Columns, Opinion

DONNELLY: Surefire signs of the college cynic in you!

It wasn’t until my late teens that I first questioned the magic of Filene’s Enchanted Village. Childhood ignorance made it perfectly plausible that a parka-sporting rabbit could erupt from the hot juice of a trashcan’s innards and belt out Christmas carols. Adolescence didn’t doubt that a church choir would be up for outdoor banana split consumption in the worst of a snow squall. But with turning 18 came an unwavering declaration that I would be damned if I was expected to believe that the glossy arm of a porcelain cyborg girl wouldn’t be tired after all that waving. Like, give it a rest, Belinda. The cotton-for-snow at your feet is more sincere.

It was a sobering thought. Somewhere between rooting on Natasha Richardson’s reunion with her character’s husband in ‘The Parent Trap’ and making her the posthumous butt of slick slope jokes, I had momentarily reached the clich’eacute; of collegiate cynicism. Coffee buzz for sugar rush, drunk-punched for punch-drunk ‘- I had ambivalently transformed ‘- bitterly, and with stringent request to remain unbothered.

And the more I thought about my dispassion, the more I came face-to-face with it. It was in moments of weakness on sidewalks, when I caught myself accusing pigeons of mocking my uneven stride. On occasion, I’d plow through an episode of ‘Full House,’ and neither Kimmy’s insistence to drive drunk, nor DJ’s corresponding, tearful recounting of her mother’s death in the same fashion moved me. The icy, stoic scare I bore into the screen could only incite me to question why Donna Jo would befriend such an unsightly goon with features only Picasso could concoct. Gibbler’s charming moments were few and far between and her relationship with aspiring plumber Duane ‘- which was doomed from the start ‘- gave an irresponsible message to viewers that settling was accepted by the show’s moral compass.

Yes, the air of the right collegiate bookend is different, no doubt. It smells of forced elitism and the remnants of a half-decade-old bottle of Curve for Men that last week tumbled from my dresser and shattered on the tile floor. It tastes like the end a cigarette that was once so easy to reject, but the offering of which has not lately been met with any sort of contest. Cancer scares are ignored and smoked up to the filter only to prove that they can be (then are choked on, sworn at and tossed into a dry bush in hopes that the house behind them ‘- complete with Adirondack chairs made out of recycled milk jugs’ ‘- will catch fire and burn into the lengthy night).

What is it about this time in our lives that makes it so easy to cast off our integrity so guiltlessly? Where has the ethical consequence of yelling obscenities at broken families gone? Why has farting become a standard replacement for a cab fare’s cash tip?

It’s hard to swallow such a shameful reality, and I feel especially responsible for aiding the transition because I was such an emotional kid. When I was 10, I soiled a T-shirt with snot and tears because my family was forced to put down our cat. When I came home for Christmas break freshman year, I was told another had run away and asked where the Sun Chips were.

Sandwiched between desperate movements to avoid communal shower-induced staph infections between toes and those to sidle around the painful monotony of ‘Lost,’ my biggest fear upon entering this university was becoming a fraction of foam in a sea of twentysomething mockery ‘- the over-privileged, underwhelming stoic. And here I was.

I jokingly bought my mom a book called ‘You Are Worthless’ a few years ago for her 50th birthday. It markets itself as a collection of depressing nuggets ‘sure to ruin your day.’ I vividly remembering rolling on the floor of Barnes and Noble in fits of laughter after reading a few pages while I got wide-eyed stares from those nearby in Science Fiction and muffled huffs across the room in Romance and Sexuality.

About a year ago, I got it back for my 20th, and only recently, I started flipping through its pages again, totally removed from the mindset and circumstance of the person who first bought it.

‘You probably don’t know when the Civil War was fought.’

Uhhh . . .

‘The law of averages suggests that at some point in your life, someone has referred to you as ‘that idiot.”

Hmm . . .

‘People are probably trying to poison you.’

And I had to put the book down, take a moment and gather my thoughts. What if people were trying to poison me? Was it so outlandish to think that a Starbucks barista I had slighted with an impassive order laced my hazelnut pump with cyanide?

As I look up at a shelf ornamented only with my still-uncarved pumpkin, I wonder where this all went wrong. The thing’s not rotted, though, and it still has great potential to scare the kids across the street. I’m going to carve ‘H-E-L-L’ into its cheeks.

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One Comment

  1. I am not surprised some people tend to become cynical when they start university. Yet some remain optimistic, and others were cynical before they graduated high school. <p/>I am a strange combination of cynical and sensitive, and thus my personality often baffles people. My youth made me cynical; my naive hope keeps me from killing myself.