All posts tagged: College

Black Like Lauryn: How I Went from Baltimore Beauty to Diaspora Darling

My last year in college, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was everywhere. All we listened to, all we sang. The strains of it wafted on the wind across campus. As a Black girl from the hoods of Baltimore, I played Miseducation as much as anyone else. So much, that now, more than 20 years later, I can still sing/rap every note, every word. Lauryn’s epic 1998 LP was groundbreaking, but the woman herself wasn’t new to me. I’d watched her on As the World Turns and in Sister Act II. I’d head-nodded along with her flow when she was a member of the Fugees. But there was something about Lauryn singing and being on her own that spoke to my young heart. Slender, dark, loc’d, full-lipped, rocking her Northern accent and what felt to me like matching aggression. Something about her beautiful Blackness that looked nothing like mine.  College is the time when kids go away just Black and come home BLACK. Before college, my concept of Blackness was home. West Baltimore. Relaxed hair teased …

My Dream to Crisscross the Country in a World-Famous Wiener

Robin on the hotdog highway (Photo courtesy of the author) I couldn’t wait to get to college. I was going to study Broadcast Journalism at the same school where Dick Clark and Bob Costas went — the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. Not because I wanted to do hard news. Oh, no. I wanted to do features like interview Ricky Schroeder at the mall or be the wacky weather girl. I dream big. Freshman year started and everything was going great. I made friends easily, I got involved in all kinds of activities, I had my first Bartles & Jaymes wine cooler and the best part? I had an awesome roommate, Mindy Cohen. Not to be confused with the one from “The Facts of Life.” Although that would have been awesome. We loved all the same things like air-popped popcorn, musicals, and Balki from “Perfect Strangers.” I was having the time of my life until I started to hear the strangest thing every time I came in and out of my dorm. It was almost …

How to Throw a Party for Your Pussy

I want to talk about sex. Though my friends will tell you I always want to talk about sex. Anyway, my freshman year in college, I went to a fraternity party and met many people, both male and female, who would go on to become my dear friends. I also met a really good-looking guy who caught my attention; he was shy and yet, once engaged, very direct and smart. I ended up upstairs with him in his loft bed, peeling out of my Norma Kamali snap-front dress with that satisfying pop pop pop, trying not to hit my head on the ceiling as I did so. We laughed a lot, and we had fun. Truth be told, I can’t remember exactly what we did sexually – if we went “all the way” or not – but I am positive we had a lot of fun. The next night, I went back to that same fraternity with my dorm hallmates and circulated around the party. I saw my previous night’s lover across the room, waggled …

How a Single Can of Pumpkin Followed Me for Years

It started innocently enough: one simple can of pumpkin. I had graduated from college a few months earlier, put all my worldly possessions in the back of a truck and moved to Chicago to start Grown-Up Life. This Grown-Up Life involved moving in with my boyfriend and two housemates. Each weekday I’d get dressed in one of two mix-and-match Gap suits each morning to go to my temp job du jour. I was playing the part, and I was not giving a stellar performance; there was a constant possibility that my understudy might be called upon in the hopes that she’d pull this off better. Our housemates were old hands at this maturity thing — they were already planning their wedding and saving for a house. They shopped at Budget Grocery, and since they seemed to have adulthood down cold, I figured it must be the responsible place to shop. I have no idea what else I bought, but it was autumn so pumpkin was everywhere. I spotted the can and thought, “Adults do things like baking! If …

tuenight do over amy barr

You’re Never Too Young to Trust Your Gut (Lessons Learned from Making a Terrible Decision)

At age 17, my life was unraveling. My mother was dying, and my father was undone by the seemingly endless slog of her illness. He did his best to take care of my brother and me, and, in terms of creature comforts, we were fine. But crushed as he was, my father could offer no emotional or logistical support about the decisions I faced as I contemplated college. There were no discussions of which schools might suit me and no campus tours. Whatever research was to be done, I was on my own. I was a good student, and my options were undoubtedly greater than I thought, but I cast a narrow net, applying to only two places: Barnard College in New York City (about 15 miles from my suburban home) and a large state school several hours north, which was only on my radar because a neighbor went there. On the day of my Barnard interview, I loved the feel of the compact campus, the mix of old red bricks and modern glass walls. …

Boob Cakes and Free CDs: The Glamorous Life of an Intern

Sally Field’s iconic Oscar moment came after striding to the stage to accept her Best Actress Oscar when she ended her speech by practically shouting, “You like me!” My moment came not in the form of a golden statuette, but as a cake in the shape of a woman’s breasts. Two sweet, spongy mounds of yellow cake covered in fondant flesh with two pink chocolate nipples and a candy heart denoting a tattoo. “Breast Wishes” ran across the bottom in loopy script. It was my last day as an intern at alt-weekly Philadelphia City Paper. Starting my junior year of college in 1996 in the Philadelphia area with a young woman’s idealistic interest in journalism, I decided I needed practical experience. I contacted several publications in the city and was lucky that the City Paper was the first to answer. On my first day, decked out in jeans, Doc Martens, and a shiny brown shirt (Don’t judge!), I took the train into Center City and walked several blocks down 13th Street to the office. I …

What’s That On Your Head? A Wig

(Photo: Courtesy Margit Detweiler, Graphic: Nancy Gonzalez/TueNight ) “By the way, I have a new wig. I don’t think the reddish one will survive another concert.” Shelly called me to plan our get-ups for the next B-52s concert next Sunday night. “It’s a bob but I can tease it, cause it’s gotta be big. It can not be half-assed. It has to be awesome.” Since 1977 you could probably catch The B-52s playing somewhere in America. In the last decade or so they’ve been touring almost every year. I know, because Shelly and I go, almost every year. But when did we first put on the wigs? It’s difficult to say. In the beginning, we would fashion our real hair into sky-high beehives. She was Cindy. I was Kate. Always. I’d tease the hell out of my thick brown hair with a rat-tail comb, Shelly found either a cardboard toilet paper roll or a Styrofoam cone that she’d twirl her blonde hair around and up. One of my dearest friends, Shelly and I both of hail …

The Final Reunions I Never Had

(Photos: Courtesy of Lauren Young; Photo Collage: Helen Jane Hearn/TueNight.com) There are reunions you look forward to in life. For these gatherings, you plan to lose a few pounds ahead of time, book hotel rooms and rekindle memories by looking though old photo albums and yearbooks. And then there are the impromptu reunions. They are the unplanned, emotional and raw. I keep an altar of sorts on my nightstand. It’s a place to reunite the spirits I love. The ones who were taken from us too soon. *** I met my friend Chris Vicente in a Nazism and Fascism class in college during our junior year at Penn State. He had just returned from a semester in Rome, and I was immediately drawn to his Euro style: the horn-rimmed glasses, the bouffy, big 80s hair and a fabulous fashion sense. We didn’t know each other, but figured we should. And that’s how the friendship started. Turns out we shared a birthday (July 8), a passion for life, dancing and a love of men, although I …

My Kids Don’t Need Me Anymore and That’s Just Fine

Amy and her sons, Peter and Nick. (Photo: Courtesy Amy Barr) I celebrated my first official Mother’s Day 24 years ago. When I think back on what I loved most about those early days of parenting, what floats to the surface seems both obvious and surprising. It wasn’t how cute my son Nick was, though both he and Peter, the brother who followed two years later, were ridiculously adorable. It wasn’t how delicious their downy heads smelled or how gummy their smiles were or even how incredible it felt to hold their little bodies in my arms. What moved me most about being a mother was how much my children needed me. The fact is that as infants they needed me for everything, and without me, they would not survive. What a sense of power I felt. I had not only given life to these miraculous creatures, I was singlehandedly sustaining them with my nourishment and nurturance. No one has needed me like that before or since. Lots of new moms complain about the infant days, which …

The Real Trick Is to Ask a Friend for Help

It was early 1993, in my last few months of college, and my plan to become a Famous Actress Who Would Change the World With Her Talent was knocking it out of the park. I had just returned from a thrilling trip to New York City, where I’d auditioned for and won a spot at my first choice graduate school. I had also managed to score the lead in my first paid acting gig. In Omaha. Now all I had to do was graduate a few weeks early and get myself to Nebraska in time for the first rehearsal. I talked to my professors and made up an accelerated schedule to graduate. It would be fast and furious, and I would miss all the celebrations with my friends, but I would be rewarded; my mom bought me a used car from a family friend, and I would road trip it to Omaha. Artists road trip you know, and I was an artist. One problem: I didn’t have a driver’s license. I don’t trust people who …

TueNight letter Jennifer Bensko Ha

A Friendship Kept Alive Through Letters

(Photo: Courtesy Jennifer Ha) The first time I saw Jim, I immediately noticed his height. He was so tall that his head cleared the dark, dusty cabinets in the Schermerhorn building. Bright blue eyes, and long limbs, he had been an elite fencer and he moved quickly and energetically. We were both in a beginning Finnish class at Columbia in the mid ’80s. It was a morning class, and the five of us in it would wait outside with our to-go coffees and make small talk. After class, Jim and I walked to our dorms together, becoming friends slowly, but I really got to know him when he began writing me notes. He’d leave them under my door, or send them through campus mail. “Do you want to study later? Go for a walk? Get coffee?” Back then, there really was no other way to reach someone other than by phone or by note. No Internet, no cell phones, no email, no social media. Telephones were wall mounted in hallways, so privacy was limited. Sometimes I’d miss him, sometimes …

What I Learned When I Lost My Hair

(Photo Courtesy: Shira Mizel) For most of my freshman year of college, I wore a wig. My mom’s stylist had cut and dyed it to blend seamlessly with my own thinning hair. It looked natural, but I was always afraid that someone might find out. Maybe someone would knock it off-center at a party. Maybe a professor would notice the fake hairline behind my real hairline. After a few days of clipping the wig on behind closet doors or inside bathroom stalls, I realized I had to come clean to my roommate. The possibility that she’d spill my secret filled me with terror. People would find out that I was ugly, resent my fakeness, and leave me alone in a new and daunting place. All I could do was communicate how immensely important it was that she not tell a soul. I wanted to scare her into silence and she kept quiet like I’d asked. I didn’t consider the possibility that another person valued me enough to respect my wishes. I didn’t feel valuable, only …

Tears of What, Exactly? Taking My Daughter to College

(Photo: Courtesy of Dori Fern) The crying jags started the day my daughter Amira turned 18.  All of her best girlfriends came over for dinner. They are friends she’s had since elementary school, a couple from high school and a few others from camp who came all the way to Brooklyn from upstate New York and Connecticut just to celebrate her birthday. There was a big strawberry shortcake and a strawberry cheesecake, because I couldn’t decide which one to make, and one of her friends made her a headband with a strawberry on top. Strawberries are her favorite. When Amira blew out the candles, I realized this would likely be the last time all these beautiful, wonderful girls would be together.  Girls I’ve watched grow up into women.  I cried watching her blow out the candles, which was sappy and sentimental and I hate being so… obvious, but I couldn’t help myself. Two months and a day later, Amira left before dawn to drive down to college in New Orleans with her father and stepmother and …

Real-Time BFF: A Blissful, 20-Something Bond

Best Friends Forever (Photo courtesy Shira Mizel) I met Emma during a pop raid at a Wisconsin girls camp. Camouflaged in black, we crept stealthily toward the vending machines. I don’t remember what movie line I whispered, but it prompted Emma to ask shyly, “Isn’t that from Garden State?” Instant connection. We talked for hours that night on a tiny twin bed. I admired her bottomless cheer, compassion, artistic skills, cheekbones, and spot-on impressions. We were attached at the hip for the next three summers. The staff referred to us as “Shira n’ Emma.” They commissioned our antics to write songs and emcee talent shows and didn’t question our schedules when we attended every activity together. Emma played with the worms as I fished. She laid on the tennis court as I practiced my backhand and whenever a ball hit her, she said, “thank you, may I have another” to no one in particular. In the arts and crafts building, I haphazardly slid beads onto string as Emma made intricate lanyards and stunning paintings. Saying …