Head to Head

What's your favorite college freshman cliche?

Dominick Mayer:
Ah, the start of college. A time when you can watch sexually confused English/Public Policy double majors stroll through the quad four-across like some kind of college recruitment ad and take a deep breath, knowing that they are supremely and wildly fucked and have no idea of this yet. From where I stand, at the beginning of my final year of undergrad, it's hilarious to look back on the cliches of that moment in time. Now, I don't mean putting up Bob Marley and James Belushi posters in your dorm room (though I knew a guy who had both, along with that Kiss photograph of two women making out), but rather the behavioral archetypes that you can watch unfold time and time again. For my money, I was the kid who'd never touched a drop of alcohol until his time away began, and a month later I was kicking in a door on Halloween night after downing an entire fifth of Jack and laughing my way through Leprechaun In The Hood. (Fun fact: That movie isn't nearly as entertaining sober, a lesson five of my friends and I had to learn the hard way.)

That anecdote aside, the one "type" to put forth is a spectacle you've encountered. I would now like to present to you a brief piece entitled The Hipster At His Inception. He is the smug freshman whose musical tastes preclude that of everybody around him. We've all met him. He got to college his first year, eyes full of stars and ears full of Chad Kroeger. Then, somebody happened to be playing Yankee Hotel Foxtrot with their door open one day and she was pretty and he wanted to make the sex with her and suddenly our hotshot young turk wants to take humanities classes and listen to The National a whole bunch. Then, he tells his friends, most of whom just ignore him, about this awesome new side of music he didn't know before. Now, if he were to stop there, I'd have nothing but sincere respect; we've all listened to shit music at one point or another (L-I-M-P Bizkit was once right here), and to try and broaden one's palate is an admirable thing. However, where it goes wrong is when he quickly turns into a smug bastard who knows a lot more than you do (he doesn't), will tell you about it (he shouldn't) and totally was listening to Animal Collective before you were (he wasn't). Before long he's opining about how Wavves' inability to tune a guitar is avant-garde and distributing leftist literature to indifferent student cafeteria patrons.

Ryan Peters:
I’m in a bit of an interesting spot with this question for a variety of reasons. At some point during my senior year as an undergraduate, I thought to myself, “You know what would really compliment this BA in English Literature and Rhetoric? A Masters and Doctorate degree in the same goddamn thing!” And I’ve spent the last three years mired in futility working toward that goal, and as such, I have perspective on Freshman cliches as both a professor and a one-time Freshman.

As an instructor, I secretly enjoy watching the transition from the first week of classes to, say, the third or fourth week. During the first week, students are dressed to the nines, sporting the “you’re off to college and your first step toward adulthood!” outfits that mom helped them purchase before they left home. They are bright-eyed and eager, and looking to please (academically. Zing! I get jokes). By the third week of courses, students stumble into class in sweatpants and beer-stained hoodies, fresh off a weekend of Natty Light keg stands and life-long regrets. Now they’re less eager to please, and more desperate to make a C average so that they don’t have to drop out of school and take a semester at home in community college.

As a student, my favorite cliche was watching the yearly crop of new students, some of whom -- no matter how warm it was outside -- insisted on wearing a knit cap, growing bad mustache whiskers, and playing wrecthed Dave Matthews Band songs on the lawn outside their dorm. Yes, it’s a cliche you see in every movie about college, but it’s also incredibly fucking real. These people exist. They’re like dry land in Waterworld: NOT A MYTH. And if you’re not careful, they’re going to try to burn you some tracks from the Phish bootlegs they just downloaded and you’re going to have to choose between listening to Phish or kicking them in the neck. 

Posted by Ryan Peters on Sep 20, 2010 @ 11:11 am

College, Hipsters, John Belushi, phish, Dave Matthews Band, Bob Marley