Originally published in the College Voice at Connecticut College.
Anyone in the broad vicinity of the 50 Days dance two weeks ago can attest to the sloppy clutching to which many of us have been reduced. In the final, boozy months of the school year, weekends are filled with college-sponsored alcohol and music—the administration’s effort to make Spring oh-ten unforgettably forgettable.
My intention is not to impugn clutchers and clutchees, assuming said clutching was consensual, but rather to question what it is that drives us to such messy extremes. Even seniors find someone new and unknown to test-drive, long resigned though they are to the impossibility of truly anonymous sex and the woes of friends-with-benefits-ship. One all-too-driven stretch of highway, and yet we somehow find new bumps in the pavement.
Like most juniors and seniors, I am on a desperate hunt for employment—in my case, for the summer; in the case of seniors, for as long as possible. This search entails cover letter after cover letter, carefully nuanced résumés, and, for most of us, only the vaguest career plan. This particular hunt, like looking to score at 50 Days, is more trawling than tracking.
We are in a serious validation crisis. I am an unsuccessful college student because I haven’t gotten a job. I don’t look good because Bobby didn’t ask for my number. Logical causality is a pipe dream. For all the things each of us has to do at a given time—final exams, graduate school applications, job interviews—we are in an almost constant state of evaluation. Too often, we have no consistent method of gauging personal success. Other than casual sex of course—the lowest common denominator of pick-me-ups.
The quest for employment and the quest for a sexy friend begin in a similar fashion, with idealism. We’ve already found the Perfect Job/Person—if only they could see just how perfect we are for it/him/her! If they only met us, they would totally hire/do us right away. We would do this job/person really, really well. We were born to do this job/person.
In our imagined reality, we would be singled out of the crowd and pointed at, shrieking with excitement, like so many girls at an *NSYNC concert.
Baby when you fi-na-lly / Get to love so-ome-bo-dy / Guess what?
Some dreamy hunk—either Justin or JC—would reach into the sea of screaming tweens and retrieve a fully-formed human being,
It’s gonna be me.
And we would be just what he was looking for—if only frosted tips were still business casual.
Sadly, though, after the first three or four automatic response emails saying, “Thank you for your interest in [this company]. Unfortunately, we have no open positions for [you],” the dream begins to fade. In a panic, a second list of potential employers is created, twice as long as the first. Cover letter, résumé, repeat.
Our search broadens, google by google, the *NSYNC concert of our dreams becomes a Backstreet Boys concert, and our standards sink almost imperceptibly while we cast our nets wider and wider. Without warning it’s 98 Degrees opening for O-Town, and finally we realize we would really do anything, anywhere, for anyone. Welcome to Desperate.
This bears an uncomfortable resemblance to our spring semester behavior at Conn. The weather warms up, the liquor is free, and all of a sudden we’re back to anything, anywhere, anyone.
Short-lived sexual encounters are single-serving romps with a stand-in for someone whose company we might enjoy sober—maquettes of a real relationship, in some sense. For a brief moment, if we care to, we get to imagine a larger, more successful context for our immediate position(s)—pardon the pun.
In a way, the same is true of the cover letters I send to potential employers. I express my interest in getting involved, assert my belief in what a great match we would be, and solicit serious consideration as a candidate. It’s 50 Days in the form of a formal inquiry.
Most often, begging silently to be noticed by some bored assistant sifting through résumés, I’m all dressed up with nowhere to go—not even a Cro dance. Still, a boy can dream.