Lauren Gatta

Hey, y’all, Ayla here, coming to you from Colorado. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m WKND’s resident Sex-and-Love advice columnist. I’m here to answer your weirdest, deepest, craziest, most honest questions about love, sex and romance in the mixed up, messed up, wonderful world that is being a college kid.

I’m not going to be on campus this semester — I’m off saving democracy (BTW, remember to vote in the midterms, folks!). But I wanted to say howdy before the semester gets started and before the excitement of these early days of college fade into a Camp Yale–induced cloud of Natty Light, hookups and wonder. First years, this one goes out to you.

My friends and I haven’t learned as much as we think we have over the last three years of having sex and falling in love at Yale, but we have learned some things that are worth sharing. I wish I’d known this stuff when I was 18, but at the same time, I’m not sure anyone could have saved Freshman Year Ayla from herself.

Still, because we love trying to save the younger versions of ourselves, here are some lessons that me and my chaotic, beautiful group of friends have learned over the last four years. Some of these lessons are mine, some are the products of gracious friends who’ve shared their experiences with me so I can share them with you. There’s advice hidden in here, sure, but there are also a few stories that, during your own messy nights and inelegant moments, you can read to remind yourself that we’ve all been there.

1) When someone is eight Keystones deep at a frat party during Camp Yale and they tell you they like you, they are lying. If “In Vino, Veritas” is a thing, “In Cheap Beer, Bullshit” should also be a thing. Do not fall in love with them.

2) When you get locked out of your dorm on the night of Yale-Harvard, don’t hook up with someone in the fourth-floor classroom of Phelps Hall. You will lose your crop top there and find it on the first day of spring semester when it turns out your philosophy class is in the very same classroom. This will make it hard to focus on anything related to Zeno’s arrow for the next three months.

3) When you’re mad at the boy you think you love (you don’t) for generally being annoying (he’s being young, we’re all entitled), don’t get drunk and hook up with his fellow Spizzwink just to piss him off. It will not make you feel better, and it will make things awkward for years to come. Have a cup of tea, and go to bed.

4) Don’t shit where you eat. That is, don’t date where you’re trying to make a life at Yale. That goes for people on your team, your editor at the Yale Daily News, the guy on your floor, the person in your a cappella group, the hottie in your section, so on and so forth.

5) The Blue Vodka at SigNu is a disaster waiting to happen. You will throw it up in your laundry hamper. Or in your bed. Or maybe both. Save yourself, save your friends. #BoycottUVBlue

6) First-year Screw lowkey kind of sucks. If you go sober because your entire friend group gave each other mono and your liver is destroyed, it will suck; if you drink too much and get sent to Yale Health, it will also suck. Do yourself a favor and begin the night with a single glass of champagne, then end it in bed alone with a pizza.

7) Speaking of which, late night food is pretty much always better than late night booty calls. This is a lesson you won’t learn until sophomore year, when the temptation of a bacon-egg-and-cheese sandwich with avocado and hot sauce finally outweighs the temptation of a 2 a.m. dick appointment (or whatever you’re into). We call this personal growth.

8) When you break your tongue during sex (yeah, you read that right), calling the emergency room is probably an overreaction. When it heals crooked, it will be a funny story for the rest of your college career. And, God, try not to do whatever crazy thing it was that led to having that story in the first place.

9) When you like someone, try not to hook up with all of their friends because — shocker! — this sends confusing signals. When you’re mad at your boyfriend, try not to exact revenge by having a threesome with two people who are very much not your boyfriend. This is immature, stupid and mean. Part of college is learning to be a good person, often by doing things that make you feel like the shittiest person in the world. Maybe we can save you from this one.

10) If you’re going to be a Lady Sex Adventuress — which, if that’s your thing, more power to you — figure out your birth control situation ASAP so you don’t end up taking Plan B twice in the same week, which in addition to angering your hormones, is expensive and unhealthy and leads to the inevitable dining hall conversation of: “Do I Venmo request my one-night stand for Plan B?” (Suggested emojis: the purple demon, the pregnant woman, that lady facepalming and a good ole eggplant).

11) Use protection, folks! There is no downside to it. If someone tries to pressure you into hooking up sans-condom because “it just feels better,” don’t do it! STDs exist at Yale! Your first year is hectic enough without gonorrhea. Also, take advantage of Yale Health’s free STD testing (it ain’t free in the real world), and get yourself checked. Chlamydia happens, but it doesn’t need to.

12) Don’t go up on roofs with boys who invite you up on roofs, especially when you’re a few gin and tonics deep and the boy who invites you is actually the worst. You will almost fall off, and you will recall this night as a fleeting glimpse of reckless, horrifying mortality for the rest of your college career. You will feel so lucky that someone caught you, but it wasn’t worth nearly falling in the first place.

13) Don’t feel pressured to have sex. Seriously. Camp Yale seems like a fuckfest, and you’ll think everyone around you is hooking up, having sex, falling in love and experiencing all these crazy hormonal firsts. But it’s not everyone. Sex is a big decision. Having it can be fun, but it poses many risks, both physically and emotionally. If you don’t want to, aren’t ready, aren’t interested, haven’t found the right person or simply don’t feel like it — don’t do it. You’ve got the power over that decision.

14) Don’t be assholes. Don’t slut-shame people, and don’t prude-shame them. Don’t judge your peers. They’re all trying to figure it out, too. Our campus would be a better place if everyone was a little nicer to each other.

First-year fall is a lot; so is first-year year; so is Yale; so is life. Being young generally is a lot. You’re going to do wonderful, incredible things that make it feel like your soul is being set on fire, and you’re going to fuck up, make mistakes and feel lost. You’re going to amass funny stories, good friends and crazy experiences; you’ll fall in love, get your heart broken, do dumb shit, think up brilliant shit and generally grow into a wonderful, more interesting human. I look back on my first-year year as one of the most insane, difficult and incredible times in my life. I was a damn disaster, folks, and I’m sometimes shocked that I survived. But mostly, I’m just grateful for the people who got me through it.

I’m a senior now, and I only have one semester left at this place that I’ve at once loved and hated for the past three years. I want all of you first years, crawling into your sucky bunk beds and getting lost on the way up Science Hill, to experience this place as it’s meant to be experienced: full on and with openness to how you’ll grow and who you’ll become. In my first weeks of my first year, I thought I knew who I was. I didn’t, but I’ve learned a lot about that person since. You will too.

Love, Ayla

Ayla Besemer