first Econ 101 test, when the prep school kids first showed him how pathetic a public high school education really is. Rohit couldn’t overcome the knot in his stomach, and, all of a sudden, he was feeling distinctly Gopal-ish.

To his credit, while getting his 9th drink, he did manage to mutter a couple words to a beautiful blond-haired Theta from Georgia he had admired for 4 years. “Maddie—what ethnicity is that?” he slipped, a bit of 2nd generation minority ignorance showing through. He stumbled to recover, but he couldn’t even get to “Hitter” before she asked: “So what club were you in?” referring to which eating club he had belonged. Gopal hadn’t been in any club; he was an “independent.” And upon hearing this, the girl gasped, pulled her hands close to her chest, and scurried away, as if having just confronted someone with full-blown AIDS.

Dejected, Gopal plopped down on the grass and let his head fall back against the hard brick of a building he’d once lived in. He was right back where he’d started. Longingly, he looked out at the group of people he wanted so badly to be a part of but couldn’t even manage to speak more than three words to. He prayed for his BlackBerry to vibrate to give him an excuse to look occupied, but, mercilessly, it stayed silent in his pocket.

And just then, he heard a female voice say:

“Hey – weren’t you in my politics precept?”

Gopal assumed the girl had been talking to someone else, the brick wall, perhaps, but she got closer and repeated the question.

Squinting, he was able to make out that it was Amy—a girl who had indeed been in his politics precept. She was a molecular biology major, he remembered. She had been vocal in class, one of the few students who actually did the reading and tried genuinely to have intellectual conversations. Yes—he remembered Amy: she was almost as big a loser as he was.

She wasn’t pedigree. She wasn’t wearing a sundress. In New York, Rohit would have called her “a hipster,” laughed and thrown change at her. She most certainly didn’t represent the Princeton that he yearned for, but she was cute, and she was speaking to him.

So they talked. And before long, Gopal was drunkenly waxing loser, divulging all his darkest secrets—he thought he might be losing his job, his friends seemed to be using him, and he was considering going back to school, for anything. And either because she, too, was drunk, or because she liked him, Amy listened.

She listened for an hour before the 5th shut down, she listened on the walk to the WaWa, and she listened while she took him to The Street to her eating club, Terrace, a building Gopal had been too terrified to ever even consider entering. Of the eating clubs, he knew it as the “edgy,” “druggy,” one—where you might end up seeing a bunch of naked dudes dancing around doing heroin together, being vegan. “Breathlessly freakish,” in F.Scott’s words. But with Amy, Gopal felt he might finally be starting to find his true self, and so he followed.

At Terrace, Amy and Gopal danced to The Knife in the sweaty, packed basement tap room, and, drenched, they went upstairs together and shared bagels they acted like they “stole” from the kitchen. And before he knew it, Gopal was joking with Amy about their future marriage, instructing her on how best not to offend his mother.

“None of that shit,” he said, wagging his finger at the lox. Then he shifted his finger to point at her shoes. “And you can leave those at home, too.”

He was hammered, still wearing his seersucker shorts and a canary polo, and even though he was surrounded by guys in leather pants and girls in flannel shirts, Gopal didn’t care. At last, he felt at home at Princeton.

Swept up in the moment, he kissed Amy. He kissed her in the way he kissed stupid drunk girls at nightclubs, and, after a while of having her face swallowed, Amy slowed him down to a more tender pace. They made their way upstairs to the third floor, started to explore several other things that would offend his mother, and then Gopal passed out on Amy’s shoulder, contented.


“Wake up, Gopie,” Amy whispered in Gopal’s ear around 10:30am, petting his sticky, thick black hair.

Gopal awoke with a jolt and pulled back. He looked around and saw ash trays full of cigarettes and several passed out, shirtless bodies; he smelled vomit.

“What the…where the…?” he tried to remember what happened.

“You just passed out,” said Amy, warmly. “Poof. Like that,” and she snapped her fingers, smiling.

“Uhmm…” Gopal started before quickly throwing on his Rainbows and heading for the door.

“Woah. Where’re you going in such a hurry, Gopal?” Amy asked, both hurt and surprised.

Gopal looked back at her, and the memories of the previous night started to come back to him—that feeling of comfort, of friendship, of belonging.

And then his face turned to disgust. Like The Hulk, Rohit was surging back to life, taking over Gopal’s body from the inside. He was furious—mortified and revolted at himself for having such feelings surrounded by such C-list, ill-employed people. He wanted to spit on the ground, flex his Banking muscles, and tear through his shirt, morphing into the huge green monster he loved to be. This was most definitely not why he had come back to Princeton, and most definitely not the stature he was striving to attain.

He paused for a moment before speaking, brushing off his shirt and shorts and standing up straight and proper.

“I don’t’ know what you’re talking about, girl,” he stated, flatly, a newfound air of arrogance in his voice. There was a floater sitting on top of the TV, and, staring Amy deeply in the eyes, he picked it up and slammed back the remnants. Right before exiting the room, he reached into his pocket and took out his business card, which was covered in a thin film of unadulterated, raw sugar. He showcased it briefly like a game show prize and then pressed it down firmly on top of the TV stand. Pointing at the card and then back up at his face, Rohit clarified: “That’s how sweet I am.”

136 comments for this post.

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  1. -6 votes + -
    Rockett Said:

    Not bad, very good w/ the details about the Princeton Reviews. This piece could have been a good 30-35% shorter, right?

  2. +21 votes + -
    Anonymous Said:

    This post was about as good as a Wachovia commodities trader.

  3. +5 votes + -
    Anonymous Said:


  4. -2 votes + -
    anon Said:

    You?re on fire man!

  5. +15 votes + -
    Anonymous Said:

    Another great post. one freshly minted graduate shouted to a classmate: Ill race you to $100MM net worth!??? And the two jogged in place for a moment before looking up and saying to one another: Oh shityoure already here, too???? hilarious!

  6. +3 votes + -
    KarmaKameleon Said:

    Very nice.

  7. -23 votes + -
    Jake Said:

    wow. good article. sucks to be in finance, but it must suck ever so much more to be a pompous d-bag who thinks working in finance means they?re better than others. Way to send the message home. Sounds like a skins party.

  8. -12 votes + -
    anon Said:

    this sucks

  9. +15 votes + -
    jason Said:

    haha – this is GOLD! Sugar in the RAW, motherfuckers!???

  10. +15 votes + -
    Anonymous Said:

    Oh SHIT!!! that was fucking awesome?you even got the dinky from pjunction to princeton in?checkmark for attention to detail. btw, ?thats how sweet iam??.laughing too hard to even say how fucking hilarious that is because i know way to many indian guys who would actually do that!!

  11. -4 votes + -
    Anonymous Said:


  12. +8 votes + -
    fading LSO fan Said:

    LSO IS BACK! after a half dozen crappy posts we finally get some quality. ?So they talked. And before long, Gopal was drunkenly waxing loser, divulging all his darkest secretshe thought he might be losing his job, his friends seemed to be using him, and he was considering going back to school, for anything.?

  13. +13 votes + -
    glad to have you back Said:

    keep em coming.

  14. 0 votes + -
    s Said:

    oh how envious i am of those tigers. waspy, seersucker wearing, pompous, smart asses

  15. +26 votes + -
    I_Make_It_Rain Said:

    This is why Im hot!??? shouted a 30 year old man in madras shorts, crushing a plastic cup on his head??.brilliant

  16. +14 votes + -
    Anonymous Said:

    doubtful there was talk of racing one another to $100mm net worth at this years event. i would imagine the conversation revolved more around which frontrunning joker managed to best top tick the PE fad

  17. -9 votes + -
    Princeton Said:

    Is second-rate!!!

  18. -32 votes + -
    Exeter Said:

    Is this supposed to be funny?

  19. +9 votes + -
    Andover Said:

    Hey Exeter you silly ass. Of course this is funny. You wouldn?t know if you ended up in UNH and not an ivy-league school, let alone Princeton, how funny thsi is supposed to be.

  20. -2 votes + -
    Anonymous Said:

    Why do you still have roommates?? They?re fine for a year or two out of undergrad at most. Sounds like they?re keeping you down too, no wonder you can?t land a girl in the city. Get your own pad and things will change for the better.

  21. -2 votes + -
    Harvard Said:

    Hilarious. ?hitter? hahaha! You are such a gifted parody writer.

  22. -14 votes + -
    Anonymous Said:

    not as good as i expected. maybe i didn?t get all the jokes?

  23. -18 votes + -
    nonumbers Said:

    It?s my understanding that folks here are atleast 99 percentile on the salary curve. Where exactly do u guys figure on the number curve. Chk out This is also very handy when u r jobless.

  24. -25 votes + -
    Bill Said:

    Another idiiot speaks, or oin this case, trys to write. Sad

  25. +3 votes + -
    joemack Said:

    I feel dirty

  26. +13 votes + -
    Anonymous Said:

    your attention to detail is astounding. everything was spot on, the cigarette littered carpet in the TV room in terrace, 5th reunion shit-show, but you left out the part where you tried to call Amy desperately once returning to ny in a failed attempt to get some ass (outside of the confines of campus of course), accountability is a bitch. loved the article.

  27. +20 votes + -
    StillDrunkFromReunions Said:

    It?s never called quarters at Princeton; it?s always robo. You should know better. ?Two passes any color? ? perfect.

  28. +6 votes + -
    TfuckinI Said:

    Why no mention of the P-rade?

  29. +3 votes + -
    ShirleyTilghman Said:

    Real Princetonians call it The Wa.

  30. +14 votes + -
    Anonymous Said:

    Wawa??its all about Haven

  31. +16 votes + -
    Dean Fred Said:

    this is why i let you in

  32. +18 votes + -
    Med school sucks Said:

    LS0- Can we get a post about how Finance is MUCH better than Medicine? I?m sick and tired of being compared to those guys?lets be honest. They go to school much longer than us, and get paid the same (if not less).

  33. +7 votes + -
    Bond GIrl Said:

    Go, Pal.

  34. -16 votes + -
    Med is Better Said:

    Finance is better than Medicine? Get over yourself pal?you seriously think being a banker or a trader is better than being a doctor? Thats laughable. You lose your job in finance and your just another unemployed flunky trying to figure out how to get overpaid again and get back in the game. If you?re a doctor you?re a doctor, employed or not, but really how many unemployed doctors are there anyway?? Not to mention you have a skill that can?t be taken away from you and some idiot off the street can?t just pick up with some training. People go to school longer to achieve the prestige and still end up balling after words?you losers

  35. +5 votes + -
    pe chick Said:

    thank you for making my day

  36. -3 votes + -
    Hollywood Said:

    Your back motherfucker. Nice work!

  37. +8 votes + -
    The chosen one Said:

    Hey Med is Better, At least I didn?t go to school for 8 years to work for the government 10 years from now jerk.

  38. +7 votes + -
    anonymous Said:

    mmm reunions. always delicious, always ridiculous. three cheers for old nassau.

  39. -21 votes + -
    NYC Sucks Said:

    Hey douchebags! did any of you NYC finance jokers go to the fashion meets finance mixer sponsored by pocket change? yeah, they?re the same group that held the sugar daddies and hot girls speed dating event last year. you should check out the pictures. the girls there were HORRENDOUS! but hey, we are in NYC, so what can we expect? it is so damm difficult to see hot women in this overrated city. i?ve been to all the NYC ?hotspots,? such as rose bar, 1OAK, bungalow 8, socialista, and goldbar. and the women there are mediocre at best. gosh, i cannot wait to move to Los Angeles, where the weather is almost perfect year round, and there?s gorgeous women everywhere you go.

  40. -11 votes + -
    pig pickin in carolina Said:

    had a better time at my kindergarten reunion

  41. -1 votes + -
    anonymous Said:

    as pathetic as the school. you shouldn?t have come back

  42. -3 votes + -
    Bull Stearns Said:


  43. +4 votes + -
    West Coast Banker Said:

    Nice work. Good stuff.

  44. 0 votes + -
    Anonymous Said:

    Chicago is better than New York, etc?

  45. +23 votes + -
    Anonymous Said:

    Pointing at the card and then back up at his face, Rohit clarified: Thats how sweet I am.??? I was wondering if Gopal has an Indian accent. If he does, then he would actually say, ?That t?is how swheet I am!? Just a little colloquial tip from a native Hindu.

  46. -7 votes + -
    RichBich Said:

    I believe all the top tier banks come to Stern at some point. Good FSF reference, though.

  47. +13 votes + -
    hahaha Said:

    Tight. Lame. Tight. Lame. awesome. awesome. awesome. awesome.

  48. +14 votes + -
    haha Said:

    And upon hearing this, the girl gasped, pulled her hands close to her chest, and scurried away, as if having just confronted someone with full-blown AIDS. Having Aids>Wachovia>Hipster>Indians

  49. -37 votes + -
    RoboticSurgeon Said:

    Wow, there is still life on this site. For those of you who are still nursing the notion that finance is superior to medicine (?Chosen one, etc?), wait until the government regulation turns to your beleaguered industry. You have clearly demonstrated that you have no restraint, and are in need of a short leash. Gone are the days where any fool can make a buck in a market overflowing with monopoly money. You are really going to have to utilize your education from here on out?good luck. Reimbursement aside, seriously, what do you really do for a living? Can you describe it in one sentence to a 5th grader, if not..its just bullshit. Can you say that you perform intricate procedures and save lives on a daily basis? Do you really think you know what it takes to make it in surgery? You would fold under the pressure, the stakes are too high. That?s why it takes 8+ years to get there, you can?t pick it up in a correspondence course. Its not about your business card, your clothes, or which club you belong to. Its about being a superior human being. Period. That being said, I have immense respect for the likes of Muhammad Yunus, Bill Gates, etc. These folks are truly brilliant and revolutionary, nothing like the tools on this blog.

  50. +4 votes + -
    Anal_yst Said:

    Solid work. Sounds like plenty of haters didn?t get some of the jokes (ya know, jokes, like ha ha?)?

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