All the Pompous Circumstances: A Letter to My Not-Yet Graduating Son
Next year you’ll be a sophomore, but trust me, time flies and before you know it, you’ll be a graduating senior. And because I’m your mother and also a classic over thinker, I’ve already formulated several thoughts about what I’d like to impart to you when that auspicious moment arrives. So since I didn’t want to forget a single thing, and sooner is sometimes better than later – I mean, this will allow time to let it all soak in.
I know the kinds of adventures that await you. That’s the thing; I know the kinds of adventures that await you. I don’t want to be all “Do as I say, not as I do”, but please, for the love of God, just do as I say, not as I did.
Where did my baby go? Man, when they say it goes fast, they’re not kidding. I was just going through all your baby pictures. You were so adorable in your little baptismal gown. Oh! And the year I dressed you up as baby Cupid in a gold lamé diaper and wings? Precious. Wanna see the pictures? Oh, c’mon, let’s sit down and look at the pictures. Do it for me. I’ll be doing the ugly cry over them as soon as you’re gone.
Okay, okay…I’ll stop.
Instead of launching into my usual rendition of “Sunrise, Sunset” and going on about campus life, your education, and blah, blah, blah, here’s the thing; knowing how to deal with the never ending parade of buffoons out there is Job 1.
I’m going to give it to you straight – the world is full of assholes. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not everybody, just over half the population. This planet is littered with a level of humanity that I wasn’t prepared for, and look at me, I’m riddled with anxiety and resentfulness. It’s my job to spare you all that, along with the prescription for Ativan and the $90 an hour weekly therapy bill.
Where was I? Remember how annoyed you were when Frankie Delvecchio used to follow you around telling “Yo’ Mama’ jokes and Nick Constantinopolous shit all over our bathroom in the sixth grade? Well, they say life is merely an extension of school and they aren’t kidding. It’s all the same shit, but with jobs, power struggles and exaggerated Facebook statuses.
Be careful, that weird kid sitting next to just might be a psycho. I knew one guy who is now doing life in prison for stabbing his girlfriend (so glad I decided to wash my hair instead of going with him to that Genesis concert in ’84), and another was arrested for holding up a corn stand. Sure, the gun wasn’t loaded and he only took the corn, but that’s not the point. Believe me, you want to hang out with that kid with the far away glint of crazy in his eye about as much as you want to end up rooming with the overbearing Lacrosse team captain named Cutter, whose dad manages Costco. It’s my job as a parent to help you sort out the Mansons from the Kennedys, because someday your boss will show up in your office and begin randomly telling inappropriate knock knock jokes, or you’ll see your old dorm roommate on CNN. You never know.
Of course girls will be a priority. I’m begging you to choose wisely. The success of future Thanksgivings depends on it. Allow me to give you a heads up on the kinds of girls you’re going to meet because it’s a whole different ball game once you get to college. Be careful about hitting all the bases and know that if you decide to play for the same team, that’s okay too. You’ll adopt. I expect grandchildren.
Look out for the popular girls. A good time under the bleachers during fourth quarter might seem like a good idea at the time, but ask yourself if it’ll be worth it down the road. Those girls always end up looking like their mothers, and that’s almost never a good thing. It’s less “She looks like her mother, Miss Nevada 1985.”, and more “Egad! She looks like her mother!”. That’s why it’s essential that you get ahold of the family photo album right away.
That girl in the oversized peruvian wool sweater passing out Greenpeace flyers in a cloud of her own patchouli probably hasn’t shaved in weeks. You will either end up at a four hour Phish concert or worse, a Rainbow Gathering. Your father still has nightmares and slight PTSD issues whenever he smells incense. That’s why he waits in the car whenever we go to Pier 1.
Art school girls are cool, but basically it’s a lot of black clothes, deep thoughts, brooding, conceptualization and cerebral Jedi mind tricks. While I encourage you to go for a girl who values intellect, just know what you’re getting into so you’re not surprised when you find yourself sitting in a dorm room listening to Nick Drake CDs under a Diane Arbus “Twins” poster while she reads aloud from her Sylvia Plath collection. College should be a little intense, but after the tenth off-campus screening of “Eraser Head”, you’re going to want to stab your eyes out with a protractor. What? Who are Nick Drake, Diane Arbus, and Sylvia Plath? Allow me break it down for you: brooding, twisted and brooding, and poetically suicidally brooding. In other words, there will be no beer pong tournaments.
Theater majors? I was one of those. You know how much you enjoy it when I break into spontaneous song, do impressions at dinner, quote random movie scenes at inappropriate times, and sometimes demand to be the center of attention? Yeah, that.
If you go to a political rally and end up asking a Poli-Sci major out, be prepared for all politics, all the time. You’ll make some innocuous comment about gas prices, and she’ll launch into a full scale diatribe about Reganomics. And while we’re not fans of the Reagan administration either, you still shouldn’t have to work that hard to get through dinner and a movie. In other words, just say no.
You’re going to make lifelong friends over the next four years, but at the same time, you’ll be dealing with intensified versions of the guys you hung out with in high school.
Your father and I were both geeks, so we can say with some certainty that you’ll get offers to join Friday night online Dungeons & Dragons and chess tournaments. Whatever you do, don’t allow yourself to be cornered by the eighth grade Academic Challenge team leader who wants to discuss the Theory of Relativity at length. Red flags include his e=mc2 T shirt, the poster of Einstein over his bed and the fact that there are no girls within a 10 mile radius. They’re excellent people, but you’ll want to establish some street cred so you won’t be an easy target for the jocks.
When it comes to the jocks, avoid at all costs the time honored dorm bathroom swirly, and whatever you do, sit as far away as possible from the football team quarterback in Calculus class. He’s there on a full sports scholarship. All I’m saying is guard your test and your cranium, capiche?
Also, be on high alert for the stoner guy who waits for you after Psych 101 wanting to discuss Nietszche over a freshly rolled doobie. First of all, don’t do drugs. And second, you’ll only end up under a pile of pizza boxes sitting next to some girl named Skye who wants you to take her to the Phish concert on Saturday. (see patchouli)
More importantly, though, are the teachers. You’ll need to learn to either get along with them or at the very least, outmaneuver them. Negotiating – no – outsmarting the teachers can be harder than the actual classes. If you get one you don’t click with, they have the power to make your life a living hell and it could mean the difference between an A and C average, along with the sanity you showed up with in September.
There will be creepy teachers who vie for the attentions of the same girls you’re interested in. These usually include, but aren’t limited to the gym teacher, French professor, and the worst of them all, the graduate assistants. I had this gym teacher once who wouldn’t pass me because I rebuffed her passes. And there was a French professor…”Voulez-vous coucher avec moi, ce soir?”…never mind. Oh! And that cute graduate assistant from Scotland who taught my acting class. Yeah, what I’m trying to say, is…go for the girls in Math or English class instead.
Oh, and speaking of Math, at some point you’re going to get a foreign teacher you can’t understand. No, I’m not being ethnicist, it invariably happens, and it’s frustrating. If every time they say “cosine” in Trigonometry you think it’s “clothesline”, you’re in for a a tough semester honey. Lip reading won’t help either, so you’d better sign up for tutoring. (see geeks and graduate assistants)
Be on the lookout for the auto pilot teacher. Their class is always half as long as it should be, and you’ll be reading textbook chapters to yourself while he surfs the net before abruptly calling it a day. He’s got to get to his bartending job, or the play he’s directing for community theater, or Starbucks. You’ll probably see him there later, making your Venti non-fat, soy, mocha no-whip latte. Be sure to put a buck in the tip jar. Go for that A.
I once had a Civil War re-enactor Honors History prof who rocked the facial hair way before it was Steam Punk chic. He was going for that General Grant look, but his 1970s wide lapeled suit accented nicely by the world’s fattest tie kind of killed the illusion. But you know what? That guy was one of the best teachers I ever had. He was passionate about the subject and his enthusiasm rubbed off on his students. (Thankfully, that was the only thing he rubbed off on us.) And despite everything I’ve just told you, teachers like him do exist, and they will make your college experience so worthwhile.
Because, while you might have to navigate your way through a crowd of nut jobs, believe me, in the end, you’ll find that girl, that friend, that teacher who will inspire you, become an important part of your life, and help shape you into the person you will eventually become when they put that diploma in your hand four years from now.
Or, if you’re like me, ten.
What was I saying about not doing what I did?
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