Adulthood doesn’t really begin until the day you start making the annual trek back to campus without parents in tow. One of the biggest perks associated with studying abroad is being free from my first year of solo schlepping, so I gave the ultimate gift of friendship and volunteered my last summer Friday to help Jill move into the Theta house.

As the 29th drew near the only thing I was dreading more than a day filled with manual labor was having to face every aging co-ed’s greatest foe: the fresh(man) meat. Taking on your first freshman adversary seems to be a collegiate rite of passage on par with first love and first time. Even the most confident upperclasswomen has at some point dealt with a terrifying question: if the freshman facebook is just one big catalogue and every Yale male has his shopping list made out by July, are we all doomed to be replaced by newer models?

Freshmen or no freshmen, I was feeling pretty good about myself when I swung into New Haven that Friday morning. I was half way through college, addicted to nothing more naughty than Dior and Tasti D-Lite, and for the first time in my life had opted for the sensible shoes on move-in day. Illegally parked and armed with a double espresso, I decided to face my fears and tread that sensible shoe onto my old stomping grounds.

Like Longchamp knockoffs in Jersey, freshman girls were everywhere. Flitting around in Charles David mules and impeccably styled “move-in” outfits, wearing FOOT shirts and toting Nalgenes, or sporting their varsity blues, all 31 flavors of freshman girls were there for the tasting. They were tediously color-coordinated, their belongings had practically transformed Old Campus into a Herve Chapelier trunk show, and they found me about as thrilling as the Guide to Citing Sources.

They were totally harmless– cute, even, and bursting with the enthusiasm and animation of a thousand little cheerleaders before a play-off game. They made me remember a time not so long a go when I, too, was a sloppy flirt, talked too much, and surely an equally big thorn in the side of any and all returning undergrads. Tiresome, yes–threatening, no.

Walking back down High Street, I began to think about what kind of person would get all bent out of shape over the new presence on campus. The answer, I came to realize, is the four-year freshman.

In your first year of college, the only thing better than the freedom from your parents is the freedom to do dumb things and not be judged for them. A freshman can be practically brain-dead and perpetually drunk and still completely likeable. Powered by the one-two punch of good looks and naivete, the sly freshman can parley moral depravity and mild alcoholism into party-girl sass. She can dance on the table and then drink you under it and still wake up a good girl the next morning. Freshman status is the ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ card that can prevent a multitude of sins from staining your reputation.

There are certain girls who find the privilege so appealing they decide to act like freshmen indefinitely. These are Yale’s four-year freshmen, of FYF’s.

The four-year freshman might be recognized by the skintight Juicy low-riders she wore ALL of freshman fall and continues to wear into her junior year. Her preference for tube tops in the dead of winter clearly displays not only the chub she’s packed on since her inaugural fall, but also her reliable priority of appearance over comfort.

We all love the clubs, but the FYF’s nightly program still begins with warm Aristocrat vodka and ends in a romp in the streets and late-night vomiting at DUH. She still drinks the punch at frat parties, even though it tastes like cough medication and she knows full well it is practically lethal.

She’s known for “rallying” — ooohhh does she rally. No fever is so high nor test grade so crucial that it can keep this tireless gal away from the action. She is the Navy SEAL of nightlife: she’ll have a good time or die trying.

Just like she’s never grown out of Abercrombie and Fitch, the FYF has never grown out of the tragic belief that sleeping with an older guy is cool, even if he himself is neither good-looking nor cool.

Being an FYF is not just about what happens after dark; while the FYF may or not be a master in the classroom, she is the undisputed queen of instant messaging technique. FYF’s love socially aggressive away messages that express their extreme party lifestyle, such as “still drunk”; “two words: mechanical bull”; and “drinking before noon.”

The FYF’s profile probably contains meaningless quotes from her friends, meaningless quotes from a college band, and one of those obnoxiously incoherent lists of inside jokes that you can only imagine reference friends and experiences that are cool beyond your wildest imagination. After reading an FYF’s profile, it’s hard not to appreciate her almost oppressive coolness.

Most importantly, a four-year freshman hates first year freshmen like it’s her job.

Sadly, like overripe fruit, the FYF has lost her youthful firmness. What the four-year freshman falsely believes is that as long as she continues to act like a freshman, she’ll continue to be treated like one. Alas, that fine line between party girl and call girl is often just a matter of time: there’s only so long you can fool around for before you’re considered a professional.

As we junior women watch 600 perky young things descend on campus this fall, I’d like to think we realize that the only way a freshman girl is competition is if you’re still running the same old race. On second thought, I guess until we stop being young and crazy and single most of us still are — only some of us are now wearing sensible shoes.

By now, Liz Gunnison is in Paris.