By Owen Henry
There are only so many things I have left to say to you. In fact, this is probably the last thing you will read from me on this website (unless of course this is the first thing by me you read here and then go back through my previous posts, which you should totally do). But I wasn’t finished imparting my (ostensibly) sage wisdom. So, for what it’s worth, here’s My Advice, Pt. 3: Personal Issues Edition.
1. Reputation Matters
Oberlin is a small school. In a lot of ways, this is a good thing – relatively small classes, face time with professors, and a real community feel to the campus. But it has the side effect of creating a brutally efficient gossip network that allows pretty much everyone to know your business about five minutes after you’ve done something stupid. There is nothing you will do on this campus that will not be noted by SOMEONE (save for those acts you perform in the privacy of your room, but even those are pretty noticeable if you or your partner is a screamer), and that someone is then going to tell at least one or two people they know, who will then tell one or two people that THEY know, and so on and so forth until everyone on campus is aware you puked on Krislov’s shoes.
This fact, in and of itself, would not be a problem if Oberlin weren’t full of judgmental assholes with long memories: trust me, I’m one of them. I still remember the bag of dicks who, my freshman year during orientation, implied it was a girl’s fault if she got raped while she was drunk, and if he ever comes up in conversation I make sure to repeat the story because that is BULLSHIT. Said gentleman may have reformed during his time at Oberlin. Perhaps he has been re-educated and enlightened by our general disapproval of victim blaming and has picked up on the relevant social cues. But my point is that, even four years later, the story still exists. And if you do something particularly stupid in the presence of others here, you can bet it will follow you to some degree for the rest of your Oberlin career.
Just try not to be an utter moron where people can see or hear you, and you’ll do fine.
2. Don’t Be Afraid of S&S
So, quick story: I may or may not have drunk half a handle of tequila prior to Fracture a few weeks ago. Like actually, half a handle. I’m a large dude, so my body was capable of handling that much alcohol without being in serious distress, but to handle it I needed to puke up a good amount of it – and that was an activity I was actually performing on the bleachers at the event. I was bodily hauled out and sat down outside by S&S officers, who very nearly sent me to the hospital for alcohol poisoning, but fortunately I was cogent enough to answer their questions and sign a piece of paper saying I wouldn’t blame them if I died.
Fast forward to a week later. I’m walking back from lunch and there’s a pair of S&S officers walking past my house. They recognize me.
“Hey man! Feeling any better?”
We then proceed to share a good laugh about my behavior. I didn’t puke on THEM, which I’m sure contributed to their good humor concerning the incident, but mostly they seemed to enjoy ribbing me for having gone past my limits, an unfortunate eventuality which one officer assured me he has personally acquainted.
This is only one of many positive interactions I’ve had with the security officers on campus. They are all very friendly people. They don’t work on this campus to try and bust you or get you in trouble – that’s just an unfortunate side effect of their job, and as long as you’re not an asshole to them they don’t like it any more than you do. What they’re really here to do is to make sure you’re safe in any way they can, whether that means transporting you to the hospital, helping you get out of a bad rooming situation, or even just giving you a ride back from a party when you’re too drunk to walk home. It’s also important to remember that Oberlin has a medical amnesty policy where you can come to them for help with medical emergencies regardless of whatever stupid illegal fucked-up-shit you were doing that got you into this mess.
Yes, they will bust you if they catch you doing something illegal. But don’t give them crap about it. They are actually on your side and will be friendly with you if you let them. Just remember they are part of our campus community too!
3. The Rule of Three
One of the biggest problems I’ve had in my time at Oberlin is knowing the line for attempting to contact someone after a night of passion or a brief drunken connection. If you’re interested in them, you don’t want to scare them off by immediately barraging them with texts and calls the next day, but you don’t want to give them the impression you’re aloof and unavailable either (because God knows you want a repeat as soon as possible).
For situations like this, I’ve developed a very simple rule. I let myself have THREE shots at contacting someone, and only three; no more. Each of these attempts can be carried out through any medium you like. Phone calls, Facebook messages, and texts are all acceptable. In between each attempt there should be a reasonable interval of at least 8 hours, but 24 is probably preferable. If they have not gotten back to you after the third attempt, drop it, move on, and resign yourself to the awkward eye avoidance you’ll experience whenever you two walk past each other.
4. It’s O.K. to Not Have Sex
This one seems really obvious, probably to the point where you’re deciding to completely gloss over this point. I’m also betting some of you boys are rolling your eyes and scrolling right on past because you assume I’m going to talk about a girl’s right to say “no.”
READ YOU FOOL.
THIS IS IMPORTANT DAMNIT.
There’s a lot of pressure at Oberlin to participate in the hookup culture. Not only is the expectation at many social events that people will go home with other people to do the things that two people do together, there is also the perception that not getting laid on the regular somehow makes you less of a person. Neither of these things are explicitly stated, but you can feel it in the attitude, the way people talk, how they respond and flock to drunken revelry.
But sometimes you’re not into it. Some nights you just want to go out and not deal with the fools trying to make out with you; some nights you don’t feel physically up to it. Some nights, you even discover you don’t feel physically up to it after having already taken someone back to your room and have them naked and expectant on the bed with you.
THAT IS FINE.
You are not a porn star, and no one has any right to expect you to perform on command. Sex is an incredibly personal act. Even if it’s been marketed to us all as something cool and casual and enjoyable, it still involves making yourself vulnerable to another human being, and sometimes you just aren’t comfortable with that. You should never feel like being unwilling or unable to sleep with someone is wrong for any reason.
This doesn’t just go for hook-ups either. This also goes for subsequent nights, or evenings spent in with your partner, or even just the person who doesn’t feel like pursuing any kind of intimate contact at the moment.
You don’t have to have sex to have a good time with someone. Don’t let them or anyone else make you feel anything different.
That does it from me. I wish you all the best of luck getting through the rest of your Oberlin experience, whether it’s two weeks or two years.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a porch to get back to.