In the beginning of the semester, my new editor gave me the green light to stop throwing half-hearted musical references into my columns as an excuse to write about my social life. This week, however, the soul train comes to a screeching halt. Oh, how I wish I could regale my readers with stories of a more decadent spring break, one that took place in the dark, smoky bars of Philadelphia, where an underground rock lineup is followed by hedonistic after-hours in the basement of someone’s brownstone. Unfortunately, having no high-school friends with corresponding vacations, the majority of my break was counted down in a house back in suburban South Jersey, where my parents and I gathered in the living room for late-night snacks and the American Idol results show.
Most of the time, however, I was able to convince my folks to break open a bottle of our new favorite tempranillo or cabernet for dinner; pleasantly buzzed by nine-thirty, I would slink off to my bedroom, curl up with one of the reading assignments I never quite finished and drift off soon after. My parents have craftily insinuated that I show the beginnings of a drinking problem, leading me to raise my eyebrow as I fondly recall the girl I saw vomiting under a streetlamp, that guy being carried up Dryden by two of his friends the night before last.
My friends, have you ever traversed the streets of Collegetown on a weekend morning, before the public maintenance fairies wave their magic wands? Once, crawling through the immeasurable labyrinth of Keystone Lite on my way to work, I passed someone sleeping on the sidewalk. It was six in the morning; the sun had just risen, and my new friend was missing his pants. If I have a drinking problem, then this person clearly had a drinking solution.
Accordingly, the response to my parents’ accusations has always been that I’m in college, that heavy drinking constitutes a normal weekend night, that most college students keep bulk Ibuprofen on their nightstand, that everyone over twenty-one belongs to the Sybarite Club at Northside Wine & Spirits. When I sit in my cubicle next year thinking back on my Cornell experiences, one of the most prominent images will be of Collegetown on a spring or fall night, when the sidewalks are literally overflowing with friends, strangers, hot pizza and high heels, when cars are brought to a standstill for up to ten minutes as the crosswalk turns into couples counseling for two screaming students.
These nights are beautiful in a strange, animalistic way, for such anarchy makes you realize that our neighborhood is like a set for one of those old Hollywood Westerns. Houses with fences and real live shrubbery merely disguise the hundreds of twenty-somethings who attempt to balance basic survival with the work-hard/play-hard attitude.
Last year, just before I fell asleep at night, I could always hear squirrels running in the walls of my boyfriend’s apartment; over the summer, it took maintenance almost two weeks to remove something that had died in a walled-up section of my building; the snow recently melted enough to reveal three bottles of beer and a red ball that had been on my lawn for, well, who knows how long. And although I recently rediscovered the joy of dryer sheets during my trip home, I readily admit that I’d much rather spend my free time out with friends than doing laundry or sweeping cigarette butts off my back porch.
Something has to give, because the Collegetown lifestyle just isn’t going to cut it when I’m living in big, bad New York. I recently learned that, although there isn’t a formal definition of “binge drinking,” the act is commonly considered as four or more drinks for a woman, five or more drinks for a man. Is there a more relative construction for the college student demographic, or should the Sunday-hangover be a serious concern? Should we begin to think about weaning ourselves off of this attitude in preparation for our first steps into the real world, or is there a natural shift that occurs once we discover that it’s no longer acceptable to be sleeping on our lawns? Ah, such prudence is so mature, so adult and so perfect for the eager soon-to-be young professional.
However, this is my last semester in Ithaca, and with Slope Day a little over a month away, I find it harder and harder to fight the creeping nostalgia that looks so endearingly on these wild lives we lead. As warmer weather teases Ithaca into spring, I secretly can’t wait to lie on the grass in a skirt and flip-flops, watching the transformation that occurs at ten o’clock on a Thursday night.