Nothing in this life quite compares to the first few weeks at the Claremont Colleges. We’ve got your stimulating conversation, we’ve got your perpetual sunshine, and, like any self-respecting institution of higher education, we’ve got your party scene. From what I’ve seen, I can only imagine that a sizable subset of us frosh-people have broken our personal records for number and variety of parties attended in the past month. When all is said and done, it’s always good to sit back and reflect on our experiences, if only to make sure that we’ve still got our wits (and moral values) about us after coming out the other end of so many novel experiences.
For the first few weeks as a Pomona student, the aura of mystery surrounding Pub pretty much encapsulated the extended episode of cluelessness that is first year. Many of us first heard of it during one of a series of posterity-numbing mandatory information sessions prior to the start of the academic year, where sophomore speaker Emma Wolfarth named it as the third most important “P” of the Pomona experience (I’ll be darned if I could tell you what the other two were). “Pub?” we asked ourselves, our interest aroused by the mighty roars (and occasional thrown object) from the orientation trip leaders’ section. Was there a hidden tavern somewhere on campus? Was it some kind of acronym? A euphemistic code for some sadomasochistic first-year hazing tradition? Frantically we sought guidance from our older and wiser peers, but were largely met with condescending laughter and/or involuntary squeamish contortion of the facial muscles. “You’ll see for yourselves,” they told us. And see we did. Never before on a Wednesday night had we found ourselves face to face with as much sweaty exposed skin as we did that first Pub. We came away feeling like we had lost a little more of our innocence and our hearing alike. “And this is every Wednesday?” Feeling bemused and beleaguered, we popped some aspirin before bed.
When my somewhat counter-cultured Pitzer friend found out I’d gone to TNC the week before, he exclaimed, “TNC? That’s almost as bad as Pub!” Indeed, love ‘em or hate ‘em, there are some undeniable similarities between the two (namely, sweat and skin). Arriving on the heels of what shall forever be known as Black Wednesday, that first TNC posed a different sort of challenge for a non-CMCer. This wasn’t Dom’s Lounge anymore; we were loose on foreign ground now (specifically, a mysterious laundry room on the first floor of some residence hall [or was it an academic building? We would never find out for sure]). That first TNC was a jubilant whirlwind of pure, unadulterated adolescent freedom, but the head rush associated with Top 40 and artfully dodging overeager boys came crashing down when some bright young thing got the brilliant idea to break out a fire extinguisher. Despite the minor asthma attacks that ensued, we were able to get out in time to declare our first TNC experience a relative success. I reminded my Pitzer friend that he was a year late for his selective service registration. That shut him up right quick.
It took Table Manners a little while to get off the ground–we may or may not have stumbled upon some early attempts at Sontag Theatre and mistaken them in all our naïve freshman glory for reenactments of 1960s cult classics–but the belated news that there was yet another regular opportunity for weeknight partying found us ready and rearing to get our dubstep on. Where Pub and TNC encouraged us to get to “know” our fellow man (mostly by funneling huge numbers of people into disproportionately small spaces), Table Manners seemed to stress individual expression and platonic displays of dance-y affection. In the middle of the (blissfully spacious) SCC Social Room, surrounded by our peers bobbing up and down to the throbbing bass, we felt somehow like we were tapping into something bigger than ourselves, something perhaps displaying a higher level of collegiate sophistication than simply moshing our body parts against those of our classmates. Then again, this type of philosophical thinking could be due to the influence of our Pitzer friend.
The CMC toga party provided us with an excuse to check out the mystical CMC apartments; it finally gave us reason to use that extra set of bedsheets our mothers insisted we pack; but, most importantly, it allowed us to distinguish between those who had seen Animal House and those who hadn’t. But separation of the boys from the men aside, the toga party represented the height of authenticity for us freshmen. We ran around our dorms, gathering stray safety pins and fastening makeshift belts from our graduation tassels in feverish anticipation of what fresh antics lay in wait. We should have turned back when we heard the sirens, but we were just too enthusiastic. At least it was fun while it lasted; brevity is, after all, the soul of wit. Viva Hellas! Or whatever they say in Greece.
Toss on some ratty old shorts and a bathing suit top. Decide you look indecent; throw on a Hanes V-Neck. Think better of it and remove. Have conversation with hallmates regarding the merits of shoes vs. shoelessness. Opt for shower flip-flops. Seal ID card inside a plastic baggie; grab shirt on the way out. Begin the trek up to Harvey Mudd with a mixture of trepidation and kid-in-a-candy-shop wild excitement. Wander blindly towards enormous mass of semi-nude humans gathered in some dorm courtyard. Flash ID baggie, take a deep breath, dive in. Lose shower flip-flops immediately. Attempt to dance but slip and fall in the foam, which is soap, and not Styrofoam like you’d been expecting (decide to keep this discrepancy between expectation and reality to yourself). Dance like a maniac. Feel somewhat secure in knowing that at least there is a thin layer of cleaning product between you and all the sweaty strangers dancing next to you. Somehow, end up standing directly under the stream of foam. Chaos ensues. Blindness. Respiratory arrest. Watch your life flash before your eyes, all within the 24 seconds it takes you to get shoved out from under the stream and back into the throng. Dance more, feeling oddly cleaner than when you started out. Trudge back to home campus, collapse on bed. Wake up with a pounding headache only to realize that you’ve lost the shirt. Consider it a job well done regardless.