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Sunday, April 10, 2011

I've got one hand in my pocket and the other one is smashing my neighbor's stereo

So, you guys didn't really believe it was going to be 30 songs in 30 consecutive days, did you? Come on, cut me some slack - I can barely remember how to type a sentence.

Day 2: Your least favorite song


1995 was not a good year for me.

I graduated from high school in spring and was due to start college in the fall. I didn't know why I wanted to go to college. I only knew that it sounded slightly better than working at Dairy Queen and I had heard that this was what successful people did, so I went with it. I had no real aspirations of what to study and minimal interest in anything other than trying to look cool and listen to music that I though affiliated me with cool. The more obscure the band, the more attractive I thought I became to people with this particular brand of cool, but the shit couldn't be too obscure, otherwise I would lose touch with the whole coolness barometer altogether. By the time I graduated from high school I had a good, trained grasp of the fact that anything liked by the masses, with a few exceptions, was automatically suspect, even though I knew very little about what really made music good.

I was heading to a state school. My parents had lacked the cultural capital required to know what went in to exploring a college education for their kids. There were no trips to the nearby PAC-10 schools or out east for interviews or campus visits. I was never encouraged to do things that might look good on a college application. My parents didn't know the first thing about looking into scholarship options. The only time I ever remember my mother talking to me about college was to say that her dream for me was to go off to college and marry an older boy that was about to graduate which would apparently secure me a worry-free future sustained by a college boy salary. Great vote of confidence to get me started at college, eh?

I thumbed through the housing options catalogs and was sold on the idea of 'getting the most out of an authentic college life experience' where I would have an 'important networking opportunity' and would likely establish relationships that would be memorable to me throughout my life.

This was a golden opportunity to try out new versions of myself. I had a clean slate and was heretofore unpigeonholed. I could change my hair, my clothes, my interests, and my taste in music. I could redefine the coolness barometer altogether to fit with the real me. The trouble was, I wasn't comfortable enough with myself to determine what it was I really liked and felt lost without a reference to see how I measured up. I looked around me and was overwhelmed with trying to determine where I belonged.

In high school I had barely been within the margins of the cool crowd. I didn't get asked on dates or to dances a lot, but I got invited to parties and was generally good at tethering myself to people that were well accepted. I was carefully perceptive about what kind of belts were being worn at the time, just how worn my levies should be, and the minimum acceptable number of earring holes required to be part of the crowd. So even though I was a few notches down on the pretty scale compared to the girls I most admired, I fit in with the scenery and didn't draw too much attention to the fact that I had no business being there or anywhere really.

But in the college dorm environment, I couldn't clearly identify the alternatively cool anti-mainstream crowd I had elbowed my way into in high school and I was suddenly surrounded by hundreds of stunningly beautiful, rich women in their prime that were rushing for sororities, whose parents had shipped them off to sunny Arizona from the east coast. I looked around and knew that being on the margins of cool wasn't going to cut the mustard. But I didn't have the confidence to attempt to be accepted at the sorority level. So I duly linked greek life to the claim that it was all just a bunch of bullshit and that I hated it, while I secretly browsed the catalogs of the sorority houses and imagined what it would be like to live in one of them.

I was lonely as fuck at a time when I was unable to appreciate aloneness. I became friends with some of the girls that weren't really into the sorority thing. They were nerdy and smart and knew things like that U of A had a top notch medical school and what your GPA had to be to get into law school. They were all so sure of what they were studying and spent hours at it, while I wandered around bored, with my books barely cracked open. I hung out downstairs on the cement benches where people with obscure t-shirts that seemed integrated and happy and cool smoked cigarettes, but I was too shot down in my loneliness to approach them, only able to muster up occasional eye contact in the hopes that someone would come talk to me. The few fleeting relationships I managed to form made no impressionable impact on me. I don't remember a single person's name of the people I shared months living alongside.

This Alanis Morissette song was popular at the time and the girls in the room in front of mine blasted it multiple times a day with their door wide open for the entire first semester. Every young 18 year woman - nerdy, hippy, alternative type, sorority sister - sang this song from the top of their lungs while clutching their hearts or wrapping their arms around other like-minded women and they all felt like it was written just for them. They were all high but grounded, sane but overwhelmed, lost but hopeful, baby. They knew it was all gonna be fine fine fine. I guess they all had one hand in their pockets and the other giving a high five and I hated them all for their camaraderie and their college life experience that I felt so disconnected with.

Besides, the song is just dumb. Who puts one hand in their pocket while the other one is playing the piano? Please.

I left U of A after one semester.

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4 comments:

The Unbearable Banishment April 11, 2011 at 3:25 AM  

That was a lovely little slice 'o life and very revealing. Thanks. I didn't even make it to one semester. I was, and am still, academically disinclined. The world needs ditch diggers, too.

Kono April 11, 2011 at 9:51 AM  

Superchunk, Sebadoh and Fugazi... if you weren't married i'd marry you, three of my favorite bands. good stuff.

Pueblo girl April 11, 2011 at 1:42 PM  

This captures so perfectly that awful feeling of wanting to fit in and stand out at the same time - misery.

I don't know if I've grown out of it, or if it's just that there aren't any "groups" around any more (at my age I mean). There's just couples with children.

Blues April 13, 2011 at 9:41 AM  

Unbearable - I still went on, just switched universities, it just wasn't working for me there.

Kono - That's because we're both cool. It had been ages since I had listened to any of that stuff and searching for stuff on youtube brought back a lot of memories. That entire Sebadoh album is awesome.

Pueblo - You sum it up exactly. And it's what I like most about adulthood, not having to deal with that shit anymore.

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