Saturday, September 28, 2013

My Continuing Education

Last Thursday, I got a text message from a friend: “1010 WINS just mentioned Nude Week at your son’s college.”

1010 WINS is our local all-news radio station. “What about it?” I wrote back, trying to appear cool.

“I didn’t really hear the details. Just that it was happening," she wrote.

Initially I thought they must be reporting on the tradition, during finals, where naked people pass out donuts to those who are studying. This seemed a ludicrous tradition to me when I first heard about it, but it’s part of the college’s lore and I’d been indoctrinated to the event (at least anecdotally) so I just shrugged off the news piece.

But then the super sleuth in me realized that finals are a long way off.  It’s not even midterms yet. And no matter how slow a news day it is, 1010 WINS would not be reporting about a silly college tradition months in advance.

So I googled “Nude Week” and got a snootful.

Apparently, beginning Monday the university will host a week-long celebration of nudity which includes nude cabaret, nude open mic nights, nude yoga classes and bodypainting. I’m sure it comes as no surprise to anyone that this news left me shaking my head in wonderment.

Why Nude Week?  Nude donut passing isn’t enough? I’ve finally managed to shut up about the co-ed bathrooms and now this?

“If you were in college, and you saw a bunch of people prancing around naked, wouldn’t you just think it was funny?” asked another friend who had to listen to me go on about Nude Week for close to half an hour. “Really? Does this really offend your sensibilities?”

I mean, I’m not “anti-nude” – especially when it’s other people’s nudity. But I feel like there’s a time and place for it, and it seems like an entire week of it is way too much.

There’s so much attention that needs to be paid during the college search and application process, it’s just now dawning on me that I hadn’t given a moment’s thought to what it might actually be like once my kid is at a college.  I didn’t think it would be like a nudist camp.

I thought they would all be sitting around on lawns wearing heavy rimmed glasses and Doc Martens, talking about Kierkegaard.  I really did.

Monday, September 23, 2013

I Want An Abberant Boy

It’s been three weeks since I dropped my son off at college. His school didn’t have a week-long wilderness bonding trip or multiple days of jam-packed orientation the way many schools seemed to for their incoming freshmen. He arrived a few days before class started and there seemed to be two or three things for the freshmen to do – only one of them mandatory. 

“I’d like to talk every day for the first week,” I said to him on Sunday as we were about to leave. “I just want to feel like you’re settled.  Then we can scale back to maybe once a week.”

“Ok,” he said. “But we don’t have to talk again today, right?”

Given that statement, I should have realized that our Daily Phone Calls would come to an end by Wednesday.

Many of my friends have girls in college and I’ve asked them, almost in jest, whether they speak to their daughters every day. “At least,” they say. Meaning, you talk more than once a day??? “Oh sure, sometimes.”

Moms of boys paint a different picture.  “Once a week. If you’re lucky. Sometimes once every two weeks.” That seems to be the general consensus. 

Oh, yes, there’s the aberrant boy who calls every few days just to chitchat.  Not with a problem or out of loneliness, but because he enjoys the connection with his mother.

I know it’s unreasonable, but that’s what I want. An aberrant boy. 

I want my son to pick up the phone delightedly every third day and call me to share the minutia of his life. I want to know if they serve pickles with the turkey sandwiches in the Blue Room, and if they do, I want to know how they’re sliced.

I want to know which Eminem song he’s playing over and over again while he does math problems and I want to know which shampoo he prefers – the Mango or the Coconut.

Of course, what I really want are the psychological profiles of his roommate and his new-found friends. That may happen once cows start to fly.

To be fair, he did give me a run-down the other day of which cafeteria he eats which meals at, but I wasn’t really paying very close attention. In fact, I wasn’t listening at all, but instead trying to calculate how many more questions and answers I could jam into our conversation before he said, “Ok, I have work to do, I have to go now.”

Intellectually, I know that the number of times a boy calls (or, in my case, doesn’t call) doesn’t necessarily have to do with how close they feel to their mothers, but instead perhaps how determined they are to develop independence. Still, I can’t resist the urge to shoot him a text every once in a while.

“Hey, what are you doing?”

“You’re alive, right?”

“Do you still love me?”

Monday, September 16, 2013

How I Waste Time

When my son was looking at schools, most tours included a peek into the dorms. Not his school though. You’d have to wonder why a school would not show prospective dorms – at least I did. I decided that it must be because they were too heinous to view.

At someone’s suggestion, I googled “dorm interiors” for his school and found some pictures that somewhat supported my theory. Not heinous exactly, but the rooms looked only a small step up from prison life – with cinder block walls and thin, tired mattresses. 

“He’s not going to care what his dorm room looks like,” my husband predicted. “If it’s out of this house, he’ll be ecstatic.”

That was pretty much true. We arrived at his dorm building, found his Spartan, concrete hovel and he instantly treated it as if it were the Taj Mahal.

On my third trip out to the car to haul in yet more stuff, I noticed a sign on the bathroom door across the hall. It was the universal icon for Man. And right beside it, the universal icon for Woman. 

Co-ed restrooms? Men and Women showering and pooping in the same room together? There must be some mistake! How could any good come of that?

I got the bathroom key from my son and scurried inside.  Three stalls, three showers, two sinks, one urinal. 


Suddenly it became very clear to me why there are no dorm tours. This was the university's dark, little secret.

My youngest child went to a highly progressive preschool that had no toys at all in the classroom, only wooden blocks.  At first blush, I considered this outlandish, but the teacher – who hailed from the renowned Little Red School House – explained in painful detail the philosophy behind this decision.  Every teacher in this preschool had a Master’s degree in Education that included a practicum in Wooden Blocks, and they could tell you why, educationally and developmentally, a block-only classroom was a superior educational model.

I really want to call my son’s university and have someone – anyone – provide me with a similar rationale for co-ed bathrooms. But not only do I lack the nerve, I highly suspect there isn't one.

Besides writing about this and complaining to anyone who will listen, I spend an unseemly amount of my day googling phrases like “why do dorms have co-ed bathrooms?” And then I lose myself, sometimes for hours, reading the commentary from students.

All of which say precisely the same thing: “It’s weird for a week, and then it’s no big deal.”

Saturday, September 14, 2013

My New Mantra

“This is not my problem.”

That’s been my new mantra for the 13 days since I dropped my oldest son at college. I left him with his mini-fridge in the middle of his dorm room, no apparent wall space to accommodate it. His smoke detector was chirping every 7 minutes, probably needing a battery. And the all-important full-length mirror had yet to be hung.

A lot has changed since our parents dropped us at school. Opening the trunk of the car...handing us a duffel of clothes and a milk crate of record albums. I don’t think I’ve shopped this much in preparation for anything other than having a baby. Which is ironic in a way, no?

As they checked in, each student received a packet that included a website address where you could fill out a room report, logging in anything in disrepair so you wouldn't be charged for it at year's end. My son’s closet door wouldn’t slide closed and there was also a hole in it. His top desk drawer was nearly impossible to pry open. The kids have 72 hours to fill out a report. I was reasonably certain this wasn’t ever going to happen.

“That linoleum floor will get cold by October, should we get you a rug?” I asked.

He said he and his roommate would take care of it, but I don’t have high hopes for that either.

These are not my problems. These are not my problems. These are not my problems.

“Ok, well, I guess you’ll figure it all out,” I said, those particular words strangers on my lips.

And I left, feeling not sad or lost like I thought I would, but rather unexpectedly unburdened, a feeling that I find foreign and needing to be remedied, like a splintered piece of fingernail that I can’t keep the rest of my fingers off of.