Lies and Untruths

Peter Gillette

When I first came to Lawrence, September 20, 2001, I was a former cool kid … kind of.
Of course, high school is divided into cliques, and, while I didn’t have a “group” per se, I carved out a niche for myself as the non-drinking, non-athlete among the drunk intelligent jocks whose grades weren’t quite good enough for the National Honor Society.
Of course, I was also – totally – a band nerd in denial, and a recovering church youth group member. And all you recovering church youth group members will remember when Peter (no relation) denied Christ three times before the cock crowed… At the considerable risk of regrettable blasphemy, this is how I treated the band nerds and choir dweebs. While music was my claim to fame, it was also something to be shrugged off. You know, just something I did.
I watched a lot of syndicated television back then, while the people who had functioning cliques went out and had an enjoyable time at the Las Vegas Restaurant, open 24 hours.
And so, when I came to Lawrence University, September 20, 2001, a Thursday, I immediately sought out a suitable clique. When one didn’t emerge immediately – to where does an underachieving nerd with a heart for free jazz, Baroque music, and watching tennis on TV turn? – I instead asked myself an important question:
How can I be cool?
To answer this, I sought out several upperclassmen that did, indeed, appear to exhibit qualities of coolness. Now, “cool” is an attitude, a state of mind, but that didn’t help me through my first week of Lawrence. I needed something far more immediate.
After all, I was a Kohlerite. Kohler, you will learn, is not – absent a significant sense of irony regarding one’s residence within it – “cool” in any conventional sense.
I stared at my New Student Week schedule (it was not yet called “Welcome Week”) and wondered, half aloud, “If I am to be ‘cool,’ which events should I attend? Should I attend any?”
I immediately consulted the apparently cool folk whom I had been observing. “Tell me, oh cool folk,” I asked each and every one of the three cool upperclassmen I met, “what do I need to attend? Of course, I will attend my advising meeting and placement tests, but if I show up at the hypnotists, folk singers, and Playfair, will I forever be branded as uncool?”
The cool folk paused.
And then it hit me. If cool people weren’t at these events, then they wouldn’t see me. In the event that I did accidentally attend an uncool Welcome Week event, the room would be absolutely filled to the brim with losers. This was my opportunity to rise to the top of the heap, my chance to become, in my own mind, first among the pile of dweebs surrounding me.
One by one, each of the three cool folks denied attending any Welcome Week/New Student Week events whatsoever. And then, echoing through the ravine behind Sage Hall, a rooster bellowed. The denials were complete, and I finally got it.
Welcome Week is a lot like youth group, growing up in a Republican family (but I repeat myself), band, and picking your nose while driving: don’t worry.
It’s cool to go to everything on the schedule… as long as you’re prepared to deny it all later.
current mood: cool
current music: you’ve never heard of them before

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