I went to college in Washington State, for a couple of years. Tacoma, Washington, to be precise. A city where Cops is filmed on a regular basis.
Tacoma was a hotbed of gang activity. There were warnings about owning blue or red cars. You didn’t make eye contact with anyone at the mall for fear of being shot. In the midst of this gangland, was a high-end college. The girls in my dorm had never been away from home. They had never consumed alcohol that wasn’t in wine cooler form (unlike myself, who was a connoisseur of super cheap vodka). They wore pure white Keds and had shrines devoted to their high school boyfriends. Barf. Ooops. That may have been the vodka coming back up.
I had a roommate. She smelled. But she did not smell as bad as her hippy boyfriend. Together, they smelled like an old pair of socks. They were always stuck together like an old pair of socks too. I think their cumulative brain power was about equal to a pair of socks. So, the socks took over my dorm room. Every time I came back to it, there they were. Stuck together. Stinking up the place.
I’d grown up with stories about high school being hard. I had no idea that college would be worse. At least I had dated in high school. In college, suddenly all the fish in the sea had dried up and joined fraternities (or smelled like socks… or both). What was going on here? I was swimming every morning, and every afternoon. I wasn’t sleeping at night because I had a bone-headed frat boy above me who liked to bounce his basketball while he drank. All night long. The girl swimmers there were dead serious. There was a rule of absolutely no drinking during the season. And everyone showered together after practice! How was I supposed to do that if I wasn’t drinking? Oh my god, I’m in hell!!!
My dorm was across the street from the pool, so I chose to shower there. That made me happy, until one of the senior girls asked me what my problem was.
“Why don’t you just shower here? It’s not like we’re all lesbians or something.”
Actually, I do believe that she was a lesbian. But that was not my problem. I was, and always have been, totally uncomfortable with nudity – ESPECIALLY IN A GROUP SHOWER. I mumbled and retreated to my stupid dorm, with stupid college kids, planning stupid parties, that I was stupidly jealous of not being invited to.
Somehow children borne to the same parents, often turn out to have completely and utterly opposite personalities. My sister loved this school. My parents wondered what was wrong with me. They wondered if I was becoming an alcoholic (borderline, but only for two years). They wondered why I couldn’t just enjoy it, like my sister. Maybe you should join her sorority. Me? Sorority?
If you want a laugh, you should picture ME going through Rush. What a complete mess. I had to wear nice clothes, brush my hair, and smile constantly. My face actually hurt from smiling so much. There was one African American girl in the whole lot of us. That was IT! She made it two days and quit. She was sooooo much smarter than me. I made it through, suffering only one nervous breakdown during a Rush party. I had quit the swim team (the sober group showering had broken me) just prior to the party. When asked how I was enjoying school, my eyes betrayed my plastic smile and started pouring tears. Against my better judgment, my nose started expelling snot. Even the gasping, suffocating sounds of true pent up sadness came tumbling out.
Funny. They dropped me from their list immediately.
The only “house” that didn’t drop me was the one my sister was in. They were hurting for members. I fit the bill. I joined a sorority.
Was my life instantly better? Were boys falling at my feet? No. Nothing had really changed except that I had rid myself of the group shower experience and introduced myself to the group sleeping experience. ACK. We had “sleeping chambers” which fit four bunk beds. We were constantly sick, so the windows were always opened in an futile attempt to cleanse our putrid, viral air. Tacoma was once a town with an active paper mill and a pickle factory. These are two smells that should never be combined. In fact, the closest comparison I have is skunk. We slept in our chamber, breathing in the “clean” skunky air, alone, still without boyfriends. Then the screaming began.
There was a girl in our “chamber” who suffered from night terrors. That means there were eight of us in that chamber suffering from night terrors. Okay. I thought the swim team was hell. I was wrong. To finally fall asleep in a place where melatonin never kicks in because the sun never shines and your body has no sense of day and night only to be awoken by a screaming college student, is just a brutal thing (well, that’s what a spoiled college student thinks. Little did I know what motherhood would bring).
I tried to make the most of it by rebelling. I got drunk and sang “watermelon” over and over when our sorority went to serenade the fraternities (are these the rantings of a crazy person? perhaps. BUT, if you mouth the word “watermelon” while singing, it looks like you know all the words. this is in the same vein as whispering “olive oil” instead of “I love you” – invaluable knowledge, eh?). I stole a Red Hot Chili Peppers cd from a dance. I felt the frat boys weren’t worthy of such great, funky music. I know, such a serious rebel. You’re scared, aren’t you?
Go figure, becoming a sorority girl a) did not make me any happier, and b) did not suit me at all. But, I did learn more about myself. I learned that I am a woman who brushes her teeth daily, but maybe not her hair. I don’t see the value in serenading frat boys, especially sober. I like the sun. I like the Red Hot Chili Peppers. And I REALLY like showering ALONE.
My sister loved this school, as I said. Now, we both love Colorado (where the sun shines almost every day! And it only smells like skunks when there is a skunk). She married one of the frat boys who we serenaded with “watermelon.”
Maybe it was his cd I stole.
I still feel worthy of those funky Chili Peppers tunes, because in my bubble I am funky. Not smelly sock funky, but funky like a monkey. Like a funky monkey, eating bananas, in her sun-shiny pink bubble of happiness.