My first two weeks of college, I thought the Freshman 15 was a myth.
I received a text from a camp friend, whose orientation had started a week before mine, while riding shotgun to Mom on I-95 during the nauseas journey to “the first part of the rest of my life!” She said, More like the freshman negative 15!!!! I haven’t been eating and all I’ve been doing is drinking and shitting.
Then I got to school and found myself in a similar predicament. Now every once in a while, over pounds of sushi or omelettes twice the size of your face, one of my friends will laugh and say, “Remember when we just didn’t eat for the first three weeks of freshman year?”
What I remember more, though, is getting to an off-campus bar an hour earlier than we should have, and feeling so emaciated that we decided to say fuck it let’s order buffalo wings, so we got two plates of them and have been much more normal about eating ever since.
I think our “fast” wasn’t as intentional as it may seem: the dining halls were huge, and everything looked good but only in a gross way, and you were too scared to wait on certain lines and didn’t know if other people would judge you by how gross your food looked on your plate and you hadn’t yet mastered the art of “a little bit of this and a little bit of that and voila, you have yourself a meal.”
Once we got over our dining hall insecurities, studied the functions of a meal plan like we would a leaf stem during photosynthesis for Bio 100, we realized that no one really cares what you’re eating and if they do then they’re a little insane. We felt like our normal human selves again. There was no Freshman 15, no Freshman Negative 15.
My claim that the Freshman 15 is a myth was itself mythified when another camp friend, last summer, told me she gained “a literal 15 pounds in my first trimester. I gained an all out, legit, Freshman 15.”
She didn’t look like it, though. Honestly, I think most girls’ bodies change over their freshman year of college because the nature of the body at this time in our lives is to change. We aren’t lanky high schoolers anymore. I don’t care how much you like Instagramming your spicy tuna roll — you can’t balance on chopsticks for legs forever, and one day, when you’re trying to squeeze a watermelon out of your V, you’re going to wish you had hips as wide as the Hudson River. Most of my friends from all walks of life — high school, family friends, camp friends, people I stalk on Facebook, etc. — hadn’t gotten “fat,” but they all kinda just widened out a bit. We looked like women. And really, that’s perfectly fine. Skipping 2am pizza can’t prevent everything, ya know.
During my three weeks of starvation, I stumbled across a sign that warned of the reverse psychology of the Freshman 15–something I’d never thought of before. It had a factoid on it that was like did you know that the Freshman 15 can actually lead to you thinking you’re fat or to becoming so afraid of being fat that you can form an eating disorder and body dysmorphia? And that really made a lot of sense.
People do gain weight during college, and people lose weight during college, and it really just depends on who you are and how you act based on your surroundings. Freshman year, I had nights where I’d stress eat two slices of pizza and a tin of baked ziti at 1am like a champ. Luckily, I also discovered that year that I’m not a terrible runner, and I worked out more than I ever had in high school (which was a solid never). When I adjusted to being in college and doing my thang and making me the best me that I could be, the binge eating stopped. I didn’t gain the Freshman 15 at all, actually. But I was affected by freshman year, just like everyone else was, and it wasn’t because I was suddenly exposed to all of the pizza that my parents had previously restricted me of, as many people suspect that to be the cause of almighty pound-packing. Pizza was never restricted in my house, but that didn’t mean quinoa wasn’t respected. I came from a house of balance, and I had to find my balance at school. I didn’t have to find my food balance, but I had to find my life balance, and I guess sometimes, and by sometimes I mean always, food is a part of that.
Freshmen girls love nothing more than Instagramming a photo of themselves and a friend with Domino’s or cheese fries or a burrito at 2am because they feel like that’s what their supposed to do. You’re, apparently, supposed to struggle with the Freshman 15. You’re supposed to somehow stay skinny but enjoy the late night happiness of mozzarella sticks and nachos. You think it’s okay to eat out of whack because that’s what you’re supposed to do. You’re supposed to get really depressed every Sunday and alternate between sleeping, eating, and crying, and still refuse to wash your sheets for another two weeks even though you can feel granola crumbs with your toes at night.
Shitty college food is cheap, accessible, and absolutely delicious. And that’s a part of college. You need to try it all. You should try it all. But the Freshman 15 certainly isn’t something you have to subscribe to and it’s not something that you’re supposed to do. It just happens. And if it does, then it does, and that’s totally okay. It’s also okay if it doesn’t happen. What I’m really trying to say here is: don’t stress about it.
My friend who gained the “literal Freshman 15″ told me once that college isn’t the time to be worrying about having a perfect body. Anyway, everyone FaceTunes their pictures now. So if you’re so concerned about how she keeps her body, just know that it’s an app away.
Want my real best piece of advice? Order the buffalo wings at the bar. Those are always worth it, and totally satisfying.
“Measure your life in pumpkin spice.” That’s how those Rent lyrics go, right?
Over the last few weeks, I’ve consumed: pumpkin spice malt balls, Pumpkin Spice Latte (yes, it’s a proper noun), pumpkin latte (there is a difference), pumpkin croissant, pumpkin croisbun, pumpkin cheesecake milkshake, pumpkin fro-yo, pumpkin pie Clif bar, pumpkin tortilla chips, pumpkin spice yogurt, ‘perfect pumpkin’ Rise breakfast bar, pumpkin muffin, pumpkin cream cheese muffin, pumpkin coffee cake, pumpkin beer, and really what I’ve come down to is that the more you look at the word ‘pumpkin’ the weirder it starts to look. Pump-kin. Pump. Kin.
I have a big Q, though: WTF is pumpkin spice?
On my pumpkin crusade, a friend told me I should eat a raw pumpkin, too.
Hey, basic bitches, that might not be such a bad idea.
And another Q: What is it about pumpkin that portrays images of ‘basic,’ and what roles do we take up when, early October, we order the PSL instead of the half-caff? Are we really coming down from places of higher complexity and more auxiliary? Am I trapped in tight So-Lows from 2008 that in reality haven’t fit me since 2004?
Why has the love of a round, orange winter squash led you to force me to get my Uggs out of the giveaway pile just because I want to order my latte soy, and with whip?
Also, will you judge me if I order the PSL and peace out as opposed to holding up the line for sugar and cream because I’ve gotta stop to ‘gram it?
Pumpkin spice has become so vanilla, but we freak out over it because of things like low supply=high demand and fall is ephemeral, and life is ephemeral, so we must document it and share it and make sure everyone knows WE LOVE PUMPKIN SPICE and we’re ALIVE and living in THE SPECTACULAR NOW. I’m guessing that movie wasn’t actually about pumpkin spice–I tried to watch it once with a boy, which was a doomed plan from the start as boys are too jittery for romanticized high school relationships–but hey, if the title works, steal it to prove a point about the flavors of fall. Okay, actually, don’t steal titles. That’s terrible advice.
In real life, people get shit for ordering vanilla. It’s an insult to be called ‘vanilla.’ Everyone likes vanilla, but no one wants vanilla. And cue the inevitable pang of guilt when your friend, in line behind you at the chic, overpriced downtown ice cream parlor inquires a crude, “Vanilla? You’re getting vanilla?”
Is there a “Pumpkin spice? You’re getting pumpkin spice?” There’s not. There are only completely arbitrary reasons as to why it’s suddenly frowned upon to love fall, such as, well, the fact that suddenly everyone loves fall. Fall is a season, not a Beatle, everyone can love the same season, get over it.
How would I describe pumpkin spice? (Don’t forget, I’m basic and narcissistic–see second paragraph for proof–so I’m just going to assume you want to know.) It’s like a sweet gingerbread, but not sugar-y. It’s like creamy pumpkin pie. Can you describe the flavor of pumpkin spice with the flavor of pumpkin pie? Is that kosher? Is pumpkin kosher?
WTF is PS? IDK. But ILY, PS. ILY.
I’m not an inherently nice person.
Last week, I wrote a variation of this statement in a creative nonfiction essay that was workshopped in a group of 17 people. “The narrator is way too harsh on herself,” one said. Another agreed. And another. “She doesn’t give herself room to grow.” “You don’t need these super explicit self-degrading lines.” When I received comments in scribbled ink on printed drafts, they all underlined the same shit and referred to that same darn thing.
While I agree that these statements, a few of which were sprinkled throughout the essay in redundant masochism, were a bit startling, they were somewhat true. Maybe these people, who didn’t know me on that level, felt like I was being dramatic, or felt guilty — after all, the essay that fell somewhere between “Humor” and “Dark” was about regret after the death of a loved one.
One of my best friends didn’t think I was being so dramatic, however, when we walked together to get lunch one day. In our path stood a table of people who were encouraging voter registration. They were friendly and excited, and had a clear drive within them that only young voters do. As we neared, the leader of the pack attempted the friendly eye contact that preludes a conversation that starts with a “Will you?” or “Do you?” and ends in a “No thank you!”
I didn’t even want to go there. I felt no need for conversation, or for “No thank you,” so I avoided his glare and stared straight ahead. Do I look like I’m the type of person who wouldn’t be registered to vote?
When he asked, “How are you guys doing today?” (mind you, he was relatively our age and was pretty attractive, and cared about voting, which was a plus) my friend looked him RIGHT in the face and went “Great! How are you?!” and he said “Pretty good!” and smiled at us as we kept on towards the land of Greek salad.
“You are such a nice person,” I said to her in disbelief.
“Not really,” she shrugged. “All I did was say hi.”
“I wouldn’t have said a word.”
“Then what would you have done?” she asked.
“I would’ve ignored him and kept walking. That’s what I always do.”
“Hannah… you can’t do that!!!!!!!”
And then I realized how I really was the Scrooge of casual and friendly conversation. By avoiding these encounters and many others like it, I was disabling the opportunity for people to have little moments that brighten their day. I was someone who shuts the water off on the girl in the Neutrogena commercial just before she cups her hands under her faucet to angelically splash water on her face. I’m photobombing a foreign tourist’s banally annoying selfie.
I’m not a terrible person. It’s not that I don’t believe in the common good, or that I don’t want to save the world, because I do, if saving the world or the prospect of the common good is even possible. And I go out of my way to make people happy: there’s nothing I love more than orchestrating a perfect surprise, or sending someone a handwritten letter and writing them a card just to remind them I love them. I love offering people food, or offering to bring them food, and I love being a giver of balloons. My friend asked if someone would accompany her to a doctor’s appointment, and I was quickly the first to volunteer.
But there must be a difference between liking to make people happy and being a nice person, because I have trouble believing that I’m the latter.
I do have justification for it, though, and it makes me sound like a terrible person: I don’t want to give people the wrong idea. Not only does this sound a lot worse than it actually is, but it’s terrible logic, because I really could just say hello! and then be like, no, sorry, not interested in making real money real fast unless I get weekly portions of organic kale as an employee benefit.
It’s not even that I don’t want to give people the wrong idea. I have a fear of giving people the wrong idea, and that likely stems from the fact that I’m bad at saying no to certain things and certain people in certain situations. Like, I’ll always sign up for your email list, and I’ll always donate a dollar on the checkout line. Because why not, right?
And I think that my fear of getting myself into these situations that I always eventually regret, whether it may be because of a virus that attacks my Gmail inbox and does not promise kale as reward, or because of a series of creepy texts I receive the day after giving my number to that guy who came up to me on the street and told me I was the cutest girl he’s ever seen, is what stops me from being a nice person in the first place. Okay, maybe I should reword this. Maybe it’s not that I’m not a nice person. I’m just afraid to be actively nice to strangers, which may or may not be the exact same thing as the former, depending on who you ask.
But if a little rewording makes me feel like a better person, then it really can’t hurt. I mean, it can’t hurt me. But it probably will hurt that guy who I blatantly ignore as I pass by on the street. No kale? No deal. Sorry not sorry, as they say.