Nyssa's Hobbit Hole

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Breaking up with Charles–College Memoirs: Life At Roanoke–November 1994, Part 3

I admit I skipped a few Intro to Christianity classes.  But sometimes I just didn’t want to get up and run off to a 9:15 class.  I’d either be tired or depressed about Phil again.  Once or twice I actually felt under the weather.

(Maybe this is a symptom of depression; after all, up until this time, I wouldn’t dream of skipping class unless I was sick or had a bout with insomnia or had to tend to Phil’s nervous breakdown.)

So I’d skip it, and copy the day’s lecture notes from Mike.

I followed the syllabus, read the assignments, did the research essays and studied for the tests, so I didn’t miss much.  Since I knew the material, I made an A or B in the class.  And I didn’t have to tell the teacher where I’d been.

I did show up to most of the classes, though sometimes I think I barely made it on time.  (I don’t remember now how often I was late or on time.)

But then, after all, I just took this class for the credits anyway.  It was interesting, but I’d taken all the required courses and only needed a certain number of credits so I could graduate, so I took whatever looked like fun.

****

Sharon began giving us all titles, all in fun, not because she really felt this way about us:

Pearl was sometimes the Slut.  I was also the Slut, but I don’t remember if I had another title.

Pearl was also the Druggie because of all the prescription drugs she had to take after her surgery.  There may have even been a hypodermic needle involved.

Tara was the Alcoholic.  I forget why, exactly–maybe because she sometimes liked to mix up Sloe Screws and drink Daiquiris and Sex on the Beach.

Sharon kept torturing Tara and me with the song “Zombie” by the Cranberries.  She’d sing, “In your head!  In your head!” until we pretended to hit her.  One of us would say, “It’s in my head and I can’t get it out.”  So Sharon would sing, “In your head!  In my head!” and laugh.

****

Over the weekend, Mike joined us for a meal.  Charles saw a picture of his sister Wendy.  Mike told her age, which was closer to Charles’, and Charles said, “Could you introduce me to her?”

At another point, he said he was “twenty-four, and still not dating anyone seriously.”  He smiled at me after he said that.

A twinge of insult lasted only one nanosecond.  I didn’t feel insulted after that, just wondered what was going on.

Charles hadn’t been coming over much, I had given up on trying to be in love with him (I guess I no longer felt that “spark” as he called it), and after his comments I started to feel like we weren’t really seeing each other anymore.

I tried to work up the courage to break up with him.  I’d even been depressed lately, wanting more and more to be with Mike (or Phil if he repented of his abuse) instead, so depressed Clarissa even noticed one day before dinner and asked what was wrong.  (I didn’t tell her.)

We also had different political opinions: We were both Republicans, but his opinions were much farther to the right.  One evening, he turned on Rush Limbaugh’s TV show, to my dismay.  I kept my mouth shut to avoid trouble.

And he could get vocal with people who disagreed with him on politics.  He recently embarrassed me when, to an innocent comment made by the elderly Southern teacher I’ve mentioned before, he blew up and yelled at her.  He said he was so sick of people saying such-and-such.

I don’t remember what she had said or if she meant it politically, but he made it so.  She was a sweet lady, and his elder, and didn’t deserve that at all.

I think that was when I first seriously considered breaking up with him.  I knew this just wasn’t going to work out.

(Ironically, my future brother-in-law would be just like him.)

On the tenth, the group walked back from lunch and got to where the sidewalk forked, one way leading to Muehlmeier and the other to the apartments.  Charles usually came along with us to our apartment, but lately he’d been splitting with us and going alone to his room in Muehlmeier.  I thought he did this because Sharon complained about him coming over every evening.

He said good-bye to us again on the tenth, and I thought about pulling him aside right then and breaking up with him, but wondered if it was really necessary: As far as I could tell, we were just friends now, no more.  Our dating status seemed to have dissolved without a word.  So my roommies and I just said “bye” to him and walked on.

But then Charles pulled me aside and said we should break up.  He could see the feelings I still had for Phil.  There were things he’d heard, though he didn’t say what, and he said something about Phil and I wanting to get back together.  The wording made me think Phil wanted me back and was about to come back to me.

My heart jumping, I said, “Why do you say that?”

But this wasn’t the case, to my disappointment.

Had he heard about the angry letter?  If so–well, I had to send it.  Confronting an abuser–whether by letter or otherwise–and cutting him off if he won’t repent, is common advice.

Did he mean the secret marriage?  If so–well, the practice is hardly limited to the young and foolish.  Couples far older and wiser, agree to secret marriages long before the public wedding.

I never did find out what “things” Charles “heard.”  All I knew was he said Phil and I needed to grow up, that he was older and knew better.

He said, “It seems to be a rebound thing for you after all.”

I said, “I didn’t mean it that way.”

“We can still be friends.”

“Of course.”

And we truly were.  I harbored no bad feelings, except for the “grow up” crack (which Pearl considered arrogant).  He didn’t appear to resent me, either.

As far as I was concerned, he didn’t break up with me: We broke up with each other.  It was mutual, the first time I’d ever experienced such a breakup.

Finally, I was free from trying to feel attracted to him, and from wondering if other guys realized I could still go out with them.

Index 
Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

 October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound

January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD

 February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995:

 

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Shawn Breaks Our Friendship and Departs; The Pump Blows Up; Learning Spanish–College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–May 1993

The Pump Blows Up 

My pump poem, “5/7/93,” in one of the last Poetry packets, was written about something that actually happened that morning on campus.  You can read the basic details in the poem:

The pump blew up
Oh, shoot
Water’s off
At 8 A.M. to boot

Whole campus is out
Till the afternoon, we’re told
We hate it when this happens
Water becomes gold

Hope you took your shower
Before it all went off
If not, no one’ll notice–
Their own hair’s bad enough

Fix our pump for us
And on the lake’s sand
We’ll bow down and worship you
And the magic wrench in your hand

No, I don’t remember the exact time the water came back on.  I had taken my shower the night before, so I had good hair that morning.  Clarissa still had her bottled water for handwashing and brushing teeth.

Shawn Breaks Our Friendship and Departs 

Probably some time in May, when we all watched TV together in Krueger lounge, a news brief came on about a drug bust in Kenosha.  Pearl laughed in chagrin.  Apparently Kenosha was such a quiet town that such things were unheard-of.

My diary entry for 5/10 at 2:01am: “Something I just read in May 8th’s devotional [My Utmost for His Highest] made me realize, I don’t have to worry that I won’t ‘find someone.’  I just need to be patient and remember that the unforeseen often happens.”  And I was right about that.

On May 13, a speaker for InterVarsity, Pastor Don, brought his two college-age sons, cute Matt and cuter Dan.  I helped Pearl entertain them–a pleasant task.  A group of us spent a fun evening in the Pub, with the guys playing pool.

Eventually, Rush Limbaugh came on the Pub TV.  We sat there ripping on him, and Muskie Pat, who was working behind the bar, said, “If he says anything about femi-nazis, I’m gonna throw something at the screen.”

One of Don’s sons said, “The scary thing is, when you really listen to him, Rush is right.”  That didn’t mean he liked Rush or the terms he had for groups or people or any of that.

(Muskie Pat is what we called a cool guy who had been at Roanoke for years getting several degrees, and who worked in the Muskie all the years I knew him.  He made awesome burgers with toasted buns.)

Pastor Don spoke on relationships.  This clip from a letter I wrote to Shawn gives a sample of what he said, and how it affected me:

Sure I’d had some serious thoughts in the past few weeks of just giving it all up [the friendship] because of all the trouble I had dealing with you and I didn’t know if the relationship was healthy for me.

But I’d decided I just couldn’t: we’d been through so much together, confided so many things in each other.

And then the Thursday before, when the speaker came up from Racine to speak at the Bible study, he talked about relationships of all kinds.

Friends stay there for friends, he said, even when being around them is currently making you feel bad.

Whether the person’s depressed or depressing or just in a bad mood, a friend doesn’t go away, a friend stays right there with them.

I took that as an answer from God to my prayers for help in deciding.

Shawn came back maybe a week before the end of the semester, and said we could talk in a little while.  I expected a phone call at any time, and looked forward to it because, as a good friend, I was concerned about him and his brother.

I’d missed him; I wanted to spend time with him before he left, because I probably never would again, and I never liked saying good-bye to my best and closest friends.

But on Tuesday the 18th, Clarissa told me he didn’t want to associate with me.  That angered me, but I tried to keep it under control until I found out if it was all a misunderstanding on her part.

He came over once for a back massage (really? weren’t we giving that all up? we knew where they always led), but I just wasn’t up to it, because I had to find out why he was avoiding me when we were about to part company for good.  We sat at the picnic table beside the lake.

He told me that what Clarissa said was correct.  I felt sick at heart and totally puzzled.  He said we’d be going our separate ways, because of all the sexually intimate knowledge he now had of me.

So, after he had pushed so hard to get this knowledge, now I was to be punished because he had it?

He said he didn’t want me to think I had a boyfriend out there, and that he probably wouldn’t write back because of this, though I could write him.

My mind filled with all the things I could say, all at once, but the closest I could get to summing it all up was, “You can’t just let it go.”

I didn’t want to lose him as a friend, though I had accepted the loss of him as a lover.  So he said he would write back, but ultimately, he didn’t.

We talked about a lot of things that day, including the memories we now had of each other.  We walked around, sat in the cold and some rain, sat in the suite laundry room, went through the parking lot….

Our last conversation was much like our first on one of those first days of freshman orientation, when we also wandered from one place to another–like bookends of our relationship.

He said, “Let’s just put all that [physical stuff] behind us.  Do you regret what we did?”

I said yes, for most of it, though some I just didn’t regret.  But he seemed relieved.  I still had feelings for him, but I told him I just wanted friendship now, so we weren’t at odds over that.

On the 20th, Just before we all left for home for the summer, I called him, to say good-bye.

I asked why he felt it would be awkward to just stop over for a minute and say the one, last good-bye that meant so much to me, but he told me I shouldn’t be curious about it, that it’s his life.

I felt like, ask an innocent question and get accused of prying!  Didn’t I deserve some kind of explanation?

I didn’t know whether or not it had to do with me; I just wanted to say good-bye before he left Roanoke for good.  I was upset and bewildered.

I was about to say I didn’t want to say good-bye on a bad note, when I heard a click.  Clarissa was there as I hung up, I told her what was said, and sobbed my eyes out.

I had no idea that his brother had just died, because he didn’t tell me.  I would have understood.

In fact, I didn’t find out until Julie told me in a letter that I got close to July; they were both staying on campus.  Even then, I did not know when it happened.

I didn’t know he got the news right before I called, until December.  I never expected to see him again, since he was only at Roanoke for two years to take general studies courses before going to UW-Madison for engineering.  This was hardly the good-bye I had expected.

If only I had known, I would have understood.  Why didn’t he tell me?  Why would it take him 7 months to tell me?

I could have been there for him, given him a shoulder to cry on, been so good to him, comforted him.  I still loved him and would have wanted to be there through his suffering.

But he never gave me the chance.  Though I was told he seemed to be pushing everyone away.

Some things become clear after reviewing all the things that happened between Shawn and me:

He treated me like a prude for not wanting to watch sexy movies (which got my mind going on things I wasn’t supposed to do yet) or do the things he wanted to do. 

Then when, over time, I gave in and did the things he wanted, I turned into a “slut.”  Because I was now a “slut,” I was not worth even his friendship, because I put a wedge between him and God.

I was not supposed to have desires at all.  I was supposed to deflect his every move, be stronger than he was.  It was my fault.  I was shamed for having my own desires after all.

No wonder I was so frickin’ screwed up by the end of sophomore year.  I understand why people have trouble with Purity Culture.

I don’t think it’s the desire to save oneself for marriage that bothers critics.  I think it’s the shame we girls end up with, the feeling of being “ruined” if you “slip up,” the expectation that only sluts would want sex, that bothers critics.

Now, of course, it goes both ways.  If you are properly taught that purity applies to boys and not just girls, no double standard, then discovering your future husband is not a virgin, can be devastating.  We can forgive someone after they repent for stealing, but even if they look on past sexual experiences with the proper remorse and disgust, they’re still “sullied.”

It is the reason why I was so psychologically affected by things I did in college, why it was so hard to forgive myself, why I looked on past deeds with Shawn and Phil with horror for so long, why certain first names from my future husband’s past made me recoil for years just seeing them printed on a page.

I felt guilty just remembering these deeds with pleasure years later.  I felt guilty, like I was lying to myself, for deciding one day that what I did with Shawn, wasn’t so bad.  I was warned that past sexual experiences would haunt me when I married, but the memories weren’t so horrible after all.

…Back to 1993.  We went home on the 21st.

Learning Spanish 

My home church now had early morning services at 8:00 as well as the regular, 10:45 service.  My parents wanted to go to the early service, so I had to, as well.  After all, I didn’t have a car.

They thought these would be the most popular services, but they weren’t, and soon were dropped.  However, for the summer I had to endure them.

They were too early, and had too much singing.  It was weird to sing lyrics projected on a wall; I preferred to read them from a hymnbook.

Just before the end of the school year, the Campus Shop had sold used textbooks which were no longer going to be used for classes.  I took this opportunity to buy a Spanish textbook.  Now, I used the Spanish textbook to teach myself Spanish.

I used index cards and a pencil to make flash cards for the vocabulary words, and I think I would erase them and write new words on them.

I also used a slate and slate pencil which I had gotten at a South Bend museum when I was a child.  Just like the first ones I had bought, these were now broken.

When I got this slate, I also got another one, but it was now lost, so out of three slates and more than one slate pencil, I only had one of each left.

But they were useful for writing out the book’s exercises without using up a lot of paper.  We also had a computer disc with a Spanish drill program on it, and I used it sometimes.

The problem, however, was that I had no one to tell me how to pronounce the words properly, and had nothing but the textbook to guide me.

I don’t think the book even mentioned that the X was pronounced differently than in English, though I already knew Mexico was pronounced “MEH-ee-koh” (or a reasonable equivalent).

In general, I enjoyed my summer and its pleasant routines.  But every morning, at least after June, I agonized until the mail came.

I kept expecting a letter from Shawn: angry, apologetic, whatever, but something.  A letter never came, which made me even more upset.

In June I’d sent him a letter to try to resolve the issue of our last conversation and the lack of a proper good-bye, but nothing had happened to move it along.  I wanted closure, not this torture of waiting.

I wrote two letters to Shawn that summer.  I let each of them sit, waiting until I was sure it was the right thing to do and rightly worded.  The first one sat for a month before I mailed it in late June.  It said I was fighting for his friendship.  About the last one, sent on August 23, I wrote,

I wrote it late in the week, and for the next few days I kept hearing and reading things that said, Hurry, do it, send it, write it, do it now!

So I decided I’d send it by Monday, or else God might really be unhappy with me.

The messages were in songs, in my devotions [one devotional in My Utmost for His Highest even talked about sending that letter you want to send right away], and maybe other places.

So I thought, This can’t just be coincidence; this has got to be God talking to me!  I almost felt like my excuses for waiting were just excuses.

I wrote things like, “Please, I miss you.”  But I got no answer, and then Pearl told me (late in August) not to expect one because Shawn was just going to let things go.

I began to think about James again.  I wondered if I would go out with him junior year.  Getting back together with Peter was too uncertain to count on, and Shawn had now left RC as he had planned, so this was my one hope to find love again.  So I thought at the time.

I would listen to the downstairs stereo while washing dishes each afternoon.  I’d recently discovered Q101, a new alternative station from Chicago, and when the TV antenna was positioned just right, I could get it in quite well.

We had a powerful antenna with controls, to make up for losing cable, and it could be linked to the radio as well.

My mom now had an old trunk.  It had been passed down from mother to daughter for several generations, and now that Grandma C– had died, it had been passed to Mom.

It was full of mementos, pictures, trinkets, and tools from the past generations, including hat pins, straight razors, newspaper clippings, and a stereoscope with pictures.

I didn’t understand how to use the stereoscope, that you’re supposed to adjust it to get a three-dimensional image, but I did love slipping in and looking at the 1870s pictures of a relationship from courtship to marriage.

(I looked through this same trunk with Pearl and Sharon on the night before my wedding, finding amusing newspaper clippings, and my future husband, Cugan, would one day show me how to use the stereoscope.)

Index
Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

 October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound

January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD

 February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995:

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Spring Classes; Crush on a Teacher; Lit Teacher Becomes My Writing Mentor; “Ugh” Poem–College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–February 1993, Part 1

February came, and it was time to start working in Food Service again.  I signed up to work lunch, still avoiding weekend hours.

Apparently I cut back my hours so my arm wouldn’t be put under needless strain, because these were my hours: 11 to 12:30 on Monday and Wednesday and 11 to 1:30 on Thursday, a grand total of five and a half hours.

I found myself with different people.  One was a woman with brown, wavy hair and glasses, a married non-trad who was a few years older than I was.  Clarissa sometimes worked with me.  One was an elderly woman.  One was a sweet, blond guy with sky-blue eyes and a mustache.  I had a small crush on him.

The atmosphere was totally different now, and I liked it better.  For one thing, people didn’t complain about my music, shut it off, or block out all non-rap.  Most of the bossing around came to an end.

Grapes were popular missiles, especially with the brunette, who loved to throw them at the guy and the rest of us.

One day, the guy found a big crack in a bowl.  He hurled it across the room and it crashed into the wastebasket, shocking us all.  “Cracks like that are full of germs,” he said.

****

On Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2 to 3:40pm in a cold room in the basement of Old Main, I attended a class (World Lit) which was so pleasant that I dreaded the end of the year.

One reason for this was the handsome young teacher, Wesley, fresh out of graduate school and maybe 26 at the most.  He had short, dark hair, glasses, and a cute face, and he seemed tall.  I spent many a lecture happily gazing at him as he spoke.

And they weren’t really lectures, either: they were open to discussion.  In fact, because of his youth he brought a fresh perspective to the dusty old literature of the past.

Rather than spending all our time dissecting metaphors, we spoke about the things none of our other teachers did: sex, for example.  We read Lysistrata and Lolita, after all.

When we read The Odyssey, he noted that while Odysseus’ wife got praises for her fidelity after all those years apart, Odysseus himself would end up in some woman’s love-nest and then say, “Oh, but I didn’t enjoy it.”

When we read Lolita (that “famous book by Nabokov” about a pedophile, mentioned in “Don’t Stand so Close to Me” by the Police), some of the students in the class got together.  They chose a young man as spokesman and he said,

“We just have to wonder about you because you say this is your favorite book.”

Wesley insisted he didn’t assign the book because of the “Long Island Lolita” stuff which had recently gone on.  (The story of teenage Amy Fisher trying to kill the wife of her adult lover, Joey Buttafucco, had been all over the news.)

Wesley kept pointing out a theme throughout the books of “Who are you.”

He was divorced already, I forget why, and had a son; but he told us that if he had it all to do over again, he probably would still marry his ex-wife.

I remember one day seeing a squirrel outside a window, and another day, a baby frog.  Since we were in a basement room, the animals would be sitting on the ground above us, which seemed strange.

Wesley was a victim of the cryptosporidium epidemic which hit Milwaukee and, I believe, surrounding areas that year.  He said that, as a single man, he ate out a lot, and one night at a restaurant, he drank far too much of the water which was set out before he got his meal.  It made him very sick.

This parasite was a serious problem, and we were all worried it would come to Roanoke.  It didn’t.

On the day we were to discuss Franz Kafka’s “Metamorphosis,” which I had read in German class back in high school, we walked into the classroom and Wesley wrote this quote on the board: “Sex with you is a Kafka-esque experience.”  I believe it was a line from a Woody Allen movie.

Around February 27, we read Lysistrata, the ancient Greek play about the women of Athens stopping a war by refusing to have sex with their husbands.  My classmates said there was no way the old men in charge of Roanoke would ever allow this play to be performed there.

We all laughed at this.  (The irony of this was, only a year later, a play which was much, much worse really was performed there.)

We read Lolita around April 30, and saw the movie from 1962 in the Jubilee faculty lounge at 4pm on Thursday, May 6.  (I also remember us watching Kenneth Brannagh’s excellent version of Henry V in that room.)

Domino’s Pizza had just mailed to everyone an announcement that they would deliver to Roanoke, so Wesley ordered some.

Since the movie was written by the author, Stanley Kubric, and had a slightly different treatment of the tale (for one thing, Lolita was as old as 16 in the movie), you had to both read the book and watch the movie to get the full experience.

The movie had nuances that only someone who read the book would appreciate, and the movie added jokes and things here and there.

This was the first time I ever allowed myself to admit, much less have, a crush on a teacher.  I wanted to see what it was like, and figured there was no harm in it.

I wondered sometimes if he felt the same, but never said anything about it, never made any moves.  After all, young and unmarried as he was, he was my teacher.

It was wisest not to get involved, since that could get us both into major trouble with the college.  Another teacher was booted out that year because of an affair with a student; I didn’t want to see the same thing happen to Wesley.

Even now, I believe I did the right thing, and don’t (usually) feel like I missed out.

The irony is, one of my friends did indeed go on a few dates with Wesley, though I had no idea it was her for a couple of years.  The rumor mill caught wind of it, but for some reason, he didn’t get booted out like the other teacher did.

From what she told me, I figured I was better off.  When I heard of this from Pearl the following fall, I had no idea who the girl was.

I often talked to Wesley after class, especially about writing.  He said that teachers talk about students, and when they found out I was in his class, they said, “She doesn’t talk much but when she does, she says good things.”

He said he would love to see some of my work, so in May I brought in some stories and a poem about the pump blowing up (more about that when the time comes).

He said, “Maybe we could go to the Student Union and get a Coke and talk these over.”  (He often joked about how weird the college was for calling it the Campus Center instead of the Student Union like every other college supposedly did.)

He also gave me a copy of part of his novel-in-progress to read.  I still have it.  He said that readers kept saying the protagonist seemed numb.

He said, “Your writing is better than most undergraduate writing I’ve seen.”

I showed him a rewrite I’d just written of a story I wrote in high school, The Last Night.  I feared it hadn’t gone well, but he loved it.

He said, “When I first began reading your pump poem, I thought, ‘Oh, no, don’t rhyme it!’  But the rhyme worked really well with the humor.”

He said I was good at dialogue, making it sound real, that I had a good ear for it.

He told me these things in his office, not in the Muskie or Pub, apparently completely forgetting his suggestion to go to the Muskie.  He even left the door open.  I didn’t say anything: He may have been worried about his job.

****

Frontiers of Space sounded like a fascinating course, especially after the fun I’d had in Astronomy class in high school.  However, it was dull, dull, dull.  (At least I got to keep the textbook this time.)

The teacher said he was an astronomer by profession, not a teacher–and, well, it showed.  Even worse, the class was from 6 to 9:30 on Tuesday nights.

Clarissa taped the college drama Class of ’96 for me.  (Ironically, the critics said this show was nothing like college–when I felt it was the closest to real college life of any show I’d ever seen.)

How did I get through the class?  Christopher (a.k.a. Penisman) from Poetry class and two non-trad women sat behind me.  Christopher kept making funny little comments and cracking up the three of us.

I doodled a lot, my usual pictures of women of various time periods and planets.  One evening, a discussion of Nereid inspired me to write some sort of plot summary for a book based on my stories about the Solar System.  (All the heavenly bodies were actually living beings with ethereal bodies; what we saw was the head.  I would act out and sometimes write down the stories as a child.  See here.)

One night, we all went outside Chase and looked through a telescope the teacher set up for us.  I believe we saw Jupiter and about five moons.  This was cool.

Also, on the way back to our room on the first floor of Chase, we passed a greenhouse room full of plants.  I think the teacher joked (was he joking?) that there were man-eating plants in there.

We had to do presentations which involved models.  For mine, I made planets out of the Play-Doh my Dad had once used to exercise his hand and arm after he broke his arm.

I spent a good amount of time trying to get them the proper size, and wondering how to show Jupiter and the Sun with what I had.  After all, my materials were limited by what was available on campus.

The teacher graded every presentation harshly.  Even Bill, a study-aholic with an impressive presentation, couldn’t get an A.  He may have gotten a C.  He was frustrated.

I don’t think my grade was better than a C.  Everyone in the class complained to the teacher about it.  I don’t remember if it made a difference, though.

The teacher showed us a videotape in class one evening.  A friend had made it.  This friend had spoken of selling it to PBS, but it had to be a certain length, and was longer.

It was a tape of the solar eclipse in Mexico in July of 1991, and showed not just the eclipse but the various types of people who were camped out in a field waiting for it to happen.  It was fun to watch.  In the summer of 1993, I found it on PBS one evening.

****

Introduction to Mass Media was taught by Bill, and a requirement for my Writing major.  We met Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 12:45 to 1:50 in Old Main.

In this class, I learned why USA Today was “McPaper” (because it had snippets of information for the busy person to read instead of full news stories),

the history of radio and TV programming,

that TV programs and radio playlists were supposedly intended not to broadcast music and programs but to sell advertising,

and that the writer of our textbook loved alternative music and independent stations.  These stations, such as college radio stations, didn’t have to follow some commercial idea of what was popular.

The writer didn’t like Top-40 stations for this reason, and because they filtered out quite a bit of new music into maybe 10 to 40 songs which got played all the time.

He loved Siouxsie and the Banshees (who, until I read this, I thought was a new band), the Sex Pistols, and the fact that MTV made bands like Duran Duran popular.  (I already knew they made alternative bands like EMF and Jesus Jones popular, which, in the late 80s, was highly unusual.)

I also learned about Rush Limbaugh.  Bill brought in a tape of one of his radio programs one day, and showed us how Rush would quickly talk down any dissenting opinions from his callers and get them off the air, while anyone who agreed with him could talk longer.

Rush was good at making sure his point of view got through and nobody else’s.  I didn’t like this, though I admired his abilities.  I wasn’t sure what to think of what Rush Limbaugh said, but I didn’t like how he said it.

One guy in the class, would take any chance he could to talk (in his fascinating Eastern accent) about Rush Limbaugh.  It was Limbaugh this, Limbaugh that: he adored Limbaugh.  It did get annoying after a while.

One day, Bill asked each of us what our favorite music was.  I probably listed: hard rock, metal, dance, pop, alternative, Celtic, classical–whatever I felt like listening to at the time.  Bill smiled and said my tastes were “eclectic.”

Bill loved the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, and hated to see it end.

We listened to a chilling tape of the famous radio news broadcast of the Hindenberg crash.  We also listened to Orson Welles’ infamous “War of the Worlds” broadcast.

The students each did a media presentation.  Catherine did hers on the roleplaying game Dungeons and Dragons.  She handed out copies of a few pages of Dragon Magazine and passed around a 100-sided die.

A Japanese girl brought in copies of a Japanese newspaper, like the ones you could find at the library’s circulation desk.  I was shocked to turn to page 2–page 2!  where everyone, including little kids, is likely to look!–and find ads for strippers in various stages of undress!

What kind of advertising is that for a respectable daily newspaper????!!!!!  To my surprise, the “page 2 girl” is actually common.

My presentation, on alternative music, was on April 23.  Here are my notes for it:

“Alternative music–what is it?  How to define it?

“Alternative is a music style that can’t be defined.  As MTV puts it, when the music stops changing, it’s no longer alternative.  There are, however, a few common characteristics I’ve noticed: its difference from the mainstream, its content, and its oddballness.

“Content: death, love…

“Alternative stations are the place to go to see what’s probably going to be popular later on.  For example, U2 and REM were first on alternative stations.”  I first read about this in a teen magazine a few years before.

“Once the music listened to by the ‘scary’ people in your school” (that got me some chuckles); “now for anybody; I would listen to it sometimes on the Notre Dame station, late at night, back when I was an upperclassman in high school.  It was weird, I thought.  (Mention A.T.’s tapes in art class–other people’s comments.)”

This A.T., a “scary” person with a buzzcut, leather jacket and sullen attitude, brought alternative music tapes to be played in Art class senior year.  The other kids ripped on it.  For example, when A.T. played a tape of the Misfits, the other kids said they didn’t know how to play their instruments.  I liked the music.

“I did like the alternative songs I heard on the regular Top-40 stations, but I didn’t really listen to it again until recently, when I discovered Alternative Nation on MTV, and some alternative stations along the way from South Bend to Milwaukee.  I liked listening to it then because it was something different for the road, and they had some weird videos with weird music by weird bands on Alternative Nation.

“This music gives us something different to listen to, like when regular rock is boring or unimaginative.”

“Names: Butthole Surfers,” this one got me some grins, “Gin Blossoms, Belly, 10,000 Maniacs, Pearl Jam, Sun Scream, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Non-Blondes, The Beloved, Green Jelly/Jello.”

Jell-O forced Green Jello, the band which did “Three Little Pigs,” to change their name because Jell-O didn’t like the association with their green Jell-O.  So the name became Green Jellÿ, though it was supposed to be pronounced the same as Green Jello.

I also showed a videotape I made from MTV of various alternative songs.  Since the whole thing would take too long, I showed the ends and beginnings of songs.

Bill was happy to see the acoustic trend, such as in the Belly song, something he hadn’t seen since his youth.  These were the videos I showed: “Feed the Tree” by Belly, “The Right Decision” by Jesus Jones, “Love My Way” by Psychedelic Furs (which I thought was new; also, I loved the lead singer’s long nose), “Connected” by Stereo MC’s, and “Sleeping Satellite” by Tasmin Archer.

Someone complained, were they actually alternative, since he’d heard most of them on the regular Top-40 radio?  But just because Top-40 picked them up and liked them, didn’t mean they weren’t alternative.  The music landscape was changing; the following year, alternative would be big on Top-40 stations.

One girl did a video montage of the history of music videos.  I wondered where she got all those video clips, all together in just the right order.  You can’t just sit in front of MTV and do that, especially with videos that old, which rarely get played.

She mentioned the boring concert videos which filled MTV in 1985, and said MTV soon realized this needed to change.  A clip of “We’re Not Gonna Take It” by Twisted Sister excited giggles of nostalgia.

In various class discussions, students complained about pop music or Roanoke College life.  Marc the Zeta said he turned the radio off a few years before and now only listened to the music he owned.  This included Pink Floyd.

I didn’t think popular radio was quite that bad, not anymore.  (In my opinion, popular music still had the occasional good song until the late 90s or turn of the century.)

Marc and others complained that college life at Roanoke was nothing like the kind their friends enjoyed at their colleges.  They wanted to leave.  There was too much apathy.

But I preferred Roanoke’s life to a place like UW-Madison, which everyone said was very liberal, had protests on various things, and was very P.C.  (I was still very Republican in those days.)

I was sick of protests: anti-fur, PETA, abortion for and against, don’t eat meat, etc. etc.  I only saw protests on TV.  I wanted everyone to calm down, get along and treat everybody nicely.

At this point, the thing that mattered most to me was InterVarsity (IV).  I wanted to help get the word out that we were on campus.  I wanted IV to make a difference in people’s spiritual lives, and maybe even transform the spiritually dead atmosphere of the Christian campus.

I liked the quiet of the Roanoke campus, and had plenty of homework, TV, music, writing, reading, and socializing to do without campus events to fill my weekends.

****

Advanced Poetry, which combined Advanced and first-year students, met with Counselor Dude in room 24–yes, the Honors room again–of Old Main on Wednesdays and Fridays from 9:15 to 10:50am.

This was my only morning class, so this was probably when I started skipping breakfast and making lunch my breakfast, instead chewing gum to help me get through my one morning class.  (I sure couldn’t do that now.)

I don’t remember how many of us were in it, but it couldn’t have been more than 20.  Darryl and Julie were in there.  One day, I signed Julie’s petition to get Latin taught at Roanoke.

I had always expected to learn Latin at college, thinking it was as much a part of college life as the food and fraternities.  But RC didn’t have it, and even after the petition, didn’t offer it.

Having gotten over the whole Peter-poem thing and now wanting to write about other things, I wrote a bunch of poems which even Counselor Dude thought were much better.

He said that I had been the love-poem person the year before, but now another girl or two had taken over that distinction, complete with complaints about her ex.

Catherine and Zeta Marc were also there.

I had a hard time coming up with comments for poems.  I didn’t like some of them, such as gross ones or sex poems, but that was all I knew–and I didn’t want to say that.  I never read much poetry.  I took the class for the credits.

Counselor Dude noticed I paid attention to sound.  I probably did this because metaphors and images were harder for me to deal with.  My poems also were easy to understand.

The Farrago staff specifically asked for my werewolf poem.  That poem shocked people, and Julie said she did not expect it from me.  So at least something good came out of that crap with Shawn!

Counselor Dude had me read the title to my “Ugh” poem, because he said only girls/women could say it in that particular way.  This was that poem:

Ugh

Spring’s coming;
my room is warm.
The flies are awake,
filling my room,
buzzing on the walls,
contaminating everything.
I grab the flyswatter.
The war begins.

My other poems are too big to reproduce here.  I wrote them in various genres: science fiction, gothic, fantasy, humor.

The Poetry final exam was actually an oral exam on 5/18.  I don’t remember if we had a final class for everyone, or just did our exams individually in Counselor Dude’s office.

I do remember Counselor Dude telling me in his office that he hoped I would continue to write poetry.  However, I never had a huge interest in poetry, so I would generally use it privately as a release of emotions I had no other outlet for.

Index 
Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

 October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound

January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD

 February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995:

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