'Matter of Laugh or Death,' the award-winning humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
GETTING READY FOR COLLEGE
Getting ready for the first year of college makes for a very hectic summer. There’s so much planning and paperwork and packing to be done. Courses must be picked, a meal plan chosen, and a dorm room reserved. I don’t know if my wife and I have the energy to complete it all on time.
Our 18-year-old daughter—the one actually going off to school—also has a hectic schedule this summer. She is working very hard to get her body clock adjusted to college life, which means she is laboring each night to stay awake until 3 a.m., and forcing herself each day to remain asleep at least until noon. She is also getting in as much quality time as possible with her high school friends before they go their separate ways in the fall. (Something I don’t quite understand since virtually all of her close friends are going to the same college with her.) Most important of all, she is spending countless hours (and countless dollars) making sure she arrives on campus with a fashionable wardrobe and the latest electronic devices.
Just when my wife and I thought we were finished with our preparation duties—writing checks, filling out forms, saying Rosaries—the college sent us yet another document, this one titled, “Parents, you’re not done yet.”
We immediately moaned in unison, “Not another form!” If we had known sending our daughter off to college was this much of a hassle, we would have sold her to Gypsies in the 1980s when we had the chance. (Don’t get mad, honey. Of course I’m only kidding—they weren’t really Gypsies; I think they were Mormons or something.)
The subject of this latest document was alcohol, or as it said at the top of the page, “Have you talked with them about drinking in college?” Helpful hints were offered about starting a dialogue with teenagers, such as: “Share realistically your own experiences with drinking.”
Well, I’d like to share my college drinking experiences, but unfortunately I was so hammered during those four years I don’t remember a thing. Even if I could remember, I would never tell my daughter the truth. There are certain times when honesty is not the best policy. I’m pretty sure telling teenagers, “Do as I say, not as I did,” will not help keep them sober.
The form also listed a number of alcohol-related questions to ask the teenagers, referred to as “conversation starters.” (A sure sign the authors of the form have never actually been the parents of teenagers themselves, since every real parent knows it is impossible to violate Newton’s Second Law of Family Dynamics, which states: “Adult-generated sound waves do not fit inside teenage ears—and even if they did, the Walkman headphones would block them out.”)
I can just imagine my parents using those questions to start a conversation with me when I was 18. Here’s the recommended questions, and what my answers would have been in 1975 (if I had been dumb enough to answer honestly):
“How will you decide whether or not to drink at college?” If I’m asleep, I won’t drink.
“What will you do if your roommate only wants to drink and party?” I’ll express my displeasure by exclaiming, “All right!!!”
“How will you handle it if you are asked to baby-sit someone who is very drunk?” I’ll avoid the responsibility by getting so drunk myself someone will have to baby-sit me.
“What will you do if you find a student passed out in the bathroom?” I’ll try very hard not to pee on him or her.
It’s pretty obvious that teenagers would never answer those questions honestly, especially if asked by their own parents. So I’m sticking to a more effective script. I’m going to tell my daughter, “Look, alcohol is really bad, so you’d better not drink, and I expect you to spend every Friday and Saturday night in the college chapel praying…just like I did in college.”
Then I’ll add the key summary line: “But I just want you to know, dear, that I love you very much and I will always love you no matter what happens, so you can feel free to tell me anything…as long as it’s what I want to hear.”
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