joe camel says school is cool

kiss my purple shirt, lowly underclass peonI wrote most of this a long time ago, and I have nothing much to say today. So I edited and inserted and posted it here. You might not find anything relevant in this text, but the few friends I know that read my shit might think it’s kind of funny. And if not, I promise a better post later. Pinky swear.

Back to School Special Issue! Confessions of An Enemy: I Was Your College RA

Oh, that’s right. You heard me. For 3 out of four years spent gracing the prestigious James Madison University, I worked for the Office of Residence Life. I was a RA. And after I was a RA, I was a Hall Director, the RA’s boss.

I can hear your teeth gnashing now, for I was…I am… your enemy. I took away your alcohol and your pot. I fined you for breaking things and being too loud. I made you come to Hall Meetings with Free Refreshments! You hated me. No fear, I kind of hated me too.

Where do I begin? Perhaps I should start at the beginning, when I was a freshman and became MY RA’s secret mistress. And when it ended, the best revenge I could think of was to become a RA myself, so he (and his girlfriend) would have to work with me the next year. Also, it seemed like the only way to pay for my car and insurance. Also, if my RA could get some ass from a resident (me), than I could too! I was on the prowl for booty. And, I could have power over said booty. What a deal.

Perhaps I should start in the middle, where I made a few friends in the same miserable boat I was, RAs who were tired of being hated. So, as a small group we turned our lives into hellish substance-fueled binges, teetering on the edge of failing out of school altogether (or at least losing our RA jobs.) Shit, one of us even ended up in med school, I’m still trying to puzzle out how that happened.

Or, maybe I’ll start now, years out of college and running into a girl at the Pete Yorn concert, where with a small but perfectly friendly smirk she introduces me to her friends as “my RA.”

You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.

Like I said, I got into it for all the wrong reasons, but what were the right ones? I dunno. I do know that once you got in you couldn’t get out. These people, these cheerleaders of Harrisonburg VA society, these RAs, were SUPER-SCHOOL ACTIVE! They wore purple and gold (the school colors) pom-poms in their hair. They led dorm field trips (by the way, don’t call it a “dorm,” because that’s not PC) They hung out in the Residence Life offices after hours. They named their dogs and subsequent children Madison, which makes me nauseous. They donate hundreds, thousands of dollars to the alumni association even now, like a tithe. They have never said a rude thing about anyone in their lives, don’t know what drugs even look like, and quietly drink one imported beer every 2 weeks when they “get crazy.” I won’t even get into Homecoming. These people, they suck you in. I started becoming… one of them? Okay, never really one of them, I have a small phobia about dressing up for football games. I was an art major. Fuck the Establishment! I was alternative and hip and had good taste in music. Like watching gorillas in the Congo, I considered it a type of science/research experiment. I did get close to their world. Almost too close. (Cue diabolical music HERE.)

I’m trying hard not to put my fellow RAs down. Too many others put them down for me. They are the nicest, nicest people you will never meet. Cliquish, you bet. Snobby? Sure. But always with a smile, and I do kind of respect that a little. I have to, one of them will eventually be vice-president of the United States, and wear red-white-and-blue fake tattoos on their cheeks, instead of purple and gold. Never President, because none of these people have the scandalous nature necessary, and some are too smart. USA #1!!!!!

Anyway. I realized after my first year on the job that it wasn’t nightmarishly bad. I worked in a dorm of mostly guys. They scared me sometimes. Okay, a lot. I hated being the cop and “busting” people, like the football team. It made me nervous. I hated going to parties off campus and seeing residents of my building there, who in turn would get spooked and drop their beers, or avoid eye contact (hi. I didn’t care.) But I mostly just ignored problems, which made for great stories down the road (still told today over and over again by The Brians, KA frat boys extreme who were my residents; not bright men but you can’t help but love and laugh a little. They’re so harmless.) I made some good friends, and they in turn looked after me. I was lucky- I was the only nice RA in the whole building, and I was female. So I didn’t have to try to hard to be liked, which is half the game. And, this was the year I met Sig Other, so I was mostly in the clear. I was happy. Other RAs spent a majority of their time in a panicked state, trying desperately to Set Rules and Be Liked. Guess what? Fucking impossible.

The one mistake I made was after having a good first year in this job, making friends, being able to blame things on Higher Authority (“just dump the beer out, that way I won’t get in trouble with the boss, and I won’t say a word”) I decided to BECOME the boss.

And that’s when the trouble started.

Always go out on top, my friends. Never push it.

By then, I was an upperclassmen, already had my own friends, so it didn’t bother me much that I was a hated woman in Wayland Hall. The people living there were probably very nice, but since I was The Boss they avoided me and pretty much wished me dead. I was fucked up so much that year it probably didn’t matter. The only classes I remember taking were Painting, Figure Drawing, and Middle Eastern History, which I went to only twice but somehow got a B.

Some of you reading this never went to college, so you have no idea what I’m talking about. Some of you are there now, and you are friends with your RA or making it with them already, a la Elle. Some of you are heading to college soon, and will have an RA you will want to string up by their toenails. Please give them a chance. They may have gotten into it for the wrong reasons, and yes, many of them are bastards that love the power trip they can pull on underclassmen. Some are just trying to pay their way through school or their car insurance. Some of them actually like people (hell there is a GRADUATE PROGRAM for RAs at JMU.) For the most part, the job sucks, and at my university you had to wear purple shirts, pretty much upping the ridicule. Keep this in mind- the RAs biggest fear is that some ridiculous freshman will drink himself to death with NATTY LIGHT (a tragedy in itself) on their watch, in their building. And then shit hits the fan, my friends. Hello, Mr. Lawsuit.

So as you move into your dorm this year, or next year, remember these helpful hints:

1. Make friends with people who live off campus and get ripped there. This way, you don’t have to worry about cramming 30 people in a dorm room the size of a closet, which is fucking stupid anyway. (OMG! Rager in Room 537! Yeah! We snuck a keg up! We are so cool! Yeah!)
2. You are not cool.
3. If you are going to do that, keep a sense of humor when you get caught. Also, offer your RA a beer and she will probably let you go (if her name is Elle)
4. Don’t pee in washing machines, vending machines, your roommates bed. Don’t hook up in stairwells, especially if you plan on falling asleep with your boobs hanging out for all the world to see bright and early Saturday morning.
5. Your RA, when she is in her twenties and been on her own for several years and has a real job and friends and pays rent and bills and has a life, does not want to be introduced as your RA. Get over it.
6. You are not cool.
7. Also not cool: Puff Daddy’s “Mo Money Mo Problems” on repeat, school colors, dorm programs that involve coloring books and Disney movies, beer cans taped to an RAs door along with the note “you didn’t catch us” (I didn’t know, but apparently they are letting three year olds attend college now)
8. 7. School colors. Did I say that already?

Happy back to school week. I hope all your #2’s are sharpened and your vinyl Barbie backpacks ready and waiting.

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