Little known fact: Cornellians receive two diplomas at graduation. The first can be proudly displayed in a Target frame your mom had engraved at the mall, congratulating you on your satisfactory performance in the fields of academia, P.E. and B.S. (English majors, holler back! No? Too early?). The second, we can tuck away in that drawer of folded panties that I assume all adults have — “Congratulations! You are now slightly less socially maladjusted than you were in high school.”
As we’ve groped and pounded our way through our academic schooling, we likewise have done so with our social education. Freshman year was a seminar in social horror, as we bump-and-grinded our way through our first beer-, blackout- and booty-binges with the naïve enthusiasm of a first-timer at fat camp. Shocked at the overwhelming variety of available classes, we furiously dabbled in every field — and every body — shedding our shackles of discretion and humility in hot-blooded pursuit of “the college experience.” All the while we knew that any character transgressions would be forgiven with sophomore year’s memory-defying slogan, “But Freshman Year Doesn’t Count.”
Because a Cornell education mainly focuses on our academic pursuits, our social skills were honed in lessons like “How to Spot a Horny Prefrosh Posing as a Horny Lacrosse Transfer” and tested in challenges like “But the Fart-Tastic Trillium Chili Just Tastes So Good.” We’ve learned to check non-existent text messages when avoiding unwanted eye-banging; we’ve had our first, “Oh My God I’m Too Old for Frat Parties” epiphany and walked out of the ring mid-match, covered wife-beater to bikini bottom in peach Jello; we’ve upgraded to double beds in single rooms, double shots in single tries and Three Olives over Kettle One. Some day, we may even feel comfortable at Stella’s. Some day.
And finally, senior year is upon us. We — seniors, super seniors and Van Wilders at last releasing the teet of undergrad — are a beacon of class and social grace in a community of wonderful nerds who run with backpacks and aggressively awkward socialites with obtrusive hairspray-dependency. We have finally stopped getting caught with our pants down (or at least learned to lock the door), and are now smoking Cubans and sipping Gentleman’s Jack in the background of the Nerds Gone Wild Video for which the rest of campus seems to be desperately auditioning. In fact, we’re so grown we have stock in the Nerds Gone Wild Franchise.
At least, that’s what I thought. That’s what I thought until I stepped onto the dance floor at the Palms.
It was a classic case of nature v. nurture: nature taking the form of Rihanna’s hypnotic beats. Modest toe-tapping turned to all-out booty shaking in minutes, and my inhibitions began to drip from me like sweat off a whore in health class as a I made that dance floor my bitch. The phone booth in the corner was back in service as a haven for mildly masked PDA, and I was way too sober to ignore the fact that these drunken, groping children of the frat were actually my fellow seniors. All around College Ave. the frat party was making a comeback in mid-life crisis proportions.
We’ve fulfilled our requirements and loaded this 12-credit semester with world music and anthropology courses. We can make small talk and actually enjoy eating alone occasionally. We’ve put in years dedicated to personal and intellectual refinement, and we’ve earned the right to revert back to the academic and social shenanigans that defined freshman year. Standing in the short line to the real world, we only have a few more months to do a kegstand in a miniskirt and write it off with the memory-defying post-grad slogan “But Those College Years Don’t Count.” Only you, the future leaders of America, and Facebook’s sprawling graveyard of de-tagged pictures will ever have to know.
My advice: live, seniors, live.
I foresee the last months of our Cornell career mirroring the first few as we regress to social infancy culminating in a frenzied Senior Week reminiscent of the week- long one-night stand that was Freshman Orientation. Mornings spent trying to place the face spewing morning breath in your general direction will be plentiful, and why not revel in the awkwardness of the moment?
Breathe in these last precious moments of Cornell Brand Discomfort, roll around in its darkest corners until you emerge reeking of Natty Ice, rolling backpacks and SAT scores just high enough to impede social learning. Hope that the comfortable, familiar stench lingers while you beeline towards the unforgiving light of the real world that won’t let you de-tag your most mortifying moments.
But, you may ask, if we throw off the shackles of propriety, have we then learned nothing? What will then separate us from the doe-eyed, high-heels-in-the-snow, XL-Twin-sheeted freshmen from whence we came?
I give you pancakes. I give you eggs. I give you industrial sized boxes of Golden Grahams.
Perhaps the evenings of our one-and-dones are shockingly similar to those of our North Campus expeditions. But take heart in your morning-after skills welded in the flame of enduring silent dates, spurning overzealous grinders and tactfully avoiding the elephant in the room. As you wake your sleeping beauty or beast with something never found on North — a polite peace offering brought to you by Kellogg’s — consider this polite gesture, and your ability to maneuver the ensuing conversation, the ultimate fruit of your Cornellian Social Education. (And perhaps a declaration of your independence from dining halls.)
“So you’re an architect, right?”
“Civil Engineer, actually.”
“Cool. Building stuff is cool. Do you know Ralph? He was at the Palms last night, too.”
“We were at Ruloff’s.”
“Really? Well everyone knows Ralph … you know Ralphy? He’s about my height. Maybe shorter-ish. He’s an architect, too.”
“I’m not an architect.”
“Right. Omelette and Tylenol?”
When an old man farts in public, no one laughs (note: I laugh) in hopes that, once he’s de-gassed, he’ll drop some serious life advice from the Depression Era to be copyrighted and sold to Hallmark. I’ve always been jealous of that power, but now, after over three years of enduring 13-page papers and close-talking geniuses with cheerio breath, I’ve earned the right to munch Kashi with nameless lovers and take DSOC: 1101 pass/fail.