Required Listening: A Little Less Conversation – JXL Remix


The following is a list of my biggest fears (in no particular order)…

1) Strip clubs

2) Push doors with pull handles

3) Getting wrongfully imprisoned in that Filipino jail that forces inmates to perform choreographed dance routines set to 80’s pop music

4) Road tests

5) The first day at a new school

In my lifetime, I’ve had seven first days at a new school – each with mixed results. Why was I so nomadic? Well, truth be told – I either didn’t fit in, or I was just really unlucky.

In the 8th grade (at school #4) I did not fit in – not even a little bit, and after six solid months of pretending to be sick (including a regrettable yeast infection, and one bout of morning sickness) my mother – bless her, took pity and decided my days at school #4 were numbered.

Together we developed an ironclad excuse for my departure and off I went back to school #3. A year later, the school board closed school #3 and shipped us all off to – you guessed it – school #4 (this is the unlucky part I mentioned earlier).

But this blog isn’t about elementary school. This blog is about my first days of university.

Full disclosure: I had been sold a lot of bullsh*t about what university would be like – and to be honest, I had believed all of it. Thus the reason I was so dedicated to making this new school the best one yet. How would I do that? No, not by “being myself.” If I wanted this to work, I would need to completely reinvent myself.

First step: lose weight. Admittedly I may have been a little too aggressive with this goal – dropping over 30 pounds in two months. Now I had to pay the price. With no money to buy new clothes, my new university persona would have no choice but to hope the baggy look was all the rage at the upscale university I would soon call home. Spoiler alert: It wasn’t.

During the excruciating six hour drive to my new home, I was “schooled” on all the basics of university life from someone who had never experienced it herself – my mother.

The highlights include…

“Five or fewer beers is normal – anymore can kill you.”

“Don’t open a door if there’s a sock on it.”

“Always wear sandals in the shower.”

“Just be yourself and people will love you – like your mother loves you.”

When we finally arrived, the energy was palpable. On the outside I remained cool, but on the inside I was Mary Tyler Moore throwing my hat in the air. It was then, in the midst of a mental 360 degree spin (arms outstretched), I caught the panicked expression on my mother’s face. Her usually animated expression had turned completely stoic. I knew this signaled trouble – the same way my grandmother’s bum knee signaled an increase in barometric pressure.

Right on schedule, trouble had arrived–in the form of my new neighbour. Someone I can only describe as the biggest, most bad ass bully* from my past. The one who had gone out of his way to make sure my life was miserable at school #4.

I played it cool – or at least as cool as someone with a 28-inch waist could be while wearing a pair of 34-inch jeans. My mother on the other hand? She had already started with the ugly cry. And when my mom cries – I cry (Ladies, I’m still single!).

Enter my new roommate–for the first time. Next, cue his WTF confusion at the sight of us.

Ugh! I was off to the races with all the grace of an Olympic swimmer who jumps the gun and keeps swimming because he doesn’t yet realize he’s the only one in the pool.

You could have cut the tension with a dull knife. That’s when the phone rang…

“Hello?” I answered.

On the other end a distressed female voice:

“Danny? It’s your mother. I’m in the car. I’ve left. It was too emotional. I had to get out of there. I’m sorry. Have a great time at school. Just be yourself – oh and for Heaven sakes DO NOT hang up that Dawson’s Creek poster.”

“Love you too. Safe trip home.” I said casually to my loving mother. The mother who had abandoned me at the first sign of failure.

It wasn’t looking good for me at this point – the worst was probably over, right?

The thing is, in all the preparation of reinventing myself, it never occurred to me that I should reinvent myself above the legal drinking age – or at the very least have found a fake ID. So, while everyone in my new residence was off enjoying their first night of debauchery and bonding – I was stuck in my room–completely alone, wearing a pair of plaid pajama pants (read: harem pants), brewing coffee in my new one cup coffee machine, (a single persons dream!) watching some generic Katie Holmes movie on DVD. My first night was a complete bust. How could it get any worse?

Frosh Week. The answer to that question was Frosh Week.

Frosh Week for me, was like kicking a man when he was down.

Why you might ask? Well for starters, I wasn’t great at getting to know people. Positive first impressions were not my forte and Frosh Week was turning out to be an excercise in overcoming some of my worst fears. Like what kind of fears, you might ask? Let’s add a few more items to that list from earlier…

6) Public displays of affection

7) Dancing–I knew I should have just gone to that Footloose school

8) Showing any type of school spirit – this includes performing any kind of choreographed cheers

So, I’ll just let you imagine the look on my face when I was told the only acceptable response to the question “how are you?” during Frosh Week was to respond–in your loudest fake orgasm tone of voice…

“I feel so good! OH I feel so good..OH!”

Did I mention you also had to say this while acting out a sexual thrusting motion with your hips? This was quite literally my worst nightmare. But–I did it. One awkward thrust after another. Over and over. Be happy you weren’t there to witness it. Once you’ve seen it, it can’t be unseen.

So far I had learned one thing at University: Frosh people were not my people.

Well, except for maybe one of them.

In all this mess, I had managed to make one friend. And because I was always the kid with a crush on the teacher, it was no surprise to me when I started developing a crush on my new frosh leader. We’ll call her “Nicole” (mostly because I don’t remember what her name was). With Frosh Week now over, there wasn’t much reason for Nicole and I to communicate. So when she called me one lonely Saturday night, I answered–on the first ring.

“Dan? This is Nicole, your Frosh leader (as if I didn’t remember her). I was wondering if you’d like to come out with me tonight?”

This was it. I had made a friend in university. I was thrilled. The reinvention, despite a few hiccups was in full swing.

We met up outside my residence, and started what seemed to me a very romantic stroll through the campus courtyard.

“We’re here!” She said as we arrived at a red brick building. I knew this building. It was the same one we had visited during Frosh Week – the one where, upon knocking, a woman appeared on the roof, showering the crowd with condoms and lubricant. This was the building I had nicknamed the “Sex House.”

Things were looking up, in a matter of speaking. I was not even two weeks in and I was already being taken to the Sex House. Okay, so I wasn’t exactly sure what went on here, but I was pretty confident I was about to find out.

“This is Lisa, she’s my friend, and she’s really excited to meet you…”

“Dan, do you know why you’re here?”

I had a pretty good idea.

“Lisa is an addictions councilor but she specializes in people with eating disorders.”

I was wrong. Like–dead wrong. I had never been so wrong.

Total buzz kill. This was turning out to be the worst Frosh Week date ever.

After 30 minutes of awkward explanations and a promise to eat anything they could put in front of me – it was obvious: there would probably be no second date with Nicole or Lisa. The good news? I was free and clear on the whole eating disorder thing.

What did I do next? For starters, I cashed my first student loan check and spent it all on a new slim-fitting wardrobe (not to mention the biggest bag of peanut M&Ms money could buy).

From there things improved–slowly. I gave up on the idea of reinvention and instead found a new strategy – forcing friendship on anyone who crossed my path. Sure there was a lot of rejection, but eventually things fell into place – and I’m happy to say that I survived my first year relatively unscathed.

And by the way–for what it’s worth, I thought that Dawson’s Creek poster really pulled my room together. Turns out mother doesn’t always know best after all.

*To be honest, in university this former-bully actually turned out to be pretty cool. So even though he is a stranger to you — try not to judge him too harshly.