Q: I feel an inexplicable, overwhelming and probably unjust hatred for the freshmen. How can I learn to overcome, or at least mask, this feeling? Why should I?
A: At the beginning of this year, I attended the activities bazaar in the hopes of snagging a free tote bag and maybe enough miniature candy bars to last me through the winter. Instead, I was put on a mailing list for the juggling club and, more disturbingly, called a “little lost freshman.”
The context for this shaming insult: I, overly focused on a bowl of tiny Snickers bars, had been cornered by one of those crazy-eyed committee leaders shouting, “Do you care about starving children?” Mumbling some combination of the words yes and no, I backed away. That’s when this caring person stunned me with the killer slur.
I was not taking cell-phone photos of Harkness Tower, nor was I puking up grain alcohol in the street at 9 p.m., nor was I getting rapidly fatter in the facial region from the over-enthusiastic consumption of grass-fed burgers. I just happen to be short and kind of look like a child/Muppet.
How dare this supposedly humane person compare me to the uninitiated, the mere babes of the class of 2011? And why did I care? The truth is, whatever resentment I — or you — might feel for the freshmen, it’s probably because we know our year(s) of seniority give us little in the way of superiority.
Proof of this came to me when, recently, I could not find Davies Auditorium (which, by the way, I hear is somewhat of a landmark for dummies) and asked directions from someone in line at Koffee Too?. The guy gave me the name of a street, Prospect, which I didn’t recognize. He then asked if I’d ever been on the campus before. So much for older and wiser. So much for king of the collegiate castle.
While I am usually ready to mock anyone who appears potentially vulnerable (I interpret, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses” in an unconventional way), I too have been the victim of age-based hazing. I know the horrors. I have felt the true absurdity of someone two months older feeling vindicated in abusing me because I was born in the year of the Dragon and not the year of the Rabbit (and by the way, in the real world, dragon totally beats rabbit).
In the hallowed elevator of the Brearley School for girls, I — the high-school-freshman version — made the mistake of telling a mighty senior to stop cracking her knuckles. What ensued was a year of hell, punctuated by endlessly popping joints, but I guess arthritic bones and wisdom come with extreme old age.
Even when succumbing to this unusual empathetic streak born of my troubled history, I have to point out that scorning the freshman is a short person’s dream. There’s nothing like finally being able to look down your nose at someone, even if it requires sitting on someone else’s shoulders to do it effectively. But, unfortunately, my mostly dormant conscientiousness won’t stand for even this minor pleasure.
After all, I remember the awkwardness of freshman year. My memory extends way back into that Paleolithic age. I have nightmares about how I acted as a freshman (not actual nightmares, those are limited to giant knuckles chasing me across Old Campus). But I remember trying to look old (tall) and unimpressed, when really I was young (short) and lost. Appalling, I know, but aren’t the freshman dorms, the horrors of stranger-roommates and the freshman 15 punishment enough for that aggravating wide-eyed innocence?
If you are still the insatiably cruel type, pointing the dazed and confused in the wrong direction, laughing at them when they drop their cafeteria tray: Beware. There are hazards involved in scoffing at, rolling your eyes at, or ridiculing someone who looks-like-but-turns-out-not-to-be-a-freshman, and who’s actually, say, your aged T.A. That’s just plain awkward.
Freshmen aren’t so bad, and no one is making you smile at them or anything, so don’t run them over in your car. On the other hand, don’t totally reject the loathing you feel, because then the freshmen won’t be justified in endowing the class of 2012 with long-lasting insecurities through various and creative hate crimes.
Emma Allen dreams about you. Only they’re actually nightmares. And they involve your gigantic nose blocking the way to the Daives Auditorium. And you though SSS was foreboding.