College Dude, Normal Dude

I was out with a friend tonight and we ran into a couple we knew. We shook hands, exchanged a few pleasantries, and that was it. As we were parting ways, someone said, "It's good to see you guys-- let's get in touch soon." We all agreed.

As my twenties roll on, I seem to be a part of more and more lame, phony, adult-like interactions like the one described above. I find it pretty depressing.

Say what you want about cruel, middle-school kids, or social-climbing high school kids-- but at least their social interactions aren't lame and forced. As life wears on, interaction becomes increasingly polite and formal, and increasingly phony and excruciating. By the time you're a parent, politeness has so overwhelmed the realm of social conversation, that it's like people are reciting a script-- "This was great. We should do it again soon." "I love what you've done with the kitchen." "How's your wife?" "It's good to see you guys-- let's get in touch soon."

Younger people don't say things like that. They shoot each other down, they openly disagree with each other, they make fun of each other, they laugh at each other, they laugh at themselves. And then everything changes, and other than really close friends, you're not allowed to make fun of someone, or bust someone's balls, or challenge someone's statement, without raising eyebrows and being perceived as horribly rude. It's almost as if adults become so over-civilized that social life becomes a boring, excruciating web of forced politeness. When kids turn into adults, they begin to take themselves more and more seriously, until everyone is so sensitive that they can no longer handle anything but polite, predictable interaction.

For most of my life, I've been on the young side of this, and scoffed at the phony formality of adult life. But more and more, I find myself saying, "This was great. We should do it again soon," and each time I say one of these hideous lines, I die a little bit more inside. I'm not quite at the ultra-hideous "I love what you've done with the kitchen" stage yet, but I'm a lot closer to it than I'd like to think about.

Now I'm not claiming I'm some "real" soul lost in a phony world. I'm just as guilty as anyone-- I'm simply commenting that this is an unfortunate aspect of getting older.

I'm also not suggesting that this should necessarily change-- these boring social norms are in place for a reason. When a college kid gets laughed at by everyone, he's only representing himself, so it's okay. But when a 50-year-old gets laughed at by other 50-year-olds, he's being belittled in front of his wife and kids. Maybe that's why people begin to take themselves so seriously-- because they become the prime moral role models of their children, and because they represent half of their marriage. For these reasons they must maintain a much higher level of dignity than does a college or high school student. And this phenomenon trickles into the rest of adult life. The problem is, this burden of universal dignity takes all the fun out of everything and forces everyone to be phony all the time.

Social interaction is just one of the casualties of the transition to adult life. My friend Andrew and I often lament at the growing general lameness in our life. To capture this awful transition, we created two characters: College Dude and Normal Dude. College Dude is who we were a few years ago, and Normal Dude is who we will be in a few years. At the moment we're somewhere in between. Here are some of the ways they differ:

College Dude drinks with a friend.
Normal Dude gets drinks with a friend.

College Dude hooks up with girls.
Normal Dude goes on dates with girls.

If College Dude is disloyal, he cheats on his girlfriend.
If Normal Dude is disloyal, he has an affair.

College Dude has a backpack.
Normal Dude has a bag with a shoulder strap.

College Dude walks the Walk of Shame.
Normal Dude has an awkward office moment.

College Dude wears sneakers.
Normal Dude wears shoes.

College Dude has a job.
Normal Dude has a career.

College Dude bites his nails.
Normal Dude has a nail clipper.

College Dude has posters on his wall.
Normal Dude has framed pictures on his wall.

College Dude calls friends on Friday night and goes out.
Normal Dude makes plans ahead of time.

College Dude gets drunk multiple nights in a row.
Normal Dude gets drunk 1 night and then needs at least 1 night off.

A big night out for College Dude costs $25.
Normal Dude spends $100 on big night out.

College Dude wears khakis when he gets dressed up.
Normal Dude wears slacks.

College Dude buys clothes when he needs to.
Normal Dude goes shopping.

College Dude has free time.
Normal Dude has leisure time.

College Dude thinks girls are hot.
Normal Dude thinks girls are sexy.

College Dude plays sports.
Normal Dude exercises.

In fact, College Dude is in shape, while Normal Dude is fit.

College Dude’s jeans are baggy.
Normal Dude’s jeans fit well.

College Dude buys a 30-pack of cans.
Normal Dude buys a 12-pack of bottles.

Normal Dude knows what “smart casual” means. College Dude does not.

Normal Dude washes his sheets regularly. College Dude only washes them when he absolutely needs to.

Normal Dude reads Nutrition Facts. College Dude does not.

Normal Dude has Frequent Flier miles.
College Dude doesn't know how to get Frequent Flier miles.

Normal Dude does his hair. College Dude does not.

Normal Dude has a credit card.
College Dude just has a debit card.

Normal Dude has shampoo and conditioner.
College dude just has shampoo. Maybe just a bar of soap.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

quite funny. I think that you idealize college a bit, but that's okay... that is part of being a normal dude too. So you can tell those stories about when back in the day you were so much more cool.

also, academia might be the perfect place if you are sick of being mature. It seems to be completely acceptable to act like a loon, or unprofessional, or like a total asshole.

Anonymous said...

College dude drinks coke, normal dude drinks coke zero.

College dude has posters, normal dude has pictures and paintings.

Normal dude has dignity, college dude does not.

Normal dude has a serious "About Me", college dude's says "I once had sex with Tom Berenger"

Anonymous said...

i stayed home sick today with thoughts like "it's such a good feeeeling" in my head. now it's 2:03pm and i have yet to get off the couch thanks to underneath the turban. not sure how i feel about you right now. but i would have paid BIG money to see you ask people to step over you in kinko's. classic.

Anonymous said...

cvs rather.... sounds like you were on your way to kinko's. those few sentences were so fantastic that they produced the best visual i've had in a while. please strive for more writing of this caliber.

p.s. yes i'm still here, i had to read this to zed. god i hate you today

Anonymous said...

where can i find the cvs story? it sounds too good to miss.

Anonymous said...

in the one about abusing his body

morgan said...

god that was depressing

its funny how you can instantly tell which comment was andrew's

Anonymous said...

didn't andrew say he would never be anonymous....that was for weenies (or something like that)?

CF said...

you can definitely tell andrew's comments. I'm pretty sure "Normal dude goes shopping" isn't one of them. Unless Australia has done things to you that we haven't discussed over gmail instant messenger. Tim, you haven't been around high schoolers in a while, huh? They are SUPER LAME and ALWAYS AWKWARD.

Sallie said...

normal dude says "i don't want us to move to fast" before the fact.

college dude says it after.

normal dude owns a wallet. college dude uses a paperclip.