I’m annexed. My suitemates and I live on the fifth floor of a mostly freshman building. These are the consequences:
1. I carry everything I own all day long because I try to avoid at all costs climbing the stairs up to my suite;
2. My glutes have greatly improved since September as a result of said stairs;
3. I realize on a daily basis just how old, mean and jaded I am in comparison to the adorable, bright-eyed freshmen on the floors below me.
In theory, college intersects with our first few years as functional adult people. We take on a lot of responsibility for ourselves as soon as we move out of our homes and into the dorms and, for most of us, the responsibility steadily increases until we get our diplomas. Overall, I think we’ve got a pretty sweet deal. Our culture has somehow afforded us the opportunity to be pseudo-self-sufficient and independent for eight semesters, while still piggybacking on our parents’ health insurance and having most of our meals prepared for us.
I like to think of myself as reasonably competent and self-reliant, staying on top of my schoolwork and extracurriculars, paying my own cellphone bill and even eating the occasional salad. Even if I lack financial independence, even if I never had a bat mitzvah, I’m still a responsible member of society. Hell, if tabloid celebrities are adults, then I’m practically geriatric.
Particularly this time of year, with droves of my upperclassman peers wandering to on-campus interviews clad in suits and making long-term plans for stable careers, I get the feeling that maybe we’ve gotten past the teenage angst and are ready for the downhill tumble into middle life.
Last weekend, some friends of mine made a public tribute to sophistication and maturity. Instead of the usual lights-out, halter-top, punch-soaked clusterfuck to the sounds of J Timberlake, they held a candlelit wine and cheese party, complete with a formal dress code and live jazz music. At the beginning of the party, a few of us took a step back and looked at ourselves. The panic immediately set in.
First of all, we came to the sickening realization that some day, in the scarily-near future, a similar group of people would assemble, wearing similarly dressy clothing since it is only a matter of time before our classmates completely lose their minds and start marrying each other.
We wondered how soon this kind of gathering would become the norm, making our days of beer pong and naked parties a thing of the past. One guy commented, “I know we’re going to have fun tonight, but I don’t want to get to a point in my life where this is the kind of party I throw.” We understood what he meant. After all, who wants to be lame and crusty this early in life? If we’re throwing wine and cheese parties in our early twenties, what will we be reduced to by our mid-fifties?
Looking around at the party, though, I noticed that we’re still far from crusty. Wine doesn’t make you mature and refined, especially when it comes out of a box. And while the party was impressively planned and executed, our young hosts had still made some novice mistakes — forgetting to procure any kind of utensils for serving the cheese, for example. Watching one kid hold an entire block of cheese in his fist and eat it like a banana, I was at once horrified and excited. Holy crap it was disgusting, but it also proved to me that we’ve got plenty of time before we’re reduced to partying like adults.
In fact, I think the fun of the wine and cheese party was in our ridiculous performance of what it’s like to be at a “grown-up” get-together. We got a kick out of the novelty of acting like “grown-ups,” dressing “classy,” and drinking only wine (albeit from red Solo cups). Simultaneously, though, we were dirty dancing in our formalwear, partaking in general immaturity and debauchery. It was more like a prom afterparty than a cocktail get-together my parents would throw, and I couldn’t have been happier.
So at least for now, at least in our weekend lives, we are not grown-ups. If 60 is the new 40, as the Boomers are claiming, then at 21 I’m still a baby. Yes, I’m a baby that files a tax return and knows how to cook, but I don’t party like a pillar of age and maturity.
And maybe, on some social level, we never have to grow up. People will always go apeshit when there’s an open bar and a dance floor. Maybe that’s how we can cope with the burden of steady jobs and running our own homes. The kind of parties we attend may be roughly representative of our life stage, but no kind of party can force us into a stiff maturity before we’re ready. So I think I’ll be willing to give up Toad’s for wine and cheese parties of the future, as long as someone remembers the knives and crackers.
Sarah Minkus is an actress. Pity her.