And are these follies going?/And is my proud heart growing/Too cold or wise /For brilliant eyes/Again to set it glowing?/No,—vain, alas! th’ endeavour/ From bonds so sweet to sever;—/Poor Wisdom’s chance/Against a glance/Is now as weak as ever. —”The Time I’ve Lost in Wooing,” Thomas Moore
I don’t miss college—my standards are low, as far as sex partners go, and I review porn for a living. I’ve stretched those four years of not working, getting drunk, and constantly getting laid well into my twenties. You, on the other hand, should be terrified of graduation. But if you’re just starting college—or haven’t yet shaken some peaches down from that tree of knowledge—concern yourself with what stands, sits, and lays down between now and commencement, a/k/a the beginning of the end. Humiliating yourself is part of the collegiate romantic process, a crucial one, but it’s reserved for keggers, not beggars. To get in where you fit in and to find out the ins and outs of the old in-out, in-out, read on. (I’ll leave getting it up to you and yours.)
First things first. You will meet members of whatever sex you’re attracted to in one of four places only: class, dorm, party, or bar. Or, OK, on the World Wide Web. But for our purposes, the Internet is too much like high school: not nearly as informative as it’s supposed to be, plagued by misspellings, and trolled by those in search of jailbait. It’s also, more to the point, dorky. By all means, join Friendster and jerk off your chums. (I did!) Just remember that any good love connection is best made at first sight, or at least later that night.
To that end, and getting a piece of it, please remember the proper etiquette. Eye contact, according to context: Let your peepers linger in class—they will anyhow, and a quick flick away says more than that shitty gender studies paper you wrote. Dorm, ditto—but do approach loners in the cafeteria (I met my lovely, last, college g.f. that way), and acknowledge attractive others in the elevator (where I noticed, but never greeted, my first post-college g.f.). Finally, take immediate action at bars and parties: Worst case, you make a new buddy. Best case, you meet a Barnard student.
The beauty of college is that your friends and those you fool around with are not so different. There’s no letter jackets to lend or dates to attend; the difference between a social call and a booty call amounts to a couple of hours. Plus, whether it has to do with that gender studies class or college gal sass, ladies lead as much as men. Not that you won’t be judged by how you court; free love never came cheap.
Let’s leave aside whether you bump uglies right after making eyes. Those close encounters of the third-base-and-beyond kind often seem alien afterward, anyhow. Men may be from Mars and women from Venus, but immediate intimacy usually resets the meter, as if you hadn’t gone anywhere at all. As a guy, naturally, I’ve wooed some of my boos. But the most seductive art I myself learned from young women is the mix tape. I have before me a small stack of once-blank tapes and CDs etched with suggestive songs and amateur art. I’ve spent more time with at least one of these CDs than I’ve spent with the girl who gave it to me. Sadly, in one of those cosmic-coincidence misfortunes, I made out with her roommate minutes before she handed it to me.
That most of us now click, drag, and burn mix discs means, however, that one should be wary of the gift. Once upon a time, before “MP3s” and “computers,” people would spend entire evenings coordinating comps, listening to each song as they recorded them and as their crush would hear them. You could be certain that if there seemed to be a lyric specifically intended for you —”The way you swept me off my feet/You know you could have been a broom/And babe, you smell so sweet/You know you could have been some perfume,” from UB40’s “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” for instance—that the tape makers intended it, since they must have heard it themselves. (The ’80s and early ’90s were arguably the golden age of personal comps. I once asked venerable Voice rock critic Robert Christgau, who’s been married since the ’70s, about making mix tapes. Turns out they didn’t even have them back then!)
I’m no Luddite, but nowadays mixes have become as casual as sex between students, and that’s a shame. Still, it’s the thought that counts, and you can easily discern how much of that has been put into your mix by studying the track order (is it smooth but makes effective use of contrast?), song choice (is there a blend of blatant come-ons, romantic reveries, and at least one tune flirtatiously suggesting that she doesn’t even care?), and homemade cover art (does it incorporate stickers clearly saved for a special occasion, or involve paste?).
I’ve devoted a lot of space to the mix tape because its ambiguities can be carefully staged. Defining the ground rules for random hookups and those clingy, first-time-away-from-home relationships, however, calls for more wisdom than I’ve gleaned from watching pornos and meeting Barnard chicks. So here’s what I’ve picked up from doing those things. If you serial and aspiring monogamists follow one piece of my advice, let it be this: Do not under any circumstances enter into a relationship during your first semester. And if you fuck, do so discreetly. By exams, everyone will want to jump your bones, and that special someone will have fully reverted to his or her insane high school self without dragging you down with them.
Now about getting laid. Another simple rule: Always make him wear a jimmy hat. (Unless neither of you have one, in which case go bareback for a few strokes before calling it off—that never hurt anybody, right? Only a few people who caught STDs!) Guys, you can no longer get by on your reputation as a football player or the dude with the nicest SUV. Instead of sacking Springfield High’s QB, you must now last awhile in the sack—15 minutes at least. I recommend getting really drunk beforehand, unless you haven’t yet mastered the art of holding your liquor, in which case you must visualize dead kittens while humping. (I also spell the names of my friends.) Obsess over performance enough, and you’ll soon find it difficult to cum with girls you want to impress—touchdown! (And remember, your enhanced reputation will also benefit your cock-blocking technique.)
As for you ladies, let him into the end zone and he’ll crown you homecoming queen. As 15 minutes of fame go, it could be worse.