I never got to be a freshman. In my first year at Northwestern, I spent most weekends holed up in my room, catching up on readings and other work. When my floormates stumbled in from another night of debauchery, I’d smirk and think to myself: “They’re gonna be drowning in work tomorrow.”
Yeah, so, freshman me was kind of a dick. Whatever.
Anyway, I eventually started doing my fair share of drinking and partying during sophomore year, but I’d missed the boat. So, when NBN asked me to write a story about ‘doing a decidedly freshman thing,’ with just months left until I graduate, I couldn’t pass it up. And I knew there was no better way to rekindle the sparks of my youth than to unironically attend a Wildcat Welcome party.
When you enter, the first thing that hits you is the smell. Then it’s the heat. After bypassing the “bouncers” thanks to my “friend of the frat” status, I ducked my head to enter the small, dark stairway leading to the basement where the Young Party People were standing in close quarters performing vague, offbeat gyrations to the faint beat of the “Get Turnt” playlist on Spotify.
As I descended into this sweaty cesspool, I remembered why I had not returned since my 30-minute appearance at a party. Honestly, I never regretted skipping stuff like this as a freshman.
I decided the best thing for me to do would be to pretend I was one of them. So I subtly joined a group of kids holding those universal red cups toward the end of a slightly anxious round of name/hometown/major.
“I’m from Schaumburg and I’m a bio major! Wow, crazy that so many of us are from Chicago!”
I jumped in and told them I was from Missouri (false) and in SESP (also false). I weathered a couple of subpar SESP jokes and listened to them rattle off basic stereotypes about their majors before quietly exiting the conversation.
I know you’ve got to start somewhere, but I feel like I’ve aged out of the let’s-make-fake-friends game. As I peered through the man-made mist, a figure emerged. His eyes were bloodshot, his shirt was drenched in sweat.
“Anybody down for beer pong? It’s my first time playing, and I need somebody good on my team.” Not deeming myself a worthy ringer, I said nothing. He staggered around, flustered and desperate. I could tell it was really important that he got in this game.
I yawned, found my way to the table labeled “bar” and exchanged some brief small talk with a boy who was disappointed in the “lack of selection.” Given the choice of PBR, rum and Coke, and Sprite and vodka, my new acquaintance chose to stomach a lukewarm can of option one and disappeared into the crowd.
Feeling claustrophobic, wet and frankly a little bored, I fought my way through the throng of wobbling teens to the stairwell, where I made my escape.
This basement was not my scene. Having approved the spelling of my name on my diploma just hours before the party, this was extremely clear to me. Navigating social situations like these requires a certain innocence and naïveté, and I don’t mean that in a derogatory way at all. It’s just hard to suspend your cynicism when you’ve cycled through enough flimsy first-year-of-college friendships to know you probably won’t meet your future best man in a fraternity basement.
But, as my queen and savior Lorde once said, “parties are a really interesting mental exercise” when you’d otherwise be “sitting at home by [your]self hearing [your] thoughts hit the walls.” While freshman parties are not for everyone, they do serve a purpose. I’m not sure if anyone leaves them fully satisfied, but if you’ve got nothing else to do, I can understand how they’re worthwhile. It pains me to admit it, but I wish I’d given myself a chance to see what it was like three years ago.
It’s also a great chance to get wasted, if you’re into that sort of thing.