It’s Homecoming weekend. No wonder there were so many students all garbed-out at the same time: boys with warpaint on their faces, girls with gaudy t-shirts offsetting their way-too-short shorts.
There’s a big house party on a busy street. The music can be heard blocks away. A gaggle of students crowds the front porch, surrounded by discarded beer cups (red, so they count as school spirit). A girl in a pink shirt, jeans, and sunglasses sits on the step with a drink in her hand, not conversing with anyone, but moving her head to the music. Dilovely can tell (recognizing one of her own) she is not one of the cool ones, but here she is at this awesome party. It’s surreal, and hard for her to believe she’s there, but she will pretend she does this all the time.
Not long after, Dilovely stands in line at the liquor store, trying to remember the last time she got carded. (It was well into her twenties, but now fading in the distance.) The guys behind her are talking about how “sick” it is that there are $4 mickeys of champagne for sale. Dilovely is disconcerted that one of the guys is standing right up in her personal space and periodically brushing up against her; it isn’t until one guy drops his six-pack and the group of them is escorted out of the store that she realizes why she overheard one of them asking his buddies, “Do my eyes look red to you?”
That’s how naïve Dilovely is: she has never tried to buy alcohol while drunk, so she never knew this was not allowed. In fact, here’s a secret: Dilovely has never, in her whole life, been drunk enough to be sick, or even fall over. Not even at her own bachelorette, where she had a record 11 drinks (including shots).
Back to the checkout line. The cashier is a dewy-faced young man with a beard that really tries hard. He says awkwardly, “It’s homecoming this weekend. I guess I really should be watching out for those… They sure don’t give people in my age group a very good reputation.”
Dilovely laughs sympathetically and says with feeling, “Oh, they’re your age group? Poor you!”
The fact is, she relates strongly to this boy. She has been a preposterously good girl for her entire life – and liked it that way. She has always been studious and sensible, barely broke curfew in high school, never pulled an all-nighter, never made out with a stranger, never had irresponsible sex – and never saw the appeal in being intoxicated enough to vomit. Even though she loves dancing, she was never big on bars in university because she hated coming home with ears ringing and clothes reeking of smoke. (Her ideal dance party is a wedding, where all ages get silly on the dance floor and there’s virtually zero grinding.) She was thrilled, after her first year in the dorm, to move into a house with three awesome girls who were hilariously fun but not big partiers. She got to be herself – relatively uncool, but happy. Those were really good times… but she was always aware that she did not fulfill common social expectations.
[It was not until age 24, during her internship in Costa Rica at the end of teachers’ college, that Dilovely realized she might possess a degree of coolness after all. She was talking with some biology research students about her M.A. paper on feminine enunciation in francophone Africa, and one of them said, with awe in her voice, “That… is… so… cool!” Huh. So… it’s all in the eye of the beholder. We can know in our hearts that we are geeks, but still be perceived as awesome by certain people. How about that!]
The post-secondary scene has changed a lot, even in just the last 10-15 years. Higher numbers of students get into university every year, but tuition is also higher, which would indicate more frosh with money every homecoming. There are studies indicating that more and more students are entering institutions of superior learning without coping skills, overprotected and overfinanced by their parents, coddled by systems in which failure doesn’t exist. They arrive and become anxious and depressed in record numbers. Hence, they drink in record amounts. Not conducive to personal growth or academic excellence.
As you can tell, Dilovely’s brain somehow got all philosophical over a leaky six-pack of Molson. She realized that she has never been gladder to be so far beyond all that – to be a staid adult with a husband and a child and a mortgage. To be at an age (and in a profession) where your peers don’t care how much you’re drinking or what you’re wearing or how rebellious or wild or cool you are.
In fact, she has realized, they care a lot more about how you’re doing today. It’s great.