So this is my problem. You enter high school fresh out of eighth grade. You are a young person by anyone”s standards. When I was a freshman at Lincolnshire, Ill.”s Adlai E. Stevenson High School (Go Patriots!), everyone that was older than me appeared to be so imposing, so big and mature. The upperclassmen almost looked like adults, if you squinted hard enough. And here I was, standing at a Verne Troyer-like two feet eight inches, revering these people like gods.
As the years went by, the new classes of freshmen at my school naturally looked younger and younger. I was still a growing boy and these new kids, fresh out of junior high, were smaller by comparison, just as I had been, but by the time I was a senior the youngest kids were literally coming up to my knee and in my eyes could have passed for grade-schoolers. Throwing them into lockers and stealing their shoes just felt like the right thing to do at the time.
Okay, so that”s all fine and good, but when I got to University of Michigan, I figured the same thing would happen. I was all “true, these people are bigger than me now, yo, and they have more poise and they”re better dressed and they seem to have more dignity, yo, but when I”m their age I”ll look like them, and the new freshmen, or excuse me, freshpeople, the new freshpeople will look like eighth graders or something, yo, so no biggie. Hey, anybody down for watching “Kids” again?”
That didn”t happen.
Apparently my face has remained in this bizarre high school limbo state. I look young, possibly younger than anybody else at this school my age. I like to think that these days, as a University of Michigan senior just months from graduation, I”m better dressed and I have some semblance of poise (dignity is still hard to get a handle on), but I still look like the same kid who lugged his mini-fridge into the one-room triple in West Quad, eager to begin the non-stop party that is college life (note: Mistaken assumptions regarding college life will be covered in a future column).
So that sucks and I know it. It”s not cool feeling like the young guy at the house party when you”re older than everyone else and, for this reason, probably shouldn”t be there in the first place. It”s not cool getting overlooked by young freshman women who show up during Welcome Week trolling for hook-ups with mannish-looking male upperclassmen. I can usually force it all to the back of my mind, but then something will happen that will open the psychological wounds anew.
Case in point, I”m grabbing a slice of ziti pizza from NYPD between classes the other day, and this greasy son of a bitch sits down next to me and says:
“Hey, are you a freshman?”
Ouch. I answer “no” without looking up from my slice.
“Are you a sophomore?”
“No,” I say, starting to get pissed. When someone you don”t know talks to you in a public place, it”s strange to begin with, even if they”re not insulting you. At this point I thought he was a Christian Student Ministry Student Caucasian Christian Athlete Association member (the dreaded CSMSCCAA), and I was ready to shut him down with “Yes, I do have a personal relationship with Jesus, and yes, I often “get my praise on,” and yes, Creed is a great band, they”re everything DC Talk wishes they could be.”
The guy paused for a second before saying “So, you”re a junior?” I still wasn”t looking at him, but I could imagine the perplexed look he almost surely had on his face.
Long pause. If I wasn”t a freshman, sophomore or junior, then what was going on here? What the frick could I possibly be? The gears in his head were audibly rotating at their top speed.
“I”m a senior, you jackass.” I may or may not have said “you jackass,” but I was mad, so I”m sure I said something rude. He was like “oh, sorry, you look like someone I went to school with,” but I didn”t care he had already ruined my day, not to mention the present enjoyment of my pizza, every subsequent bit of ziti tasting like ashes in my mouth.
To make matters worse, right after I left NYPD, I was walking to Angell Hall and these two dudes in an Escalade whizzed past me and screamed “Freshmen suck! Go to hell!” It hurt, I”m not going to lie to you. I had just been trying to cheer myself up by thinking that I”ll probably maintain a youthful appearance in my old age when everybody else”s faces start to fall apart in all different directions, but even that thought was dashed to pieces. Who cares if you look young when you”re old, anyway? Your life is over! Stick a fork in you, because you”re done!
I don”t know if this column necessarily has a point. I just needed to vent, that”s all. Are you a young-looking senior? If so, send me your picture and it might get printed in a future issue of Weekend, Etc. Okay, probably not. But if I think you look younger than I do, I”ll print your name and you”ll win a gift certificate for a free slice of ziti pizza at NYPD. No, that won”t happen either. Look, I don”t know what I”m talking about anymore, I”m still really upset.
Ben Goldstein can be reached at email@example.com. Contrary to popular belief, he isn”t the younger brother of a real student, in town for the week. He”s a senior, for God”s sake.