College was weird.
I lived in a sorority house at a "party school," Florida State University, but I didn't drink or attend many parties or games. FSU might as well stand for Football's Super Urgent or Fraternities & Sororities Ubiquitous or Forced Sex Uninvestigated, but a lot people don't realize that FSU has highly ranked theater, film and creative writing programs.
That's why I was there -- the creative writing program. And in addition to the classes, I was given the opportunity to write a column for the student newspaper, the FSView (get it?!). They even let me come up with the column name, which I was way too excited to do, clearly, because I originally decided on "Marci & The Amazing Technicolor Dream Column." The editors didn't understand the reference, however, and this is how the title graphic ran:
After the dorkiest eye-roll ever, I asked them to rename it "But I Digress..." -- complete with an ellipsis that would make any intelligent person think that it's a satirical imagining of a college newspaper column.
Basically, I wrote about whatever was on my mind that week, not unlike my articles here on xoJane. Except I did it with the half-baked insight and not-fully-honed writing skills of a 20-year-old. That's not to say I didn't have valid views or that I was a bad writer, but even the wittiest 20-year-old is still a person with only two decades of life experience.
My parents recently sent me the articles they'd saved, confirming my suspicion that I was, in fact, not the wittiest 20-year-old. Although there were promising hints of cleverness and the development of a thoughtful progressive viewpoint, those hints were smothered by verbosity, goofy jokes, premillennial insensitivity toward social issues and, ironically, an inflated sense of social awareness.
Of course, some of the ridiculousness of what I wrote can be chalked up to how outdated it now sounds, like when I wrote the awesomely titled article, "Click Me Out," about how people are creating personal websites.
“The average personal homepage features pictures of the owner and his or her friends, links to other sites that are interesting to the owner, and silly animated drawings of animals or smiley faces.”
This was, of course, pre-Facebook, pre-MySpace, pre-Friendster, and pre-knowing-that-animated-drawings-are-called-gifs. I can't use that as an excuse for my other articles' foolishness, though; that's more of a pre-brain-being-fully-developed thing.
One of my earlier articles was a nostalgic look back at the simplicity of ’80s Saturday-morning cartoons; or at least I simplified them by dividing them up by gender and casually dropping a term that was unintentionally derogatory toward mental illness.
“Unlike boy cartoons that were either based on reality or had science-fiction themes, girl cartoons seemed more like the product of an insane mind.”
Needless to say -- but just in case -- I've learned a lot since then; but not before oversimplifying the whole gender thing at least one more time when I wrote about cutting my hair short and being deh-vah-stated about being mistaken for a dude.
“I felt heartbroken. I felt dejected. I felt sorry for any guy who has a haircut this feminine. So many months of being on top of the trendy coiffure world only to be tossed from it like a skinny little boy.”
Also, Jane Pratt would strangle me with my own now-long hair if I earnestly used the word "coiffure" in an article.
In addition to dabbling in beauty, I tried writing about clothing -- mostly sanctimonious criticism of what my peers were wearing, because, as you can see, I was the most stylish person in Tallahassee.
In my scathing article, "Watching Students Play Follow The Leader" (Subtitle: "Shopping Decisions: Our Generation Lacks Fashion Originality"), I wrote what might be the most baffling sentence I've ever had the hindsight to be embarrassed about writing.
“Cargo pants have seen increasing popularity amongst young people, despite the superfluous pockets.”
Are young people known for favoring garments with fewer pockets? Is cargo pants' popularity really in spite of their copious pockets? We may never know what made me think this sentence made sense. (Actually, I was probably high on Victoria's Secret Love Spell body-mist fumes.)
My fashion critiques started leaning more political when I began to understand the concept of cultural appropriation. As a religion minor taking a graduate-level American Buddhism class -- and don't you forget it -- I figured I was more or less an expert on the Asian-stuff-as-fashion trend.
“Though the notions of peace and love have not expired, it is currently more hip to display them in Japanese. Considering the majority of our fellow citizens can't decipher Japanese, how should this demonstration be interpreted? Perhaps, 'Hey, you! Japanese person! Peace!'”
I SURE TOLD YOU!
My column started getting super-deep after that, and by "super-deep," I mean adorably sophomoric. I had recently realized that I qualified as a feminist, and with that realization, I wanted to make other women realize that they, too, were feminists, even if they were scared to admit it, because heaven forbid someone assumes that means you don't shave your legs, like those extreme feminists.
We're long overdue for a sentence starting with "American society," don't you think?
“American society has been host to and perpetuator of a gross distortion of what a feminist is. People have blindly fallen for the overstated images of matriarchy-hunting, men-hating women and often respond with virulence and annoyance. But there is a kind of feminist, the purest and simplest kind, that is almost always unrecognized.”
What the hell is "matriarchy-hunting"? Better question: What the hell is the "purest and simplest kind" of feminist? I don't know now and I'm pretty damn sure I didn't know then, but it was probably a feminist who was concerned with not scaring away men.
In fact, I was apparently very concerned that men, too, were being mistreated by society -- or more specifically, by Cosmo. I wrote an entire diatribe about how the magazine shamelessly objectifies men, and of course I titled it "The Objects of Our Affection."
“I have never treated my boyfriend like a fish, seen him as a Ken doll I could redress, tried to give him a speech impediment or referred to giving him a massage as ‘kneading him like bread.'"
Think that doesn't make sense out of context? Trust me -- it doesn't make sense in context, either. I have absolutely no idea why I was talking about fish and speech impediments, but Fish & The Speech Impediments is definitely going to be the name of my new band.
If you think those snippets are ridiculous, I wish I could show you the most truly embarrassing excerpt from one of my articles, but I can't, because it's the entire article. "Moving Right Along: Advice From a Good Friend," also known as my mom's favorite thing I've ever written, is an account of a fictional conversation with legendary singer-songwriter Paul Simon, a man I'd never met (but would a year later while interning at Letterman, and no, I didn't tell him about this because I was terrified and also struck by a wave of good judgment), in which he gives me advice in the form of some of his most popular lyrics.
The entire article is pretentious collegiate creative-writing gold, but here's a taste:
“My good friend Paul Simon called me the other day. It had been a fairly long time since we’d spoken -- he had been angry at me for forgetting to tell that true love of his to make him that shirt down at the fair -- so I had a lot to catch him up on: how my mother and I just had a reunion this past weekend, how I counted the cars on the Florida Turnpike on my way back (and how it’s just not like New Jersey), “and, Al,” I said (I call him Al), “I’m taking 15 hours of classes this summer.”
Oh. My. God.
It's been about 15 years since I wrote these gems, and I like to think that, in another 15 years, what I write today will have held up a bit better.
But let's be honest -- that sentence I wrote about "premillennial insensitivity" a few paragraphs ago is already starting to go bad.