Emma Arett was the winner of the Dylan Landis Fiction Prize for her piece, "Ten Cool Tips for College Girls."
Hi! My name is Jody and I am a sophomore at a GalsOnCampus affiliated university on the East Coast. It’s so fun here-sometimes. Sometimes, though, it is not that fun at all. That’s alright! I am super glad you that clicked on my article. No matter where you’re enrolled, college can be really hard once in a while. I have compiled the ten tips that have really helped me succeed for the last two years, and maybe they will help you, too!
1. Always make sure to look fun and flirty! Nobody wants to befriend a sad-sack.
Cute girls should always nab the booths at The Kingdom. We spend the early part of our residency on the pool table, glancing casually at the booths over our iPhones, waiting for them to open up, and swooping before other, cuter girls discover that one is free. Tonight, our booth is perfect: equidistant from the front door and the bathroom, we can see everything, a hundred percent. We are cute girls and sometimes our lives are easy. The last group of cute girls sitting at this particular booth each walked outside tangled up with a good-looking rower. A rower for every lady. Some of the rowers had freaking Patagonia vests on. Do you know how much a Patagonia vest costs?
2. Prioritize your body. A happy body is a happy girl!
I tell the girls to go and order me a vodka soda extra lime and I will hold the booth. Claire says she doesn’t know why I do that to myself. I am spending tonight experimenting with vodka sodas, because vodka tonics, my favorite drink from last year, just have so much sugar. They taste terrible to Claire and Dora but I almost like them more. Sometimes boys will ask you what you are drinking, then when you say “vodka soda” they will pretend they’ve never heard of it and ask for a lil taste. When they taste it they say, that’s disgusting, why you are drinking that? Always say you say you’re drinking that vodka soda because of the calories. The boy will always say something nice about your body. That’s why you do it.
3. Surround yourself with people who get you feeling good about you.
It’s almost three and I feel like we’ve done everything in the world. It’s only September and I feel like the world is so blehhh already. We’re too old to go to frat parties and at two-thirty the only bar you can dance at starts playing John Denver. The rowers are all already shacked up and the rest of the dude situation here is dismal. This is where I ask Craig Muldofsky if he really (and I mean reallyreally) wants to see me tonight.
Craig Muldofsky is a football player and I slept over in his room six times between March 16th and May 22nd during my freshman year. The second and fifth time we had real, grown-up intercourse and then we put it on pause for most of April because we began seeing other, better people. He discovered Julia Klein, blonde economics major and VP of Standards for Delta Delta Delta. Not to be vulgar, but last semester I listened to her poop in the student center bathroom. I feel that this a fact which holds some weight when discussing Julia Klein.
At the same time, I found John Bell, a history major, who traveled in a social circle tangential to mine, because Claire went to Choate with John’s roommate Drew and sometimes she dragged us along to smoke with them. John had easy sex with me after one really positive Smoke Sesh, and twice after that, and the fourth time he took me home after half-price margarita night at El Gatito. We were smoking outside of his dorm and then we were kissing, and then he put his hand up my shirt just for a second, and then I leaned over and vomited on my skirt, legs, and shoes. John removed his hand from my shirt, and immediately terminated his invitation with the words You’re a fuuuucking mess, and witnessed me barf my way back to my own bed. I don’t see John around so much anymore.
It’s unclear exactly what happened with Craig and Julia Klein but I’ve done my best to reconstruct it. He quit coming to Spanish class for two weeks, citing a sports injury, and then a photo of a definitely uninjured him and Julia Klein at the TriDelt spring formal on May 2nd received 32 Likes on Facebook and one comment from the VP of Recruitment that said “cute.” Two weeks later Julia Klein updated her relationship status to “in a relationship with Danny Henderson,” a medium good looking basketball player. Five days after she updated her status, Craig texted me for the Spanish homework and we slept together a sixth time.
We texted over the summer if one of us was drunk or high but he was interning in Minneapolis at Target, working in Distribution and with a concentration in Rugs and Carpeting. I stayed in the city and worked at the college’s housing office, and spent my spare time writing copy for Jewelry by Julie, an online jewelry store. In July, he told me he was high on coke and that he really missed me, wished I lived in Minneapolis, couldn’t wait to see me again in the fall. I can’t stay mad at him for so long. Few people I care so little about care so deeply about me.
4. Make an impression in every single class you attend!
Last spring, Craig and I took 4:10 Español Intermedio II with Profe. Hank Franklin. There are very specific games a girl has to play in order to be considered fuckable in a class like Spanish—there are fifteen people tops, so you can’t run the same games that you would in a lecture hall. In Spanish you have to milk the five minutes between when you get there and when Profe. gets there: you must be the subject of conversation. I distilled my game down to a matter of targeted, themed outfits. I was most often a khaki-skirted Working Girl (oh, yeah, I just had an awesome interview! Thanks for asking, I’m really excited), a Hangover Princess (Profeeeeeeeee puede turn off los luces pleeeease???), and a Yoga Warrior (I’m just, like, soooo into hot yoga right now, it’s kind of ridiculous).
Look how charismatic and vibrant you appear! Working Girl gets whoever your Craig is thinking: hmmmmmm, she seems like a very real person with real aspirations and goals, and I both respect that and want to have sex with her. Hangover Princess will make him say: wow, this girl has not only intense job prospects but is also a lady who likes to have fun! If I see her at the bars tonight, I will probably buy her a drink and then bring her home. I am looking forward to that. And even though yoga is only maybe the third sexiest form of exercise, it is the most interesting, especially if you brag about how hot hot hot your yoga is. Hot hot hot yoga! I like it hot!
So Craig and me knew each other from class, but it wasn’t like we started off with a capital-C Coffee Date. I’m pretty pleased with myself about how we met, actually. For Dora’s birthday I invited our friends to pregame a Friday night with cake and Nikolai, and we put on our hooker looks because the football frat was hosting this random spring party and it was the only thing going on. We were medium excited at the beginning, then we drank too much too quickly and got really excited due to the alcohol and, on a much deeper level, because bulky bros make us feel skinnier, smarter, and definitely way prettier.
Anyway, so we got to the football frat and of course Craig was there. He was sitting on the couch and I was dancing in the corner with the girls and finally I saw him and I was like, whaaat? And Craig was like, whaaat? I didn’t know you went to this kind of party, and when I tell the story I say something clever back like, Haha, I bet there’s a lot of stuff you don’t know about me! But truthfully it was something along the lines of HAHAHAHAHAH YAAAAHHHHH. We left shortly after and I woke up very late the next morning. Dora says that I disappeared and she thought I got girl-knapped, she doesn’t know where I’ve gone off to until I show up the next morning all gooey talking about how I went home last night with Craaaaaiiiig.
5. Make sure your parents know that you’re doing well!
I played it cool on the Monday class after the first hookup, rolled in five minutes late looking like a freaking queen. I answered many questions correctly and Profe. was very thrilled I had suddenly begun to take an interest in Español. I wasn’t planning to keep seeing Craig but he would talk to me in the hallway and ask how I was doing all the time, and then once, during a lecture about el subjuntivo, I asked if he would do my Stats homework for me and he did it without too many questions, and then he did it again without any questions and two more times after that.
I don’t care much about improving my math skills. My dad believes that with the right teacher and a correct amount of personal wherewithal I could be an amazing statistician. This is untrue but it is still a cute thought. I’m getting an A in stats, I told Dad over the phone towards the end of the semester. Dad was so proud he got right on the computer and ordered me this jeans jacket I had been lusting after. You’ve gotta keep Dad happy.
6. Check in with friends throughout the night to make sure everyone is OK.
SO. When I know it’s going to be a long night, I text Craig something like, What are you doing tonight... at elevenish. With boys I like a lot, I’ll start off with something coy like where u headed 2night?(; but I don’t need to play with Craig. I super don’t want to see him at a bar. He tries to resist me but it often only takes a half a minute for him to write me back. Not much u. By the bottom of the night we’ve been talking long enough that it makes sense to ask if he wants to see me. He usually does and he will walk the four blocks to make sure I get to him safely. He does not complain about doing this.
When I tell the girls that Craig the football player is coming, I have to clarify, because they think I’m saying Greg the football player, as in, Greg Pesellano, this unbelievably good-looking freshman football player, who kind of looks like the world’s strongest, tallest toddler. He’s just so vulnerable looking—we see him and we want to weep, we want to hold him while he weeps. He’s in Claire’s geology lab and sometimes we get cute and go meet her when it lets out. We lounge around on the benches outside the science building and smoke and look at Greg Pesellano lumbering towards the athletics bus, off-kilter due to the weight of his duffel bag. Claire says, at the beginning of the year, he was almost her lab partner but then our stupid friend Jordana decided to take the class last second and, collective ugh, Claire had to work with Jordana because that’s, like, friendship 101. Greg worked with some dipshit civil engineer.
Everyone gets thrilled, and I take Dora’s head and bring her ear to my mouth with my hands so I can specify: NO—CRAIG, AS IN CRAIG MULDOFSKY—DO YOU REMEMBER HIM? NO HE’S, LIKE, REALLY WEIRD—LIKE, WE’RE SEEING EACH OTHER STILL, BUT YEAH—I DON’T KNOW—YOU KNOW?
She has no damn clue.
7. Stay humble! Don’t forget to be thankful for all the wonderful opportunities that come your way.
Just after he sends a text agreeing to stop by is when I like take a moment and thank the universe. For example, I am thankful right now because I am the only girl in my friend group who any boys from freshman year even remember, and also because Craig hasn’t seen me since before the summer, which I spent practicing very, very hot yoga, taking long runs while listening to Planet Money, and reading mostly Great Literature but also some badly translated Swedish mysteries. I don’t think I’ve been this skinny or this smart in forever.
Dora and I trot out to the smoker’s plaza to really get our arms around what is about to happen. We smuggle our drinks behind Dora’s Longchamp bag, which is roughly the size and color of an alley cat’s belly. Dora and I are flirty with Joey the bouncer and he wouldn’t nag us anyway. He thinks it’s cute that me and Dora are nineteen and we break the rules. I light us each a cigarette and try to explain properly: Craig is that guy from your birthday party, remember, the guy from Spanish? Ohhhhhh yaaaaaaah, I remember; you showed me his Facebook. Dora and I laughed at his profile picture, where he is standing on the pier, posing with a large swordfish, proud like a dad. We laughed together, but her laugh was the same one she uses when we see freshman girls going to frat parties in six-inch heels. I didn’t know you guys still talked!!!! That’s so cute!!!
Craig arrives in gym shorts and Adidas slip-ons with socks. He isn’t supposed to drink during the season so he stayed in tonight. Dora spots him when he’s half a block away and points—oh my God that can’t be him hahahahahahahaha look at him he’s so funny. Often when Dora gets like this I think it’s cute but right now I wish she would just keep quiet and act cool. She makes me act so cool when we’re around whatever creepy, small-mouthed boy she likes. She’s waving at him. You’re being sooooo weird, Dora!!! My eyelashes feel crispy.
8. Respect your friends. Just because their choices don’t make sense to you right now doesn’t mean that they won’t pay off in the long run.
Here he is. Hi Craig! I take a long drag and offer it to him. You want? Dora tries to minx him inside to have a drink with us. She’s using all my best moves. She’s freaking touching his forearm. In my heart I know she’s just drunk but I feel defensive in the same way I imagine Andy Warhol used to feel. I feel like Dora is looking at my Campbell’s soup can and saying: I could do that. But IIIIII am the famous painter here. She has to deal. I look at Dora as meanly as I can, saying with my eyes, Hey, girl, you do not even want to be having sex with this large, ugly boy, so cool it down! I will have a talk with her tomorrow.
He says: Naaaahhh, let’s head out, and I smile at Dora and tell her I’ll see her later. The Warhol sells for a million billion dollars! Big winner! Craig and I walk slowly together and I smoke and blab about how much fun tonight was, and most of it is true but some of it is a little made up. We are walking past the chapel where I got ashes last year now, and he is holding my hand. He kisses my face. Quit it Craig I’m cold. On Saturday nights, you have to look pretty enough to be such an asshole.
When we get outside of his dorm I fumble in my handbag for another cigarette. I love drunk smoking, I tell him. You got a light? Of course he doesn’t.
He says, Jeeeeeesus, come on, you’re gonna make yourself sick, and my heart just swells, like, a million times bigger than I ever thought it could get. I push back, though, try to squeeze out a little more kindness: oh look I found my lighter! He looks frustrated, exasperated. He has the same eyes TV dads get when their daughters are acting bad.
It occurs to me that I am misbehaving an awful lot tonight. I blink a lot and say just keeeeeding. It’s fine. I’m feeling unbelievable and the idea of the second cigarette just melts away, back into the pack, back into the purse.
9. That being said, it’s important that your friends also show you plenty of respect. A good friend will support your decisions just as much as you support theirs.
Last year, Craig had a roommate named Dave who would never leave when I came over. Their beds were so close together that, if both boys were laying in bed, they could reach out their arms and hold hands like cute pals. In the morning when all three of us were getting up, Dave would ask how I was doing. Really good, thanks, Dave! Now Craig has a single but I see Dave everywhere and he never says hi to me. Like, we’ve both got 2:10 classes on Wednesdays and he always walks by me during my 2:00 cigarette and, it’s like, come on. I know you know me. Remember that one time you saw me a little naked because you didn’t know I was there and I didn’t know you were looking? I remember! Like, Dave, just say hi.
In the elevator I show Craig affection. He lives on the fifteenth floor which is enough time for me to take his hand and bring his arm over my shoulder, then I put my body against his body and we look at the front of the elevator. Oh, I like Craig so much right now.
This year Craig is living in a primo senior dorm on the east side of campus with a bunch of boys I don’t know. His suite has its own kitchen and a living room with two sofas. Every surface in the suite looks icky. The boys have an Xbox and drums of protein powder on top of their fridge. I look around the kitchen and say: You know what’s on top of my fridge? A box of Raisin Bran. Should I start eating protein powder? Craig thinks no, definitely not, and you don’t eat protein powder straight up, you mix it with water. The television is on. Gross!
We sit on the couch and look at TV for a minute while I take my shoes off. They’re just so complicated, I complain, and Craig laughs. There’s a special on right now, My Child is a Monkey, and we’re looking at some footage of a mommyish Midwestern woman swaddling a tiny capuchin monkey in plaid cloth. This can’t end well but it breaks to commercial right before the faceclawing gets started. I make fun of Craig, watching monkey shows. This just started, he explains, it was When Animals Attack!!!!! before. It was a marathon and he coulda seen the end but I had to take up so much time doing all that smoking. That gets my mind totally throbbing, like: he was sitting here alone, by himself, drinking beer and watching animal attacks? That’s nuts! That’s so antisocial!
This gets me so nervous. I’m nervous and I need a pee. Like, what if he’s not wellliked? What if he’s secretly a dick? Unpopular? I’m nervous. I ask if I can get a beer. He says he doesn’t think I should, maybe would I like some water? And this, man, this is the freaking key to my heart. This unprecedented level of caring about me gets the mood correct like no other. I watch him rinse me a plastic dining hall cup in the sink and fill it less than halfway, so if I spill it I won’t get the plastic sofa wet. Wow, cute.
He brings me the water and sits near me on the couch. There is not really enough room for both of us so he puts his hand around my waist and brings me onto his lap. It’s pleasant but I also feel like I’m at the mall, sitting on the Easter Bunny’s lap, like there’s some dope in a suit who doesn’t know me just holding me. The Easter Bunny isn’t like Santa, he can’t talk through that mask. He doesn’t even know me. I can’t even hear him.
Craig is talking about something like how cute my hair is, he has taken my ponytail out andIamfrustratedbecausehewill lose the hairband and I will have to look so shameful tomorrow. He is patting my hair and rubbing his face upon my face. I am watching the commercial for a girly movie I would really like to go see. I say maybe we should go see it together. He smooches me on the face and says what we really should go see is his room. I’ve already seen your room, shitmouth. Woah! Too far! I’m sorry. I haven’t seen his new room, that’s true, so I let him win and we go. His new room is not decorated except another can of protein powder in the flavor of Tropical.
Craig is messy in bed and, as someone who focuses a lot of energy on her bedroom skill-set, that irritates me. Tonight it goes the way it always does: my dress comes off and becomes a small pile of weak, sweaty fabric (if I wash it, it will shrink, it cost $50 at American Apparel and if I wash it it would be like throwing $50 in the laundry machine, bye-bye. The dress smells so gross but nobody smells my clothes that often.) He puts me on the bed and slips his fingers inside of me and just kind of leaves them up there until I’m saying something like, yeah that’s good but like a little faster? He moves them around for a just second like that’s all it takes. He says something silly like, do you got whiskey dick right now?, because it doesn’t get me even one little bit closer, so I go, yeeees, it’s true, I’m so wasted.
If I am not feeling rambunctious enough to fuck him joyfully, if I am only sleepy and drunk and ready for bed, he’ll try and push just a little bit—awwwwwweeeee c’mon Jody—but gives up on the second or third try. His body overwhelms me in its size and solidity. The only time I earnestly enjoy this body of his is when I am positioning it around mine, instructing him on how to hold my breasts while I sleep. I like to be held in the same way the kids clutch their stuffed pets. This is the only time when his body feels nice to me.
He tries to get what he wants again halfway through the night you’re killin’ me, Jo, you’re just killin’ me! Usually I am sleepy and impressionable and work my hand around on his groin area for a little while, but it’s always only for a little while because when he does come it is prolificit’s like nothing I’ve ever seen! It’s nuts! But always there is some big issue of finding paper towels or a rag, because I don’t want sticky hands with that when I’m in the vulnerable area between very drunk and very hungover. If I don’t help him out I tell him I’m having a nice dream and to just deal with it himself.
He’s been working so hard, making me feel extra-special, so I crawl down to the bottom half of his body and give him what he wants. Here are some things I think about while I am doing the Ultimate Indelicate Act: Julia Klein pooping, whether it will be sunny tomorrow, the size of Craig’s penis compared to John Bell’s (roughly the same, despite their notable difference in body sizes), monkey attacks, and, finally, how much I wish Craig would quit pushing on my head. Then: woah, wow! One time, in high school, someone wrote graffiti on the second floor bathroom that said “Jody Donahue SWALLOWS!!!!!!” This is often true.
I had such a weird time in high school. Afterwards Craig brings me close to his body and tells me I am so cute. I dream about cute things. I sleep well. I dream about monkeys and rabbits.
We wake up early because he has team breakfast and wants to go running beforehand. Craig gets these kind of crazy eyes when we’re walking out in the morning—like, he looks all googly and bewildered, in an “I can’t believe I just did that with this girl” kind of way, where that and this girl are either good or bad things depending on inflection. I think it’s endearing. He holds my bra out to me like it’s a very heavy thing.
This time, we do not show affection in the elevator. I feel like I am at a business. We get to the bottom floor and he realizes he has left his iPod upstairs and can’t go any further without it. Alright. Whatever. I don’t even bring my iPod when I go running. I don’t even have an iPod. I don’t even listen to music. Alright, whatever. Bye, shitmouth.
On the way home I buy a coffee from the halal cart near my building and smoke cigarettes and tell myself that I am the freaking queen of the world, I am a superstar. I look like trash but I’m a winner this morning. Again, it’s not because I’m so obsessed with Craig, it’s almost exclusively because I am the only one of my friends who is sleeping with anyone. When I get back to my room, I text all the girls asking who wants to do brunch. My eyeballs hurt really, really bad.
10. Never accept anything less than the best. Strive for success in each of your endeavors. These are the best times of your life. Good luck!
I think I have developed the perfect scale to measure human beauty. I have ranked all of my peers in every aspect of their lives which matter—physical attractiveness, cultivation of hobbies and extracurricular activities, fake ID possession, and on and on—and given them scores from five to ten. Fives are so forgettable you hate that you met them, you feel angry you wasted your life on the fortyfive seconds they took to introduce themselves. Based on their Facebook presences, most of the fives I knew in high school have graduated to solid sixes—they have more than 50 likes on their profile pictures, a scanned Polaroid where they’re holding a margarita, a status that got two or three funny comments. It’s good, I’m glad for them.
Claire, for example, is a seven. She’s got a nice kind of prettiness, a forgettable prettiness but she is still pretty in the way that girls with strange, horsey faces often are. She doesn’t smoke and sometimes that’s plus one or minus two, depending on who you’re talking to, and she’s really into Tumblr which is a big negative. Once I saw her check Tumblr at a bar and oh God that’s embarrassing. Eights are exciting: eights have naturally arched eyebrows and perfect teeth, and own BB cream that exactly matches their skin tones. Eights are the people who find really nice clothes at vintage stores and go to Brooklyn on the weekends, but always have some fatal flaw, like they won’t stop talking about that one time they did half a line of coke. Yaaawn.
When it comes to nines, when you see one in Econ or walking out of the dining hall, you focus on the reason she isn’t a ten: maybe her mouth is so full of teeth it looks like her smile got warped in Photoshop; maybe she can’t curl her eyelashes right. Her nose or voice or the way she carries herself is weird somehow but you aren’t sure exactly what’s wrong with it, it’s just weird. Her hands, which look normalsized in real life, look gigantic in every one of her Facebook pictures. It’s offputting. Strange. She’ll get married right after college and everything will be so great for her. And you won’t miss her being in your life. Dora is a nine because she talks a lot about her sixyear plan, which is absolutely bullshit and she thinks her life is just so figured out. Also, she just dyed her hair red and it really clashes with her eye color.
Concerning tens: perfect, beautiful, tens—they hardly exist anymore. You don’t even know what a ten looks like. Your brain can’t imagine it.
I concern myself with how attractive I can become and I don’t know why anyone else wouldn’t. In the right light I’m an eight, borderline nine if I’m really minxing, seven and a half if I’ve been in the library for four hours or if I’m thinking too much about how maybe I should just grow up and start dating Craig like a good girl, join a sorority and let him take me to formal. I eat vegetables for dinner when I want pizza. I will respond to every 4AM booty text with “haha ok.” I condition my hair and put it up like a princess. I remove the crispy contact lenses from my eyes and replace them with fresh, salty, round ones. I am a haha girl. I am a good girl. Haha.
At brunch we sit on the patio. I order eggs and a supersalty bloody mary and Dora asks me if I did good last night. I don’t even think about it. Yahhhhh girl, Craig is amazing, I did so good. It’s still too warm to wear my jeans jacket and I can feel the salt from my drink invade my veins. I can feel my electrolytes replenish with every sip. The red blood cells in my body are getting bigger. Everything is so good, ya feel?
Ya, I feel. I feel so good right now. I feel so good. I feel so much.