Yesterday I participated in a panel discussion on Gender, Sexuality and Equality as part of the University of Minnesota's Welcome Week. Three fascinating topics, all of which were completely overpowered by the combined hormonal energy of one hundred eighteen-year-olds.
The whole of the student center was about to go nuclear from the potent mix of naivete, fear, curiosity and horniness they radiated. Some of them had parents trailing along in their wake, carrying heavy suitcases and overstuffed bags from the bookstore, looking every bit as shell-shocked as me. It's exhausting just to be around them.
When I was safely back in my car, the one that's mine and not my mother's, I decided to visit my own college nostalgia via my iPod. Pavement's Slanted and Enchanted seemed the obvious choice.
"Summer Babe" was a song that led off two separate mix tapes made for me by two different shy, brown-haired boys during my college years, only one of whom was rewarded with some foolin' around for his trouble. The other never got a chance, because by the time I met him in person (long story) I was happily dating a different shy, brown-haired boy. It was in college when I realized that I had a type.
This photo of Jemaine Clement will have to represent the handsome brunet I eventually married, for Matt is so shy he detests posing for pictures. This is a terrible shame. There exist only a handful of photos of him from his college years, a time in which he was such a fucking uber-hipster that not only could he have been a member of Pavement, he would have had absolutely nothing to do with a square like me.
I am forever grateful to the drag performers Matt encountered during the visit he made to Carleton's campus in the fall of 1989. My future boyfriend-for-life left Northfield disgusted by the thought of attending a school with a cheerleading squad and duly enrolled at Grinnell. We didn't meet until we were adults, long after I had a chance to come out of my shell, and he got a chance to crawl back into his (none of his Better Off Airport bandmates suspected that he liked Star Trek and the Tijuana Brass without irony).
When we met in 1997, I made a mixtape for him, but he didn't like it and told me so. This is when I realized that there was more to a relationship than sharing the same taste. Hell, there was more to it than horniness, more to it than true love even. Matt respected me, so he told me the truth. This blew my mind so intensely that I had to marry him.
A woman on yesterday's panel from OutFront Minnesota joked that passing a "do you like me?" note in fourth grade is one way of questioning one's sexuality. She paused and added, "Do people still do that anymore? I guess you all just text each other nowadays." I don't need to go back to Coffman to find out that kids these days don't do mixtapes. Where do you buy the tapes? The players? The only player in our house is in Miriam's room, part of her Hello Kitty CD player. I use it to play the few cherished tapes I saved from my youth, including one that kicks off with "Summer Babe," then continues with a heady mid-nineties swirl of shoegazers, Britpop, and Uncle Tupelo. I looked for its maker on Facebook but couldn't find him.
While I was educating these teenagers on the finer points of feminism and social justice, I kept thinking about how I felt during the New Student Week I went through nineteen years ago, and how much I hated every minute of it. My first year of college was an unmitigated disaster, not simply because my BF that year was blond. That was the year I did absolutely everything wrong. I wish I could say that the following year I did everything right--it's closer to the truth to say that I got extremely lucky that year when I met the friends whom I still cherish today.
Oh, summer babies! You who wear the maroon and gold shirts emblazoned CLASS OF 2013! Who am I to tell you anything? You won't listen. You'll fuck up as badly as I did. Then you'll pick yourself up, make a few MP3 mixes about it, and get on with your life.