The Way We [Aggravatingly] Were
I work in a neighborhood that contains two very large college campuses. This means that when I go out at lunch, I am subjected to the wide gamut of college-related stereotypes: loud sorority chicks clogging the sidewalk, frat guys with obnoxious popped collars pushing each other around, Sensitive Artists drinking tea and reading and/or writing something pretentious at outdoor cafe tables, and “hippies” in hemp shoes, reeking of Nag Champa & plucking away at their guitars. (I put “hippies” in quotes, because I am willing to bet the mortgage that these fuckers will be wearing power suits and kissing corporate ass before their undergraduate diplomas show up in the mail.)
Enjoy your drum circle while it lasts, asshole.
This might sound like an unappealing place to be, but oh no, my friend. The entertainment value, she is high. Especially around this time of year, when so many wide-eyed 18-year olds are getting their first taste of college life.
Ah, how I remember my first semester of college. It was all at once exciting, scary, weird, awful, and eye-opening for me. Mostly I just remember being pissed that all the kids in my dorm were Honors students & never got drunk (just stoned). It took me a few weeks to figure out that all the good parties happened at the other end of campus (where the Greek houses were, natch). Not that I was some kind of party animal – I never drank a drop in high school – but I saw college as the time when I was allowed – nay, EXPECTED – to drink and drink and drink until I found myself fighting back a vomit gag in a frat house hallway (which is entirely hypothetical, you understand).
You rarely turned out to be a wise choice, Bud Ice.
Anyway. Where was I? Oh yes. First semester at college.
Working in this neighborhood also means I am subjected to the huge influx of students around the end of August, which can be annoying if you forget to stop and enjoy the clusterfuck-ed-ness of it all, because it only gets better from there. You see, as amusing as it is to watch an 18-year-old trying to process how the fuck he will ever find his way to class and how the fuck he will manage to feed himself AND do his own laundry, and how the fuck will he be able to stand his parents for the duration of move-in week, it’s even more fun to predict where he’ll end up by semester’s end. After all, freshman year is a time of growing and learning…if you replace “growing” with “scoring your first D-average,” and “learning” with “waking up in a concrete fountain covered in your own sick, with absolutely no clue how you got there.”
I think we all weathered some disastrous events during freshman year – events that would make the high school versions of ourselves react in abject horror/disgust/shame/admiration. For me, it was discovering the power of skipping class (and skipping my Honors classes, no less!), and exploring the limits of my tolerance for alcohol. Oh, and that one time I hired a male stripper for my friend’s birthday, had some girls sign him in as their guest at an all-girls dorm (while he was dressed in a COP UNIFORM, no less), and then hid in the bathroom whenever the long arm of the law (a.k.a. three fat R.A.s) busted us after about 20 minutes of high-octane dorm-room stripper action.
“Oh my God, Felicia, I can’t believe you let him straddle your face! Wanna get some fro-yo?”
And then there was my poor friend LuLu – high school valedictorian and recipient of a full college scholarship – who ended up so pants-pissin’ drunk after only an hour at an off-campus kegger that the entire population of the party came outside to taunt her as she lay passed out in the bed of a random pick-up truck.
“Class of ’95…can someone hold back my hair?”
So, yeah, there’s somewhat of an adjustment period when you enter the wide world of college living. But most of us eventually relax, remember to study every once in a while, and steer clear of any ingestible liquids with the words “Mad” or “Dog” on the label. We fall in with a group of friends we’re comfortable with, we (hopefully) start to enjoy our classes – things just kind of fall into place.
And then? We become annoying. Really, really annoying.
Seriously, is there any group of people more annoying than college students (besides the old bags in that fucking stupid Red Hat Society)? It’s doubtful. Although I didn’t always feel this way. I got my undergrad degree in 1999, and for the first 2 or 3 years afterwards, as I struggled in the world of utility bills and painfully low-paying jobs, I desperately missed my college days. I pined for the crazy parties, low-rent apartments shared with best friends, the near-zero responsibilities. To be a college student forever, I thought, would truly be a fantastic way to live.
I eventually stopped actively yearning for my college days, but every now and then I’d pass a group of careless 19-year-olds during my lunch hour – undoubtedly on their way to get drunk or take naps or some such luxury – and I’d feel a twinge of jealousy. I just knew those lousy bastards would be playing quarters and watching Happy Gilmore while I’d be sitting at my miserable little desk, listening to the receptionist talk about how – for her money – nothing cures a little irregularity like some cod liver oil.
So glamorous, my life!
Then one day I came across a group of college students sitting on the stairs of a campus building, smoking cloves in their Che Guevara t-shirts and talking loudly, as college students do. I heard part of their conversation, and holy shit. It was idiotic. Beyond idiotic. I would recount it here, but my brain immediately destroyed the neurons that captured that information in the interest of self-preservation. And just like that, it hit me: college students are completely clueless, entitled little shits who know nothing about anything, yet have an opinion about everything. Kind of like that lady at your office who doesn’t have kids, but feels compelled to give parenting advice to those who do.
“You know, Pete, little Madison probably wouldn’t throw tantrums at school if you and your wife didn’t let her watch so much television. My cats never watch television, and they’re just perfect angels.”
I emailed my friend Bird – who had often commiserated with me in the days when I longed to be back in college – and asked her point blank: “Were we annoying in college?”
It did not take her long to reply. In the affirmative.
Now, I knew I had matured a lot since college, but it had never occurred to me that I had been an insufferable little shit. After all, I always thought of college as a high point in my life – a time when I could get drunk or take naps whenever I damn well pleased, when paying rent was as easy as my parents sending the landlord a check, when I only thought as far ahead as the next weekend.
Oh. Hey. Waaaaaaait a second. I was a lazy drunk who didn’t pay her own rent and was arrogant enough to never plan ahead for more than a week at a time? And I thought I wasn’t a complete self-centered asswipe? Oh my. I think I’m beginning to understand now.
Yes, college-age me sure did have a lot of fun, but she was absolutely fucking clueless. She had no idea how to handle herself in job interviews, let her temper get the best of her way too often, and still hadn’t grasped that the only way to avoid fights with her parents was to just fucking tell them what they wanted to hear already instead of trying to get them to see her point of view. Also, her two main food groups were “noodles,” and “sauce,” and Jesus Christ, it’s no wonder I was sick all the time.
I saved “Creamy Mushroom” for special occasions.
Oh, I still treasure my college days – it was during those days I met some of my dearest friends (and my husband) – and in my defense, college-age me had no idea how ignorant she was. And she learned A LOT during those four years – most of it the hard way, which was probably the best way. And yes, I’m pretty sure the college kids look at me, in my sensible work clothes and ID badge, taking my American Heart Association-recommended 30-minute daily walk through campus, and roll their eyes at the lameness that they, surely, will never become. And that’s OK. Because present-day me has never been happier to be almost ten years removed from the days of Ramen and Box Wine, of Term Papers and Drafty Apartments, of Inappropriate Boyfriends and Hangovers So Bad You Are Certain Your Digestive System Is Attempting To Escape From Your Body And Possibly Run Away To France.
“Sacrebleu! Ze stupid college girl, she will hurt me no more with ze Boone’s Farm and ze late-night pizza! Au revoir! Bonne chance! Croissant! Jerry Lewis!”
Entry filed under: Gobble-gobble.