My sophomore year of college, I lived in a two bedroom apartment-style dorm room with the three friends I made freshman year. I spent the first half of the year thinking I was going to go to med school (hahahahaha) and the second half doing theater and planning to major in whatever would let me graduate a year early.
My diary continues to consist almost entirely of long lists of random worries:
I’m having a lot of fun living here w/ my 3 friends, but I’m starting to be really scared that I’ll never make any new friends. And that I’ll get a B in Chem. And never fall in love. And not have enough time for Civics. And not get to know any teachers who’ll write recommendations for me.
Now that I am 38, I can say definitively that exactly two of those feared outcomes came to pass. Guess which ones!
I also continued to take my parents entirely for granted:
I also have Mom’s car down here. I can have it here infrequently as long as I don’t come to depend on it. And she said in about 6 months, I can probably keep it for free.
I had to take my car home and so we decided J would follow me, so Dad wouldn’t have to drive me back. But when we got to the garage, J realized she’d left her back car door open for four days and the battery was dead. So we drove home in my car and came back shortly with one of our toasters, our cappuccino machine, the new microwave my Dad bought for us, and my Dad to fix J’s car.
And continued to be aggressively entitled in other ways:
Besides slogging around in the rain and freezing cold and a long, miserable lab that I didn’t understand, I also played phone tag w/ the Dining Services people all night and the upshot of it all is, they didn’t allow me to cancel my meal contract. And I’m absolutely, spitting FURIOUS about it. I haven’t given up, however. I got names and I’m scheduling a meeting with the head guy who denied it and I’m going to try to schedule it on a day when my mother can tag along, and if everything else fails, I’m going to cost them as much money as I can next semester. I’m going to fill five trays just FULL of food and send them right through the trash chute. I’m going to fill up my bookbag w/ bananas and cookies and apples whenever I can get to the cafeteria, I’m going to press the soda buttons and just let it all run down the drain. They obviously don’t care about wasting my money, so why should I care about wasting their food?
As promised, I sat outside the poor “head guy’s” office for hours, dogging him every time he came in or out, and he did in the end let me out of my meal contract. As I mentioned in an earlier installment, I’m impressed by the conviction and assertiveness of my younger self, even as I am horrified by her solipsism and terrible treatment of others.
My academic and intellectual development continued at about the expected pace for a state school student:
In History discussion today, I thought about two things: 1) Does the absence of memory erase pain or make it bearable or forgivable? What’s the relationship between memory and pain? 2) In certain situations there are no good guys or bad guys. Sometimes the most heinous acts are perhaps justifiable and constancy, loyalty, and hard work lead to nothing, not even salvation for one’s self. After discussion, I went to the Black Cultural Center and signed up for a Chem tutor (it’s free!).
Well, I’m really not keeping up w/ my grades, but somehow they’re still keeping up w/ me. I managed to make a 103 on my Women’s Lit exam even though I didn’t even finish the essay.
Having switched my major to English, I was taking a lot of creative writing classes, which is apparent in the increasing specificity and originality of my prose:
He has a longish, mashed face and hair on his head. I can’t stand him b/c he talks too damn much.
I also began to dabble in feminist activism:
Wednesday, after my test I was so relieved and keyed up (I had seriously been so worked up all day it was like I had an audition; when the test hit the desk, I almost threw up on it) that I just wanted to go running. But after a LONG lecture, and an even longer history discussion, I still had to go to WCC and make about eight million Take Back the Night posters. AND I put the stupid paint sticks down too low, so I had to do them all over. I made one that said Sex=Good, Violence=Bad, w/ little smileys in the OO’s and frownies in the BAD, but they didn’t use it.
And cultural appreciation:
J and I watched Casablanca, and, I hate to say this, but I didn’t really think it was all that hot. And furthermore, had I been Ingrid Bergman, I would have much preferred my husband to Humphery Bogart. I just didn’t really get it. Then we watched T2 Judgment Day. (Now that’s a movie!)
About halfway through the year, I randomly auditioned for a production of Inherit the Wind that the big theater on campus was doing, and I got cast in the main girl part. It was sort of a big deal because I wasn’t a theater major, and the cast had an ensemble of like 30 people who I would have quite liked to make friends with, and they were all wondering who the hell I was and why I had gotten cast.
And then I kind of sucked in the part.
Until I re-read this diary, I remembered this as being a fun time — I met a ton of people, I had stuff to do all the time, I got to wear lovely ‘20s dresses that were sewn to fit me, and I was frequently the center of attention. I had forgotten that it was actually a stressful time because the director kept having to arrange late rehearsals with me and the other principals to try to fix scenes I was struggling with. I was anxious to do well, or to at least not fuck everything up for everyone else, and I was mortified to feel like I was failing. To be fair to me, it’s an old-fashioned play and my lines were all sentimental garbage, and I had to do things like break into hysterical tears out of nowhere multiple times throughout the play, which is not an easy thing to sell. Luckily, one of the two principal performers (both old guys who’d been cast in NY and flown in) turned out to be in the early stages of dementia. He could not retain his lines, and he regularly dropped whole scenes even though he carried his highlighted script with him onstage throughout the entire run. This was probably a really frightening life crisis for him, but having no empathy whatsoever, I welcomed it as a lucky turn of events in that he ended up deflecting all the negative attention from me.
The part was stupid, but it did reassure me on one score — up until this point in my life, I’d had a hard time performing femininity sufficiently for the South. I got a lot of shit about being masculine (or, as my peers at the time usually put it, dykey), and I was always worried that I wasn’t passing. This especially mattered because this was during the brief window in my life when I was actually interested in dating. Anyway, this year, my friends took me shopping a lot and taught me how to wear the right kind of bras and how to walk in heels and so on, and although I resented the hell out of having to learn all this (and still do), my life did get better once I figured it all out.
I was thinking (again) about my femininity and being more feminine, and I think I hit on something. I’ve been cast in a play as a pretty young girl, a generic, boring rep of the female sex. And I’ve kind of been asked to audition for another one. And so I’m obviously feminine! So I should stop trying to act feminine and just think of everything I am doing AS feminine. And maybe that would get rid of all those self-conscious affectations I have all the time that are so unattractive.
Now, this doesn’t seem like much, but if I squint at it hard, I can see myself starting to kind of figure out the scam.
Between my involvement in theater and my burgeoning attractiveness, my social life finally got off the ground, and I immediately became the Hot Mess to end all hot messes. I socialized like I was on rumspringa. And while most of the stuff in this diary continues to be horrifying, I’m blown away by how active I was overall — I had classes all day and rehearsals and then shows until late every week night, and all day and night both weekend days, and then I would be out partying until 4am basically every night, and when I got home, there were usually a ton of people in my apartment so I sat around until dawn talking to them. And in amongst all of this, I was still consistently working out and studying and writing papers during every half hour of downtime I had. How the hell? We didn’t even know about adderall back then; I was doing all this with my natural brain! If I hadn’t gotten distracted by the motherfucking arts, I’d probably be rich and retired by now.
Anyway, most of my socializing is far too humiliating to relate here, but here are a few cherrypicked glimpses:
I went to A’s birthday party, but it was really awkward b/c it was a bunch of hippies in peasant clothes doing nitrous and they weren’t very open to minglers.
He lived way out and it was INCREDIBLY foggy and M was reading directions to J. We were going the wrong way on the interstate, so we got off at Papermill and tried to turn around, but J pulled into the oncoming lane and neither her nor M realized it and there was a car coming straight towards us and the three of us in the backseat were screaming and M and J were yelling at us to shut up and finally they saw the car and J yelled and pulled into the median and the other car swerved and we almost died, but we weren’t hit and our hubcap fell off. We stopped to check for a flat and some homeless man almost attacked us. After getting lost about 8 million times, we finally got to the party. K threw up in J’s car and that put a HUGE damper on the evening. We dropped them off, then went to Kroger and bought a bunch of cleaning supplies and spent an hour or so in the parking garage in our cute outfits, heels, and latex gloves cleaning up vomit. I hate boys. We’re giving him the Kroger bill.
Y showed us his guinea pigs he’d made out of clay w/ their little feet and daisies on their heads. R later said it made her mad that Y sat there and put feet on those guinea pigs. R and I both have electric toothbrushes and we lie on our backs in bed every night and brush together like we’re at the dentist. Today I am going to write that lit paper.
I was also starting to get more attention from guys, and I was interested in the possibility of having a boyfriend for exactly two reasons: (1) I now had guy-related stories to exchange with my friends so they were more interested in me than they had been freshman year and they left me out of things less frequently, and (2) I was under the impression that boyfriends habitually carried all their girlfriends’ shit in their pockets when clubbing, so I would no longer have to carry a purse. Now that I had finally been indoctrinated into wearing sufficiently feminine clothing when I went out, I was really bothered by not having any pockets, and I went on about this at length. Then, one night, a hapless guy friend came with us to a dance club and he wore cargo shorts. I drew a bead on those shorts like a hawk on a crippled rabbit, but I knew better than to pounce all at once — my idea of subtlety was only asking him to carry one thing at a time, pacing out my requests like I didn’t do with drinks. Throughout the evening, I loaded him up with my car keys, my ID, some cash, a Chapstick, a small bottle of water, and a broken necklace. And he still had pockets to spare! This was a revelation! I became determined to acquire a steady haver-of-pockets to carry my stuff whenever I required. (I never managed it.)
Despite the giddy social merry-go-round, however, I continued to be my same old emo self when left to my own devices:
It’s weird to look out the windows and see so many lighted little boxes w/ people in them, all crammed into one space. It’s like I’m living in a big city. I used to get so depressed walking around the suburbs, how far apart and isolated everything and everybody was, how no one ever interacted, but every house was on its own little island, a million miles away from anything interesting. But now I realize that in this environment, everyone’s just as isolated. I still get depressed looking out the window at all the crammed little compartments w/ people rattling around in them, wandering from room to room, divided by dark alleys and window frames. I’m starting to think it’s not the housing that’s so depressing – I think it’s me.
Aww, lil buddy! If you think you’re depressing now, just wait until you move back in with your parents at 30.