1. Music Festival Pictures
Appearance: Wow look at all the beautiful people (cheerleader effect to the extreme) in their crop-tops and flower headbands. They look like they walked out of a Free People ad and that sun flare is to die for. I wonder what that moment felt like? It must have been like in The Perks of Being A Wallflower when they felt infinite. I’m so jealous I will never be as happy as they were at Coachella/Lollapalooza/Sasquatch/Bonnaroo. Why did I ever think that dropping 300 bucks (not to mention lodging and travel) on a concert was absurd?? What is wrong with me??? I hate my lame life.
Reality: There were hours of unbelievable music. But there were also 10 hours of standing a day. There was a lot of jockeying for a spot close enough to hear that involved close proximity with sweaty, smelly people and many many elbows to the spleen. There was waiting 40 minutes to use a vomit-covered port-a-potty. There were a lot of vomiting 14-year-olds. There were a lot of stressful times spent trying to locate friends due to jammed cell phone towers and the tendency of the intoxicated to wander. There was overpriced food and warm alcohol. There was fun, but it sure as hell wasn’t glamorous like the photos.
2. Pre-Going Out Dorm Room Pictures
Appearance: Seven girls dressed to the nines in college’s finest: lacy tanks, short tight skirts. Heels if they’re feeling ambitious (please no). Horrendous fluorescent lighting be damned, they look good. They look like they’re going somewhere fab, like they’re about to have the best night ever and even if you went out and were at the same party as them, you clearly weren’t having as good a time.
Reality: Behind them is a handle of blueberry Burnetts and two D-Cokes from the vending machines. Their grimaces as they rip shots – to avoid drinking warm Natty later on – is not pictured. Neither is their aimless wandering looking for a party after the one they were invited to turns out to just be a handful of creepy guys from their Government 101 lecture. Also not pictured, getting an entire cup of jungle juice spilled down their fronts at the party they found before it got shut down by campus police and they headed to local bars only to get rejected and eat enough pizza to put a football player in a food coma. Also not pictured: the next night, no makeup, sweats, a bowl of popcorn, and Netflix.
3. Frat Party Pictures
Appearance: God that girl must get so many guys. I mean seriously look at her, they’re falling at her feet. She’s sweaty from dancing, but it gives her a wild, carefree glow like she doesn’t need anyone to have fun and just for this reason everyone wants to be around her. She owns the stage, she owns the night, she might as well be the Greek version of Queen Bey.
Reality: You awkwardly shimmy in a circle with your friends waiting for someone to dance with you. You realize how much of a meat market this is. You struggle with whether this realization means it’s not okay to still want someone to want you. You fluctuate between feeling dejected no one is dancing with you and disgusted/objectified when someone does. There is not enough alcohol yet somehow all the boys are way too trashed and sloppy to be fun…ohhh there’s a connection there, isn’t there? This is all so weird and manufactured. Like the cheerleader effect, there is definitely a frat effect as well. A frat boy spills beer on you and your sheets smell like hops in the morning.
4. Formal Pictures
Appearance: Coiffed boys in suits, girls in heels, silk dresses, hair perfectly curled. Oh my god did she do her makeup herself? How is that even fair? Ugh, are they together? They make such a sickeningly beautiful couple. I wish I had an excuse to get all dolled up like that. I wish every college party was like the one they’re going to. All the crappiness of college parties would be fixed if they were all formals.
Reality: Stress over who to ask. Awkwardness clarifying whether asking someone (if you don’t have a significant other) has romantic connotations or not. Uncomfortable clothes, uncomfortable transportation. Forced merriment. Time schedules. Your date gets you kicked out early because they’re too drunk.
5. ABC/Toga Party Pictures
Appearance: Ooh fun! I wish my school threw more theme parties!
Reality: Someone will end up walking home naked and someone else will end the night crying in a pool of their own vomit. The two are not necessarily unrelated.
6. Running Pictures
Appearance: Good god, no wonder she is so fit, she runs all the time. And not only that, but she really seems to enjoy it. Why doesn’t she even look winded? She’s glowing…I hate people who get off on fitness, I think they’re lying to subconsciously convince themselves they don’t totally hate it. God, I’m such a fat ass. When was the last time I went to the gym? Oh I went on a run last week! I mean it was to Pinkberry but I totally broke a sweat.
Reality: Pictured: post run runner’s high. Not pictured: panting, vomiting, inner-monologue of despair.
7. Family Photos
Appearance: God they must be such a happy family. Look at their beatific smiles, and their limbs casually thrown around each other. That’s love if I ever saw it. I bet they spend their weekends sailing, and hiking, and at weddings, and on Cape Cod.
Reality: This photo was absolutely taken mid-fight. The siblings were probably bickering over something dumb like an errant comment that one took way more offense at than was necessary, or maybe the daughter was being bratty because the mother was being naggy. Either way, this photo is less a testament of family love, and more the incredible acting ability of the family members and the mom’s incessant need to document every family moment.