Issue #88 – “State of the Student Union” – April 24th, 2006

-In three weeks, I will be returning to where this column began – the University of Pennsylvania – for my five-year reunion.  While I don’t expect quite the shit show that was my first Homecoming, when I fell one girl short of the hook-up cycle (a freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior in one week), I am excited to see old friends I haven’t kept in touch with, then later make fun of them with the friends I have kept in touch with.  But there will be one major distinction between myself and the rest of the members of the Class of 2001:  both in mind and body, I’ve never really left college.  For the past few years, I have been traveling the country, performing stand-up at schools big and small, and even waking up in the occasional sorority house.  Therefore I thought it appropriate, on this landmark occasion of my five-year reunion, to ruminate on the current status of college life in America, and how much things have changed – and remained the same – since I graduated.  This is my State of the Student Union Address.

-The most salient trend on college campuses these days (besides ogling FSU chicks on Facebook) is the misguided attempt by administrations to curtail full-scale drunken debauchery.  My favorite example of this is the ads I’ve seen in a half-dozen schools’ newspapers and dorms that say something like: “67% of Students Have Four or Fewer Drinks When They Party.”  I mean, is that not pure comedy or what?  You know who these ads are reaching?  The 67% of students who have four or fewer drinks when they party.  The other 33% –  i.e. the kids having fun – are way too blindingly drunk to read a newspaper or make it back to their dorm anyway.

-Statistics!  Oh the statistics they’ll show you to prove that the War on Alcohol is working on campus!  Well let me share some compelling anecdotal evidence that it’s not working at all – in fact, kids are getting drunker than ever, and creatively so.  At Northwestern, I discovered a group of students that actually invented a solitaire-style drinking game.  That’s right, a drinking game you can play against yourself.  It’s basically flip cup, but instead of two teams, you play your right hand versus your left hand.  Long live higher education.

-And let’s just say that college students are drinking less – if only because of the increasing inconvenience it is to even purchase alcohol without getting hassled.  You know what kids are doing instead?  Drugs.  Lots and lots of drugs.  I never even saw cocaine until I was a senior in college.  Now freshmen are blowing rails like Amtrak.  The first time I ever took prescription painkillers was when I had my appendix out six months after graduation.  Now fraternities are electing Presidents, Treasurers, and Pharmacists.  That’s right, administrators.  Your alcoholic kids now have a drug problem.  Good work!

-Of course, the more things change, the more they stay the same.  The tradition of jamming as many stubble-faced male residents as possible into one dilapidated, stale-beer-smelling off-campus apartment is still alive and well.  As is students’ entrepreneurial spirit.  Rare is it that I visit a college and don’t overhear at least one kid saying to a friend, “Dude, if we started a store on campus that’s open 24 hours and only sells porn, forties, and bagels, we’d be zillionairies!”

-In the end, I call myself a “recovering frat boy” because I’m still recovering from my own college experience while being fortunate enough to relive my glory days with subsequent generations.  Still, there have been some trying times.  Like running up a $175 tab on $2.50 pitcher night at a campus bar.  Or getting ID’d at Indiana only to have the bouncer look at my license and say, “Oh, sorry.”  Or catching myself referring to a period of time as “next semester.”  But I’ve endured these minor embarrassments in order to maintain the lifestyle I desire – and to report back in detail to you guys.  So to all you high school seniors:  fear not next year.  I’ve surveyed the State of the Student Union and – for at least 33% of us – it’s as strong as ever.

-As always, here are some random things I’ve been ruminating about lately…

-The Do Not Disturb sign I hung on the doorknob of the last hotel I stayed in was printed in five languages.  Housekeeping knocked anyway, waking me up.  Afterwards I thought, even if by some chance someone didn’t speak any of those five languages, it’s still a fucking red hanging thing on the door!  That’s practically the international sign for “I’m masturbating.”

-And another thing – I’d be much more receptive to recycling my towel if the little card in the hotel bathroom didn’t spout some transparent bullshit about the environment and just told the truth instead:  “Not laundering towels will save the giant, faceless corporation that owns this hotel money.”

-In two weeks, I will be attending my first bachelor party, for a man you all know and love: my old roommate Brian.  We’re heading to Vegas with thirteen – count ‘em, thirteen! – dudes for a weekend to end all weekends.  According to centuries-old bachelor party tradition, I will not be allowed to discuss the weekend in my next column, but I will say that, as the Best Man, planning this thing has been like a second (or, let’s face it, first) job.  The real pain in the ass has been laying out money for everyone and then trying to get them to pay me back.  It’s not that my boys are cheap.  It’s that they’re lazy and they’re dicks.  So far I’ve called one guy every day for six weeks to no avail, foiled an attempt by a different friend who tried to pay me all in Sacagaweas, and received a check from another buddy who for some reason found it necessary to write in the memo section the words, “Go fuck yourself.”

-I’d like to take a moment to recognize my Grandma Babe, who passed away last week at the age of 91.  I gave her my first book a few years back, and while I’m not sure she understood the concept of “funneling” in Chapter Five, she nonetheless proudly showed it to all her friends.  G-Babe rocked it out like no other and will be dearly missed by all those who knew her.

-And, finally, I’m really looking forward to observing my fellow classmates at our upcoming reunion.  I’ll especially be on the lookout for those who have crossed over to the Dark Side and aged twenty years in five – i.e. the ones sporting popped collars, loafers with no socks, glasses instead of contacts, or furiously wielding the stylus on their Treo on a sunny Saturday afternoon.  (Though, considering this is Penn we’re talking about, that pretty much describes 50% of the guys back when they were freshman.)  Since the reunion coincides with graduation, it will also be interesting to observe whether the seniors are dreading their departure or have made their peace with it.  And if there happen to be any underclassmen around, besides trying to hit for the cycle again, I will advise them to cherish the moment and to not take their remaining time at school for granted.  Because, let’s face it, they will never have so little to worry about ever again.  Unless of course they write a book about college and travel to colleges to talk about college then hook up with college chicks.  But that’s just preposterous.  Fuck me.