I'm watching a "College Life" marathon. Because I'm a masochist. While Miss Melea Andrys brilliantly tackled the show in The Daily Iowan's pages, I'm here to hold up my end on the web. After half an episode, four years in high school with soon-to-be Badgers, four years of friendships with actual Badgers, and two visits to the campus with a third on the horizon, here's what I know so far: the University of Wisconsin is my smallpox blanket.
Earlier this summer, I received a Snuggie from a Badger. I hugged said Badger, while he was in his matching Snuggie, to show my appreciation (and also because I wondered if the static electricity would be enough to stop my heart). In doing so, I covered my Snuggie in dog fur. I'm highly allergic to pet dander. My eye turned dare-I-say cardinal red (maybe more familiar to readers as one of the University of Wisconsin Madison's school colors) and I began to scratch and sneeze. A wonderful gift soon became my physical downfall. My Snuggie became a smallpox blanket (though not to equate my allergies with the plight of the Native Americans, but just a metaphor too appealing to resist).
Likewise, Madison (the UW campus in particular) has so much to offer, and good intentions (to educate, serve as the state government's core, and be a cultural center). So I go to the city (or the show "College Life") seeking a good time, some entertainment, and maybe a little enlightenment, yet all I end up with are skin legions and questions.
(I wanted to put a picture here, but I realized a photo of someone with smallpox is too disturbing, and I don't take pictures, so any photos of me in Madison are someone else's property and I can't afford to be sued. Imagine me having the time of my life inserted into an episode of "College Life.")
Now I'm watching the election episode, "College Life"'s attempt at depth. Iowa City is no better than Madison, I'm not making that argument. But oh wait, Kevin just got kicked out of his dorm (Spoiler Alert). Why juxtapose the two events? Because that's real life? No, that's "College Life." And move away, because I'm about to experience my vomit life.
I can't stay away from Madison because it's intoxicating. The people are great, the atmosphere is downright addictive, and there's fun on every corner. For real. But for visitors, it fades. Just like the warmth from a smallpox blanket slowly turns to chills as your immune system deteriorates.
Again, maybe my Madison experiences are tainted by issues outside of Madison itself (who's to say if one of my close friends attended Purdue I wouldn't feel the same about West Lafayette, Ind.?). But there's something about the stale, beery air and the reflection off Lake Monona that breeds poor decision making and clouds judgment. Maybe I knew the blanket would give me smallpox, but I was just so happy to get a gift I cuddled up to it anyway? I knew "College Life" would sap my brain cells and spare time, but I can't resist observing the environment responsible for so many of my moral missteps as it claims others. Consider it the appeal of shared experience.
As Kevin (who is no doubt a bonehead, Mr. Let's Play Beer Pong in the Dorm) packs up to move out of the residence hall he was kicked out of, I can't help but understand. No, I don't have sympathy (so I'm not a good person, you knew that coming into this), but I get it. I pride myself on at least appearing tough (see previous post about my shero Mary Shannon). But under the right circumstances (some Beatles tunes, a few bottles of New Glarus Totally Naked, and the view from a balcony at Equinox Apartments) I could indulge my inner Madislut. Yet being a semi-adult in a controlled environment now (or living in Iowa City, where I have family and thus some duty to at least maintain some semblance of a good reputation) makes these situations highly unlikely and also easy to control. But in Madison, I don't doubt every young Beyonce turns into Sasha Fierce. Kind of like how you end up sitting on the lap of that unapproachably hot guy from high school as together you approach second base, or spend the wee hours in the dorm room of some girl you met earlier that night under the guise of "brushing your teeth" (never mind that you didn't bring your tooth brush or toothpaste, but I digress).
The only thing is, Beyonce has to live with Sasha Fierce's aftermath. When a college student's promiscuous drunken persona emerges, the timid partial adult within has to clean up the mess. And State Street is LITTERED with ephemera from parties past. I left a piece of my innocence in the Qdoba on State Street. Look around that beautiful terrace and you'll find some joy I shed. And I'm not alone. Kevin just happened to leave his in a dorm (though after three episodes I still can't figure out which dorm it is, but for the record, I made all my residence college faux pas in Chadbourne).
Maybe I shouldn't be so quick to judge the "College Life" cast members. I spent a few days in their shoes, save for the cameras to document their downfalls (all I have are still images and memories too colorful to forget). Plus, if any exposure to smallpox means contamination, how long we're exposed becomes a semantic argument, a useless distinction. I'm planning to return to that beloved bad-decision breeding ground, sans inoculation. Who am I to judge?
— Meryn, who's pretty weak for one Badger in particular...
(His name's Bucky, maybe you know him?)