Readers, I am now working on my seventh year of still being a student. During this time, I have accumulated quite a bit of expertise about the Dos and Don’ts of university life. College is a weird time for people, and if you are in the WB show Felicity, you use those years to cut off all your hair, play acoustic guitar, get a job in a coffee shop, have almost-threesomes with guys 10 years older than you, search for your long-lost mother, engage in witchcraft, read poetry to Janeane Garofalo and go back in time to stop your ex-boyfriend from dying in a fire.
If you are reading this and in college or headed for college one day, I want better for you than this. You will not make the mistakes that Felicity did. With this handy guide at your side, you will get through these 4+ years with your golden, angelic locks fully intact.
1. You will do almost anything for free food.
This is because college shows you how important food is, and when you are hungry, you will do almost anything, including covert to Judaism (for the love of free falafel) or join all of the campus groups that have free food. For a while, I joined the Psychology department networking club on campus — just because they put out hummus at almost every meeting. I have never even taken a Psychology class.
However, unless you are one of those unicorns with a limitless supply of student center food supplied by loan money and/or your trust fund, food is not always a thing you are acquainted with during your college years. Back when he was a grad student, an old professor of mine once ate a candy bar he found in a dumpster, and if you live in Portland, Santa Cruz, Wicker Park or Silver Lake, almost all of the food in your refrigerator was “reclaimed” from the trash. Which really means that you might die soon.
If you are me, you find any person who works in a restaurant or a café instantly more attractive because of their connection to free food; you once kept dating someone you loathed because their father was the Vice President of Silk, and breaking up meant no more free soy milk; you are currently scouting your local Jewel and Trader Joe’s for any eligible male workers to make sex with, in order to steal their discount. Bag boy in the Lincoln Park Dominick’s, I know you’re into men, and I’m coming for you.
2. Getting drunk is not always the best way to meet people, especially eligible mates.
Generally, in order to forge a connection with someone, you have to be able to remember it the next day. If you can’t remember whether or not the two of you had sex, that is not something we count as the beginning of a whirlwind romance. That’s just called my freshman year.
If you are not getting your first case of hemorrhoids from drunken anal, you are meeting people that you swear, while massively slurring, are your new “Best Friends Ever!” — or as my mother calls them, BFEs. You’ll plan to take new languages together, to go on Study Abroad trips and maybe even go over to the university gym to join that Spin Class you’ve been mulling. However, you’ll mysteriously forget to ever get their name or number, and Facebook doesn’t bring up any hits for “Tallish, Shortish Girl Who Threw Up on Me” in its search engines. Mark Zuckerberg should really work on that.
3. Monogamy is for your parents.
Remember when you started college and all you really wanted to do was meet the love of your life and get engaged right before graduation? I met a girl my freshman year who only enrolled in college solely to find a husband — because having your father simply marry you off to the butcher Lazar Wolf is too easy. From what I hear, marrying people off into mild slavery is why PR/Advertising programs, sororities and the Young Republicans exist.
However, because God is kind, she did get married and promptly got orange and fat, as marriage is kind of like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Sure, it seems like fun, but when you get inside, Oompa Loompas scream at you, all the children are spoiled, some are eaten by their television sets, everyone cries a lot and you might not make it out alive. (Even in the best case scenario, you wind up secretly stuck with the factory, aka marriage, at the end–until you become so disillusioned with the enterprise that you trick someone else into dealing with it instead. Not exactly what I call a win-win.)
College teaches you to hate everything you once liked — especially if you are an International Studies, Women and Gender Studies, Media Studies or Philosophy major — and this includes all the things your parents ever did. Thus, you will no longer have any desire to have children, buy a Volvo, vote for McCain or watch any episodes of NCIS, and by the time graduation rolls around, almost every person you know identifies as queer and poly, even the people who are technically “straight.” And then after you graduate, your entire friend and dating circle includes a strange mixture of partners, lovers, sex partners, cuddle buddies, friends with benefits and platonic life partners.
If you are at a college party, this will describe almost every single person you meet at that party, and the ways in which people are introduced to you get increasingly complicated. For instance: “Nico, this is Ben. Ben, Nico. Ben is dating Andrew but sleeping with Claude, who is Tyler’s partner. Andrew also makes out sometimes with Marc, but is going home with Paul and Octavius, who are in a three-year relationship with Ben, but not this Ben. Ben is at home right now watching Downton Abbey. Nico…well, Nico really likes cardigans.”
Note: Everything you think you think about relationships will probably dissolve the moment you graduate. Welcome to the Bubble.
4. Also, online dating is no longer considered creepy and lots of people are doing it.
It once was considered crazy and quirky that America’s sweetheart Meg Ryan met Tom Hanks online, and they lived happily ever after. That’s so 90s. These days, OkCupid is the lone string puller of almost every relationship you know, especially if you happen to be queer. After my most recent relationship dissolution, a friend of mine insisted that I reactivate my OkCupid account — which I technically had before but forgot existed — and put myself out there again. Apparently, all of my exes are also putting themselves out there, as are some of my co-workers and my boss. You don’t know awkward until you know how people who control your life like it, um, “romantically.” Yowzie-yowza.
5. No one ever graduates in four years. (Because everything you know about yourself is a lie.)
Did you know, that according to some random statistic from some organization that claims to know things (aka The U.S Department of Education, those silly fools), that only one-third of college students graduate in four years? This is one of many ways that programs like Felicity and Gilmore Girls totally lied to us about everything that happens to you college, as neither of those shows depicted your freshman year roommates doing heroin in your bathroom or told you that dorms are the worst thing that ever happened to humanity. (Personally, I feel that abolishing all forms of student housing should be at the top of Barack Obama’s agenda, but I see that our crumbling economy does not agree with me.)
But name one TV show in which the characters don’t go through the typical college conveyor belt. I’ve been to three schools, and it took me five years to graduate undergrad; my roommate will be attending his fourth university in the fall, and an old teacher I knew went through six majors before he graduated. It took him eight years — just to get a Bachelor’s.
Although this could be an indication of how jazzed people are to get of college and not get a job in the field they spent $50,000 to get a degree to enter, I think it just shows how futile life plans are. You might start off college a brunette second-wave Reaganite from Iowa but finish your decade-long stint in the university a blonde, Jewish bisexual who wants to go into the Peace Corps and thinks that Dennis Kucinich is America’s next great president. College makes you do all sorts of crazy things to find yourself, like get a back tattoo, move to the “bad side of town,” only eat white food, start juice fasts, wear knit hats in the summer and insist that you liked Bon Iver before he got “mainstream.”
Freshmen, you may think you know yourself, but you don’t know you. That takes time, wisdom, multiple majors and lots of bashing Lena Dunham on your ironically named Twitter account. But you’ll get there.