I have a very complicated love/hate relationship with my alma mater. On one hand, I never actually wanted to go there in the first place. AU was my safety school and I guess nobody's really like, "HURRAY!!! WE'RE GOING WITH PLAN C!!!!" On the other hand, once I actually got there, I slowly realized that most of my new friends were smarter than me and it felt like maybe I should pipe down, feel lucky to be there, pick up a book and learn some shit. But then again, the giant bureaucratic circle jerk that is the AU administration made my life hell, and I loathed the average AU kid; or "WONKS", as I believe they're called now. (We just called them "ASSHOLES" in my day, but those were simpler times, weren't they?) But on the other hand, I met most of my favorite people at AU. Alex, Helena, Laura, both Andrews, Ex Co-Blogger Eddie, Ashleigh, Lara, College Roommate Danielle, Rachel, Dan, Jenna, Carl—all AU Eagles. But do I feel like I got an education there that I couldn't have gotten for significantly less money at UMD? Not really. See? I waver. But god forbid I hear someone talk shit about AU or I'm all up in their face with more glowing statistics about our academics and rankings than an admissions counseler on crack.
A few months ago (I think?) I was at a party or something talking with some friends of a friend (I know this intro sounds incredibly vague, but then again I don't remember an entire week of October. During these trying times, you're just going to have to bear with me,) and one of them asked me where I went to school. "Oh, I went to AU," I replied. Two of the girls instantly turned to each other and burst into laughter.
"Sorry, we don't mean to laugh, it's just we have this inside joke with our friends that AU is a fake school." That's when I gave her a look that clearly conveyed, "I have a liver full of three glasses of Robert Mandovi and a hot Irish temper—shall we dance?" and the other started to back-peddle.
"Well, I mean, we know it's a real school. It's just we used to drive by it on Mass every morning on our way to work and we never saw anybody walking around there. So we had this joke that nobody actually went there and it was like just some big conspiracy or something."
Now, from the amount of shit I talk about AU on a daily basis, you'd think I'd be like, "Ha ha, yeah, well, it might as well have been a fake school from the education I got," or something, but instead I freaked out all, "OH, I'M SORRY, BUT WE DON'T GO TO CLASS IN THE MIDDLE OF MASSACHUSETTES AVENUE LIKE A PACK OF WILD STREET URCHINS ROAMING THE CITY, PICKING UP BITS OF KNOWLEDGE AND HOT DOG SCRAPS WHEREVER WE CAN—WE HAVE AN INTIMATE CAMPUS TUCKED AWAY FROM PRYING EYES. THAT'S RIGHT, A CAMPUS IN THE CITY. IT'S THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS. AND IT'S A GORGEOUS CAMPUS, BY THE WAY. OUR FRIEDHEIM QUAD WAS DESIGNED BY FREDERICK LAW OLMSTEAD, DESIGNER OF A LITTLE SOMETHING CALLED CENTRAL PARK. EVER HEARD OF IT? YEAH. THOUGHT SO. EVER HEARD OF JUDGE JUDY OR GOLDIE HAWN? YEAH, TOKEN ALMUNAE. NO BIG DEAL. SO I RECCOMEND YOU SPEND LESS TIME MAKING INSIDE JOKES AND MORE TIME TRYING NOT TO SUCK MY DICK SO HARD."
And then six hours later and I was back to making "the Harvard of Spring Valley" jokes.
But there's one aspect of AU that I have never, and will never waver on: the food. (Slightly predictable, I know.) The food at AU is delicious, and it certainly made those four years more do-able. I remember when I was a senior in high school looking through Princeton Review books, the little "at-a-glance" survey for AU was always like:
Liquor is popular
Drugs are popular
Most students smoke
Most students are unhappy
The food is amazing. But like, stupid amazing.
And that's when I said, "Sign this girl up."
Helena was over one night a few months ago and we started talking about how much we missed college and how our sophomore year was the best year ever, and we miss the food and OH MAN—REMEMBER TDR THANSKGIVING??!!
TDR Thankgiving was the pinnacle of our year. (Or my year, at least.) Every year, the week before Thanksgiving break, TDR (or, the Terrace Dining Room, if you will. Basements are called "terraces" at AU. It's kind of like how White Town calls being unsigned, being "an independently financed band." It just sounds more dignified. American University—polishing that turd since 1893.) holds a big, delicious Thanksgiving dinner and it was always the best day of TDR food evz. Suddenly Helena and I had hatched a plan to figure out the date of this year's TDR Thanksgiving; find a freshman who'd obviously have a shit ton of meal blocks leftover because when you're a freshman, your parents are like, "GET THE 5,000 BLOCK MEAL PLAN! MY BABY WILL NOT GO WITHOUT!" and then the next year they wise up and send you off with a pack of Luna bars and their best wishes; get them to swipe us in; and FEAST slash relive some of our old college glory days. It was an amazing plan. But where to find that freshman...?
And that's when fate came a-knockin' on my door. Or blog, as it were.
And Bingo was his name-o. Well, Meaghan, actually. AND GOD BLESS HER HEART. Because last night she and her friends swiped me, Helena, Laura and Andrew of the Great Juno Debate into TDR Thanksgiving and then into our old dorm to let us wander around and reminisce. And the results were...mixed.
First and foremost, homegirl and her friends were friggin' adorable. I should really meet up with readers more often because I never don't like them. Although it did freak me out that they were all class of '14. '14! What's even the point of going to college at that point? We'll all be dead by then. But, really. Adorable. She took a picture with me to send to her mom. I mean, really.
Second and secondmost, TDR Thanksgiving did not dissapoint. Being in TDR felt like being home again, and I mean that in the least morbidly obese way possible. It's just whereas the rest of our newly renovated Mary Graydon Center now looks like a discarded set from a "Saved By the Bell" episode heavily centered at The Max, TDR looks exactly the same. And there's something oddly comforting about that. Come, take a walk down memory lane with me:
The old Salad Bar! This takes me back to four years of meals spent with Ex Co-Blogger Eddie being like, "Did you know that colleges wash their lettuce in sugar water so that the girls with eating disorders who only eat lettuce get some amount of sugar?" And me being like, "That's the biggest crock of shit I've ever heard. Because if that were true, how could diabetic students eat salad?" And her being like, "No, it's true." ...I don't really know why I told that story, except to point out one more time that I think I'm right.
The old Comfort Zone.
Truly the finest zone of them all.
This image is pretty much all I think of when I think of TDR. That queer little bin full of chicken and the vat of queso and hot dogs.
And the french fry station and how the quality of my day was dicated by whether or not they had curly fries. This, clearly, was destined to be a poor night.
TURKEY CARVING STATION!!!1
That, again, has nothing to do with TDR. That's a picture of my freshman year Understanding Mass Comm professor, Daryl Hayes. His class came up in dinner conversation and I remembered what a huge crush I had on him. He had this absurdly soothing voice and he was always flicking the front part of his hair away with this graceful little -swoop!- and it was hypnotizing. He was also brutally honest that he was never going to remember all of our names, so on the first day of class, he took a picture of each of us holding a sign with our name on it in front of our chests. Just think, he has that picture somewhere...
Which is why I don't feel awkward that he's now my phone's screensaver.
So, yes. Dinner was magical, the reminiscing was magical, but then we made the mistake of asking if we could tag along and come back to the dorm with them. And eesh. Shit crossed over from, "OH HA HA REMEMBER WHEN?" to being curled up in the fetal position, weeping, and harrassing young students as they tried to study and/or go to bed.
Before I go into this, I just need to express what a poignant year of my life sophomore year, living on the second floor of Hughes Hall was. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. That year, by the fate of the Housing and Dining gods, a motley crew of 40 of the most random, off-beat, and fun people you'll ever meet were gathered together to live on the same floor and the results were, in my mind at least, epic. I would love to write a short story about said experience and the characters involved. Maybe I will. Good. Done. Goals.
Anyway, because I associate Hughes Hall with all of these powerful memories and because I hadn't been there there since moving out, being back there last night was an incredibly bizarre experience. Like the smell of it. It smelled like all of these random, yet oddly specific moments that weren't necessarily important to me, but are clearly still floating around my subconscious. I can only imagine what Meaghan and her friends thought of the four of us, barging our way into their dorm, wandering around, frantically sniffing the air and alternating between shouting, "THIS IS WEIRD," "I'M NERVOUS," and "DO YOU MIND IF WE GO SMELL THE FORMAL LOUNGE?!"
After we thoroughly sniffed out the lobby, we went upstairs and Meaghan showed us her dorm room, which is when Andrew got sufficiently spooked and bailed. Laura, Helena and I, however, wanted to press on and go downstairs and revisit the old second floor. To me, this seemed like a completely reasonable thing to want to do, but apparently to a bunch of 18-year-olds, it's kind of "weird" when three 25-year-old women come up to your place of residence at 10 o'clock on a Wednesday night to wander around all, "NO, IT'S COOL, WE LIVED HERE IN 2004!!!"
Although, we did run into one kid who was actually pretty cool about us being there. (AN single kid.) He gave us the skinny on the floor's 2010 shenanigans and was even up for listening to us talk about how it was in our day, even if it was just because he didn't want to do his business homework. Although I did appreciate this conversation:
Kid: So where do you guys live now?
Me: I live in Dupont.
Laura: Cleaveland Park.
Kid: Oh, wow, that's cool!
Laura: Yeah. We moved slightly further down the red line. It is really...cool.
Things could have ended there and I suppose it would have been fine, but I got it in my head that I really wanted to see inside my old dorm room. (Remember: so much happened there.) In my head, this is how it would go: I'd go down to my old room, the door would be open, two kids would be listening to music and browsing the 'nets, I'd be all, "Knock, knock. Hi, I used to live here back in the day. Just thought I'd shoot down and take a gander." "Oh, that's cool." "Welp, thanks!" "Later." But of course, nothing in my life is ever that easy.
First, our new Hughes Deuce ambassador advised me that given who lives in my room now, he didn't think it would be a great idea if I asked if I could go in and see it. And look, I liked this kid. I trusted him. I was willing to abandon my dreams and let that be that. But then suddenly, a kid who looked pretty much like The Bee Keeper from Wet Hot American Summer, if he took a shower, walked off the elevator and into the lounge, and my new friend nodded in his direction and gave me a, "That's him!" look. Ok. Point taken. He looked sufficiently weirded out that we were even standing in the hall, nevertheless trying to get into his room. But I was still undecided. I asked Laura what I should do—"Let it go." I turned to Helena—"I say do it." Damn.
Suddenly, The Bee Keeper walked out of the lounge and started heading for the stairwell. My chance to see my old room was about to slip out of my hands. And that's when one of Meaghan's friends we went to dinner with, Alyssa, walked onto the floor and said hi to The Bee Keeper. WE HAD A MUTUAL FRIEND! Now it wouldn't be weird if I asked him if I could see his room! But he was about to leave—time was of the essence.
Thus, feeling the pressure, I lunged towards him and shouted, "CAN I SEE YOUR ROOM!??!?!"
OK, that wasn't quite the way I had originally planned on asking, yes, but the moment was slipping away from me and I had a goal. You would have done the same. DON'T JUDGE ME.
That being said, he looked at me like I had just asked if I could check him for ticks.
"Uh...you want to see my room?"
"Yeah. I used to live there and we're back tonight and I just was wondering if I could see it for old time's sake?"
After some cajoling, he begrudgingly agreed to take me down and show me the room. We walked down and he opened the door wide enough so I could see in, but not quite wide enough so that I'd feel invited to physically enter.
"Well, this is it," he said.
"YES. IT. IS." A flood of memories, some good, some bad, came back to me. That year man. That fucking year. I was a bit caught up in my emotions while simultaneously trying to carry on a conversation with this kid who obviously didn't trust me or what I was doing there, and as we all know, multi-tasking is not one of my strong suites.
"So, which side of the room is yours?" I asked, somewhat absentmindedly.
"Uh, that one," he said, awkwardly nodding towards the far side of the room.
"That was my side of the room too!" I said. My eyes went up to the curtains and I imagined the star-shaped twinkle lights my roommate had put up hanging over them. My gaze wandered to the wall where I hung all of my pictures, down to the heater, and stopped at the bed. I imagined my navy sheets and the white and navy toile duvet cover I bought at Ikea the summer before on the bed where his blue rumpled sheets were currently wadded up in a ball.
"Yep, I used to sleep in that bed," I said. Except I didn't really say it like that. And he didn't know that I was thinking about my navy sheets and toile duvet cover when I said it. And when I feel awkward but am trying not to be, sometimes the tone of my voice auto-pilots onto: FLiRt! mode. So it came out sounding a little bit more like this:
"AHHH. Yyyyyep. I used to sleep...in that bed. Wiiiiink!" The Bee Keeper immediately backed into the hall, forcing me out of the doorway, and slammed the door.
"NOPE. NOPE. THIS IS TOO WEIRD. THAT'S ENOUGH. THAT'S BEEN ENOUGH FOR ONE NIGHT. YOU SAW IT, YOU CAN GO NOW."
"No, wait! I didn't mean it like that!" I yelled after him, as my friends, Meaghan, Meaghan's friends and our newfound Hughes Deuce friend stood there laughing at me. "Well, thank you for letting me see your room!" The door to the stairwell slammed.
I think our original plan was to stick around and have a drink with the girls, but after that I just felt insanely creepy and wanted to get the hell out of there as fast as I could. A line had been crossed. Well, I think a few lines had been crossed (some by accident) but it was definitely time to go.
We said our goodbyes to our new AU friends and ran across the street just in time to catch the shuttle bus. As we rode to the metro, I got more and more fired up about what happened with The Bee Keeper. I mean, first of all, I was obviously not trying to pull anything with that kid. And if I were to pull anything with anyone, it would have been with that Hughes Deuce kid because he wasn't horrible on the eyes and seemed to have a considerably more open mind. Second, you should be so lucky that I physically come to your person, ask you to take me to your room and pull something with you. My ex-gentleman friend from New York texted me, "text me something raunchy" last night, and I didn't solely based on the fact that I couldn't reach my phone without raising my torso and I was watching Netflix. YOU. SHOULD. BE. SO. LUCKY. Third, just be cool about shit, kid. That situation would have been infinitely less awkward had you not been so awkward about it in the first place. I wasn't asking to give you a colonoscopy with my beak; I just wanted to see my old room. React accordingly.
When we got to the metro and it was time to say goodbye to Laura and Helena, I was livid. "I MEAN, I'M NOT CREEPY, AM I?" I asked them.
Laura responded first, "I mean, I don't think you are, but then again I've fallen asleep with you before."
I don't know why, but that statement completely hit the spot. I think it's because it's just such an ass-backwards way of saying, "I don't think you're creepy, but then again we're friends." Oh, Laura.
I think all in all what I've learned is that although it was fun and meaningful at the time, it's probably a good thing that we're not in college anymore. Procuring the money to buy alcohol is hard enough, nevertheless having to go that extra step and hide it. Not to mention the actual work involved in going to school, which is an aspect I always forget about. I mean, nowadays when I have a hard day at work, it's generally because "Night Court" isn't available on Instant Watch, Subway doesn't deliver and I lost a few Twitter followers. Can you imagine if a group meeting was somewhere in that mix?? Although my (unemployed) lifestyle may suggest otherwise, adulthood can be pretty cool.
Plus, those college guys are fuckin' prudes.