The Postgrad-Undergrad DallianceBy Megan Power
December 09, 2010
You are studiously minding your own business in the library one sharp, grey winter afternoon.
The undergrad is a table and a generation away, typing on his black Acer. Your eyes wander and meet. A clinical glance is exchanged. Some time later you cause a hideous copier jam, which the undergrad happens to witness and very kindly, very messily resolves. Both chagrined, hands blackened.
Suddenly you know each other. You exchange greetings in the quad, pleasantries at the rugby game, conversations at the bar and it’s not too long till you’re naked under the undergrad’s Homer Simpson duvet. Naturally his lodgings are closest by.
Behind any closed door after several drinks undergrads surrender their souls, unbidden.
They want to do everything all in the same night, sometimes all in the same hour. Easy, you exclaim with amusement not irritation because you’re perfectly drunk and the undergrad’s panting exuberance strikes you as comical.
I want you, the undergrads whispers, assailing you with kisses. I want you.
Whine, flatter, cajole, beg – these are their favorite tools with 1000 dollar installment loan. Supposedly some can be trained in using more sophisticated methods but fun’s over the exact moment mastery is attained.
Easy to silence a measure of discomfort by rationalizing: What are we all doing here on this campus? Isn’t it precisely to go beyond our own personal and cultural conditioning? Oh yes. Yes, yes.
Dalliances with undergrads are mostly made up of talking for the sake of talking, urgent spontaneous rookie sex, a rotation of indistinguishable bar nights and quasi-religious adoration.
A month, tops, before it devolves into utter banality. If you wanted this, you would have married the undergrad you laid under regularly back when you were an undergrad yourself. So you make excuses, find an alternative study nook, take up residence again in the vast wilderness of your imagination.
You’re ignoring me, huh?
The undergrad’s pride is a slippery thing. It disappears and reappears at random. They thrive on attention (negative or positive, it doesn’t matter, they’ll take either) but you better not ignore them or that’s grounds for showing up pissed and ready to make a scene.
And this showing-up-pissed catches you off guard, because adults injure each other much more freely. One little hurt feeling is no cause for discomfort all around.
No! Just super swamped. Friday our major assignment’s due and –
Exactly. Crazy busy.
So this is your lunch break? Dinner?
Sort of. Where are you going with this? Keep your voice down.
Keep your voice down, the younger person’s mimicry is inaccurate but effective.
OK, you sigh, done.
See you later, they taunt as you leave the premises.
Know you will show up late at their dented door some Saturday night, bombed, in heels, and shamelessly, brainlessly, again that’s what you do. Except by now it’s like two crude androids doing damage.
Hunting for your thigh-highs just after sunup, you tell them it’s over. They say they don’t care.
They are lying.
All they do is care. And hide their caring like it’s a fatal, shameful illness.
So then the stalking starts. Not criminal-grade stalking since it’s a small city and you and the undergrad are just everywhere everyone else is. But open sulking; a kind of atmospheric assault; bad vibes and dirty looks polluting the fun in the air.
As a result you have to gently steer a classmate, clearly a more suitable object of your affection, out to the patio and away from the undergrad’s noxious aura. What’s with the daggers you’re getting over there? the more appropriate person notices. Huh? you feign. No idea. Off to a great start with fakery.
After semi-stalking with no progress, the baby will resort to crying to a mutual acquaintance about how much in love they are with you. Which is reported to you in a fetid laundry room with pointed looks.
Oh please, you scoff, that’s preposterous. The undergrad knows you about as well as your gynecologist does and this is an insult to love. Also embarrassing to involve the mutual acquaintances.
What’re you doing? the mutual acquaintances ask-accuse, and you shrug in defeat.
And that’s not all. Apparently you’re in love with him too. But you’re too scared.
Oh my God, you laugh, nearly choking.
You’re not, right?
How can you even ask that?
Sorry. But seriously, stop messing around.
The ignoring goes on. A few ranty texts test your patience but you remain wearily non-responsive, waiting for the anger to run its course.
Which it does.
Many weeks later the irony knifes you deep in the soft tissue of your heart.
You have merely used on the undergrad the same weapons men your own age used on you. Indifference. Avoidance. Silence.
It sickens you, this role reversal. And instructs as well.
As someone who left academia an undergrad never to return, this fascinates me. You capture the dynamic and its irony so well, from “the undergrad is a table and a generation away” to the final clever line.
Also, I like in the first photo how the business end of the fire extinguisher stands beside all the empties.
Thanks Nathaniel! Why did you leave school, if you don’t mind my asking? Surely the empty sex alone is worth paying tuition for.
Going back to residence at this age was very trying. “Character building”, my parents call it.
ha ha…that fire extinguisher saw heavy action. Chip pan fires, incidents with candles, party stunts. Also as a door stopper.
you’ve captured it perfectly – memories oh memories – experiences we wouldn’t change, would we?
I have never been a post-grad involved in a dalliance with an undergrad, but I have nevertheless been involved in just such a relationship as this.
More than one, I’m sad to say.
It’s a power dynamic thing. Some kind of quasi-S&M thing where these guys…
I don’t know what to say about these guys.
Except for that they’ve got some kind of fem-dom thing…
They seek out women in positions of power, whether it’s a social, hierarchical power, or just that the woman is more powerful, personality-wise…
So unbalanced. And such an easy, easy thing to give into when you’ve been on the receiving end before.
It feels shitty when you’re the sniveller, but it’s just so f’in’ AWKWARD when the guy is.
Well said. It’s a power thing, on both ends. In his defense, there was little seeking. All of it was circumstance.
What was really interesting was how the feeling-bad-about-that-whole-episode didn’t occur til much much later — totally new for me. I have never had such a time delay. Maybe men have that all the time?
If the snivelling had been genuinely about me, oh how I would have enjoyed it. But he was just like inventing that shit.
Becky has already mentioned it above, but this interplay between undergrad and postgrad is a truth not necessarily bound by academia or age. I do love how you use the lens of campus life to magnify feelings and situations experienced by all of us at one time or another. I loved the whole thing, the crumbs of truth, the crummy truth, the voice so true it felt like you were telling the story over coffee.
I once read a music review, it may have been a Death Cab album, where the reviewer gently chided the band for still continuing to write music about the existential dilemma. Now that you’re 30, the writer instructed, it’s time to grow up. I might be imparting my own bias here, but I detected a whisper of that idea in your words, how it’s a cliché for undergrads and young people in general to ask big, rambling questions, queries that seem silly and overdone and pointless to those of us who have moved on. I’ve never really understood this point of view. Like, yeah, get it over with, go ahead and realize there’s no point to human life, and then get married and have a baby like the rest of us.
That’s not what you were trying to say here, I know, but something about the way you characterized the undergrad made me think of it, and I’ve already typed this much, so anyway there you go.
Coxy, you make a truly excellent point. It connected with my solar plexus.
I guess I expect, in the Information Age, that all undergrads would be exposed to the cliches of campus life. They should know everything’s be done – it’s all out there for them to know, and thus they should approach life with less predictable responses.
Which is asking a lot. Too much.
But really the scornful tone here is self-directed and I hope that comes through.
Your tone comes through. I think you’ve done a masterful job here.
But what you say about the Information Age and not being predictable, it’s like looking at the stats for two sports teams before a big contest. On paper, it’s clear which team should win. But–to use another cliché–that’s why they play the game.
In the end, there’s nothing new to say. But the way I say it might seem that way to someone, if not necessarily to you. Otherwise I need to load up on the Xanax and the Kraken and drive off into the wilderness.
Taking the ball and running with your sports analogy:
He did not even study the stats. He was like, oh are we playing a game? And you are the odds favorite to win? Wah. I didn’t realize this was like a real game.
I think a wilderness picnic with prescription drugs and Richard Cox sounds really nice. I’ll bring the baguette.
I was thinking it would be sort of a one-way ticket. Bring more than one baguette.
This is so sad, Megan,
so true and so sad.
Never doubt the
of a 9th grader
in honors English.
Thigh-highs at sunup!
Girl, you kill me.
Been there, done that. From both sides.
Though in my case(s), all involved were undergrads. Though as Becky and Richard have pointed out, this sort of thing isn’t unique to the university environment; college is just a nice petri dish to see these things play out in microcosm.
My undergrad and grad school experiences played out mostly prior to the proliferation of social media platforms and ubiquitous cell phones (it was kind of a big deal when one of my girlfriends got her first cell phone, as no one in our social circle had one). I wonder sometimes how they would have played out had that tech been available.
MLP (sorry you always be MLP):
i always love your sex stories. i remember a post way back in our early days where you took a picture of a HUGE pube on a toilet. nasty! you said something like: “trim that…” it was gross but fucking heeelarious. i remember your boyfriend stories. this one is a keeper. funny. brutally honest. i can’t say i ever had a stalker but i’ve had enough crazy fuckers in my life to scar and annoy me just the same. those days are over now. i’m done with crazy. hell, i’m done period…
but when i taught high school i had this one student (senior) who was sweet on me, always talking to me, flashing her eyes, all that BS. flash forward three years and i’m at UNLV having some coffee and this girl is just staring at me. i start getting nervous and contemplate throwing a book at her to stop. but she kept on. then she got up and walked up to me and said: “mr. romero, don’t you remember me? needless to say the years did her good. real good. she wanted to go for a beer. i told her maybe another time. i never had a beer with her. oh, youth…
thanks for read, MLP. i miss your story telling. it had me in stitches way back in the day and had me laughing today. thanks for that.
Passive aggressive my MLP…. It is easy when you are just aggressive and in to the point LOL…
However that would have been a shorter story and this just has been – as usual – lovely to read.
This so powerfully made me a sophomore again, Megan. I swear I looked down, expecting to be wearing huge black boots and a My Bloody Valentine t-shirt. Alas, I wasn’t. Thanks for transporting me, though. And I love this line:
“A month, tops, before it devolves into utter banality. If you wanted this, you would have married the undergrad you laid under regularly back when you were an undergrad yourself.”
Pony & me
Well done, MLP; taut and tight. I’ve missed you on these pages (to use a phrase — “on these pages” — often used by Greg O.).
I totally need to get laid more.
Jesus, did I write that, or just think it?
See, that’s why they told you to stay in school.