Are you italic or bold?

We cast our focus upon your relationship to attention. How you get it, how you hold it, and what it means to you

Miriam Margoram

It has to be one or the other anna jennings

Continuing on last week’s trend of beautiful nuggets of self-analysis from quality women, this week’s terms are courtesy of word-artist Anne Carson. Admittedly, Carson’s categories trickled into my psychic ears not through the woman herself, but as tinkling canapé talk at a college drinks event. But, as the Dalai Lama always says, “the best wisdom falls into your lap over free champagne”, so I read between the lines, rolled my psycho-speculative dice, and have reconstructed the meaning of this dichotomy just for you.

You yourself don’t know the ins and outs, the whys and hows of your lifestyle choices in tastefully slanted cursive, and that’s an integral part of their charm

You’re either italicized or bold. If you’re an italic you hang back, relying on the power of mystique and an understated but impeccable outfit to generate social interest when you’re at pres at a different college. If you’re a bold, you put your social energies into a perfectly judged joke, or conspicuously well-constructed snowflake of ‘chat’ that you can let fall intermittently throughout the night. Either way, you want to read well.

If you find yourself living life in italic, your (almost literally) laid back attitude can incur a whole host of readings and associations that you weren’t aware you implied. You didn’t realize, for example, that eating your pine-nut salad packed lunch and smoking rollies outside the English Faculty was an attempt at managing social attention. If anything, you tell the snarky and analytical friend who hassles you about this, you’re almost embarrassed when you venture into Sidge. You just show up in your brother’s Run-DMC sweatshirt and grandma’s quilted maxi skirt, with your hair wet from a morning swim in the Cam – and if that isn’t aggressively socially indifferent you don’t know what is. You in the academic University of Cambridge is like a stick-out word in an otherwise neutral and conventional sentence. People know that your presence denotes a meaning that they should pause and consider, but are generally woefully under-equipped to interpret you. You yourself don’t know the ins and outs and whys and hows of your lifestyle choices in tastefully slanted cursive, and that’s an integral part of their charm.

You, a stick-out italic in the University of CambridgeDmitry Tonkonog / Composite: Shraddha Rathi

If the aesthetic of your personality is, by contrast, bold, you control a very different sphere of attention. Firstly, you hold a compendious knowledge of the available work-spaces in Cambridge and are on a first-name basis with most of them. You have a network of friends whom have assembled themselves almost exclusively to provide systematic access to various premium college library spaces. But whether it’s the Seeley (great natural light), Beic (hidden-gem), MML (tea and coffee on tap), Moore (24 hrs), you’re hitting up, your outfit is intimidatingly coherent. It might take the form of tailored athleti-chic, avant-guard-geometric, or tumblr-messy-bun, but there is definitely an audience out there who will (publicly) appreciate it (on Crushbridge). Thankfully, not only is your outfit great, your physical style of working forms part of your talent for put-togetherness. Your spine doesn’t droop over your desk like a dew-laden bluebell, at any one time you have only a controlled number of stationary items and books around you, you stare confidently into the glow of your laptop with eyes flickering around your environment every now-and-again with a distant yet magnetic pensiveness. You’re ready for the camera in the romantic comedy to pan across from the dorky protagonists whispering about you in the stacks and to confirm your image of enviable aloofness.

A bold's workspace is always #instagrammable

On the surface, both the italic and bold aspects of personality seem susceptible to accusations of narcissism and superficiality. More often than not, these allegations are brought up by one camp in indictment of the other. Those whose approach to self-definition relies on a creative view of life don’t appreciate the virtuosity of choice and care that bolds  are able to curate in their social movements. In contrast, people equipped with a sartorial vocabulary and worldly knowledge are self-aware enough to understand the artificiality of most aspects of social performance, and scorn the pretentiousness of absolute lack of pretense seemingly required to be accepted as an italic. The superficial elements of the italic and the bold often manifest more profoundly in the way we sooth our anxieties of social inclusion and exclusion; the causes, campaigns and courses we have chosen to invest our energy in; and the kind of stress we place on both ourselves and on other people.


Mountain View

Walmart yodelling kid to headline Sainsbury’s May Ball

Ultimately both methods are human attempts at managing strange contortions of self-esteem and self-loathing and dealing with the inescapable facts of life, culture, and social impressions. Both are attempts at punctuating a particularly prosaic period with some creative self-management… even if the attempts at interesting emphasis sometimes fall way off the mark. As a result, advice going out this week to both parties is the same. Save your critical reading for Tripos and be generous to your fellow voyagers. Place emphasis where they want you to place it, read along and not against the grain of their wavy or bold garms. When confronted with an attempt to the library dynamics of either deceptively strategic sweatpants-disheveled, or irksomely extravagant stiletto footsteps, breathe. Set aside your own insecurities. And appreciate the heroism in picking the perfect outfit with which to navigate through Scylla and Charybdis.