As a freshman unversed in collegiate social law, you must be hyper-vigilant in learning the rules as quickly as possible—especially if you plan to attend a very small school in a very bucolic town in the middle-of-nowhere New England.
Students at larger universities are granted some degree of anonymity, so they can take their time becoming proficient in the fundamental principles of party and bar going without concern that every misstep will be noticed. When you go to a school with fewer than 2,000 students, however, there is absolutely no chance of flying below the radar. In a place where literally everybody knows your name, notoriety is easily acquired and virtually impossible to shake. So it’s all the more material that you follow the rules (i.e. don’t be that belligerently blacked-out fool) at a small school.
If you’ve ever read Cosmopolitan, watched a show on ABC, or spoken to another human your age, you probably understand the consequences of being the drunkest person at a gathering. So instead of reciting the reasons why it’s a bad idea to let yourself get that wasted, I issue a single injunction to rising freshman at small colleges across the nation: Do not go to “The Bar” until at least second semester.
The Bar—that lone tavern in the sprawling metropolis that is your college town—is a thing of intrigue. Even for a native New Yorker accustomed to passing by watering holes on every block, the bar at a small school manages to harness a surprising amount of mystique. The moment you arrive on campus, you’ll be pining to check it out. Why? Because you’re under 21 and, chances are, The Bar is where a lot of the fun takes place. But be strong, pupils, and resist that urge to explore the unknown right away.
There are three crucial reasons why you should wait. First, you don’t want to be that brazen freshman who feels she (or he) can enter as they please in spite of the injunctions from upperclassmen who claim it as their territory. I know, I know. You paid 150 dollars for that fake ID and you aren’t about to let some imperious asshole 8.5 months your senior put an embargo on your use of it. But trust me, in no time you’ll be in said asshole’s position and you, too, will be hesitant to welcome the new crop of sloppy freshman onto your drinking turf. Second, The Bar will not—I repeat, WILL NOT—get increasingly exciting the more you frequent it. If you cross the threshold too soon, you run the risk of getting bored of the only drinking establishment on campus by your sophomore year, which is decidedly no bueno. In the words of Carl Sagan, “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” Let that magical mystery be the Red Herring. Finally, while The Bar can be a magical place, it inevitably brings out the weird in your classmates. There’s something about putting a group of sweaty, lecherous college students under one roof that’s so comfortably close to, yet severed from campus that encourages said students to act freaky—or at least, more audacious—than usual.
Take Liam, for example.
Liam and I made out randomly one October night. We’d seen each other countless times at parties on campus since, but neither of us had shown any interest in the other beyond that ever-so-intimate snogging sesh. Until the first time I went to The Bar.
A practitioner of my own dogma, I waited until May to make my first cameo at The Bar. Liam unabashedly ogled me for a solid eight minutes before sauntering over and offering to buy me a drink. I of course accepted. I’m not Bill fucking Gates, so I will shamelessly embrace just about any opportunity for a free beverage. Anyway, from what I could gather based on our 10-minute conversation, Liam seemed like a perfectly nice, normal guy. Cute, too. But it was getting late, I was tired, and all but one of my girlfriends had left The Bar. So I thanked Liam for the drink and told him that I was calling it a night.
In a staggering turn of events, he insisted on walking me home. He’d been fairly charming and generous and I didn’t really feel like walking back alone, so, once again, I accepted his (valiant?) offer.
Immediately upon exiting The Bar, things started descending into alien territory. We’d walked for a minute or two when I got a text from a friend asking me to stop by his dorm before I went to bed. When I indicated that I’d be breaking off sooner than expected, Liam paused.
“No, no… come on, come back to [his dorm].”
I chuckled politely.
“I can’t. One of my friends is sick. I need to help her.”
Liam stopped someone passing whom neither of us new. “Tell her not go back to [my friend’s dorm] and to come back with me instead,” he directed.
Visibly perturbed, the girl responded, “Um, I don’t know, dude. It looks like she kind of wants to do her own thing.”
“Come on, come on. Your friend doesn’t really need you. At least give me your number,” Liam pleaded.
Desperate to put an end to the awkwardness, I plugged my digits into his phone.
“Thanks again for the drink!” I said.
Moments after we parted ways, I received a text from an unknown number. The following negotiation unfolded:
To that last text, I replied with my second well-merited fib of the night: “I really can’t. My friend’s sick.”
To which he rejoined: “I’ll help you, then we’ll chill.”
Both amused and traumatized by Liam’s persistence, I decided not to reply.
Usually, I’m thrilled by boldness. But this was too much. And I blame it on The Bar. Had I not entered into that sticky, salacious atmosphere—had I not accepted that drink—I don’t think Laim would’ve felt licensed to be so brash. Thankfully, though, this encounter occurred very late in the year, and with finals around the corner, I only saw Liam once post-weirdness.
So, students, I beseech you: Do not challenge the fact that as a first-semester freshman, you are not mentally, physically, or psychologically prepared for what The Bar might lob your way. There’s nothing more awkward than facing the guy (or girl) who got a little too freaky with you every weekend for the rest of your first year. And at a small enough school, you’re destined to.