Saturday, August 19, 2006

Of Human Dignity, Townie Livin', and College Culture

OXFORD, Ohio (ZP) -- This weekend marks the "official" start of the local Higher Education experience for thousands of incoming first-year students, graduate students, and, yes, new faculty and staff.

After a summer of virtual slumber, the tiny hamlet of Oxford Fucking Ohio is once again a vibrant place - for better and worse.

The mayhem started early Friday morning. Students and parents from all over Ohio, from as far away as Atlanta and Chicago, from Kentucky and Korea, Italy and Indiana, began their annual migration into the batshit that is 21st century college culture here.

* * * *

Friday night marked my last night as a "free man" before the popped-collar masses return in full force. The spoiled rich girls were already pulling their Hummers into student housing parking lots by the time I left the office.

Who the hell buys an undergraduate a fucking Hummer? Why is it, at this Local U., located in a community where almost one in five children under 18 lives below the poverty line, there are parents who will buy their children automotive monstrosities - simply to make a half-mile commute to campus?

I went out for drinks with two colleagues early. One guy, A., is what the students call a "Townie." His father is a bit of a local legend about town, a guy who brought humor and wit to quite a few folks, a hard-working, honest-to-God symbol of Small Town Americana, taken from this community by cancer and God.

I never met the man. But as A. and C., both graduates of the local U., swapped stories about their experiences, I felt the hidden beauty I often overlook whenever I post something about this town. Watching C. ogle voluptuous women in tight outfits, hearing the cheers of Cincinnati Bengals fans as they watched their team pummel the Buffalo Bills 44-31 in a sloppy preseason game...

I was reminded that there is beauty everywhere, even in Oxford Fucking Ohio.

* * * *

I guess that's why, two hours later, I almost got into an all-out brawl with two guys outside of the local movie theatre.

Two local teenaged girls were walking down the sidewalk.

The girls were probably 14 or 15 years' old.

One of the guys hollered from the window of a parked sports car, asking if the girls were looking to party. When the girls ignored them, one of the Local U.'s finest decided it was appropriate to get out of the car, to call the teenagers snobby townie sluts and to instruct them to go back to their fucking trailer park.

I informed the gentlemen that this was unacceptable behavior.

When my polite request to stop such foolishness was laughed off, I more forcibly explained my position, outlining, in graphic detail, how painfully embarrassing it would be for both "men" to have to explain to Mommy and Daddy why they had been beaten down by a fucking librarian.

One of the guys didn't like being dressed down in public, so he decided to take a Natty Light-fueled swing at me.

Wow. How'd my forearm end up in that guy's chest, anyway? Must've slipped.

No hard feelings...bro.

While I abhor violence, I refuse to live in a community where supposedly intelligent young men are allowed to verbally harass teenaged girls.

Call me old-fashioned, I guess.

The thought of one of those girls being forever scarred by the drunken rants of a pair of assholes, of even one of those young women taking those words to heart and believing that they were nothing more than "townie sluts" was enough to convince me that, yeah, there's not enough money in the world to buy some guys even an ounce of self-respect.

No regrets, really.

* * * *

Shaken and stirred, I decided to swing down to another bar to keep some bartender friends company. An unusually slow night, one of the bartenders informed me most of the students were out at house parties.

As I sat there, I watched three students, two guys and a girl, dolled up in about $500-600's worth of designer clothing, rack up a $30 tab.

They tipped my buddy J. a whopping 50 cents.

At one point, three rather annoying women walked into the bar and proceeded to have the most inane conversation about the "fuckability" of the guys they'd met that night. The entire conversation apparently revolved around the guys' majors and their potential financial futures.

Wow. Nothing like listening to three catty women argue the finer points of the "cock-size vs. wallet-size" debate, a debate found wherever women pursuing M.R.S. degrees congregate.

At one point, while eavesdropping, I told J. that I found the women's conversation so stupid, it was almost intriguing. He laughed and said something like if you still find that intriguing, then you haven't lived here long enough.

* * * *

I left the bar at just past 1:30 Saturday morning. I'd racked up my share of free drinks for the night, and, well, I'd succeeded in keeping a few buddies entertained for a few hours.

I wandered up to a 24-Hour filling station for a cup of coffee. I notice three "indie rock" type kids staggering down the alley, scenesters from some suburb, clad in too-tight Fallout Boy and My Chemical Romance tee shirts, reeking of overpowering bodyspray as they passed by me. They were bitching about uncool Oxford, how it was nothing like their summers in Europe, how un-scenester-esque this town can be.

This Emo Girl in the group stared at me through rose-tinted, windshield-sized sunglasses, then rolled her eyes as I acknowledged her staring. She instantly whipped out her pink Razr, let out a pouty noise, and scampered along behind the rest of her Hot Topic Rebel Army.

For some reason, her reaction made me think of a quote I read recently, in a short piece about what this girl's peers are listening to in Iraq right now, the "scene" they're making while they deal with death all around them, as they face their own mortality at 18, 19, 20, 21, 22...

"We can't put a Dashboard Confessional song on and expect to go out there and kill somebody."
- Marine Sgt. Brandon Welsh,
as quoted in Rolling Stone
(Soundtrack to the War, Evan Serpick, Aug. 27, 2006, issue).

Thinking about that quote made me feel, well, sad for Emo Girl. No matter how much of a fashion show she puts on while in college, no matter how much she frets over hipness, she'll probably never see her name in the pages of Rolling Stone, like Keith Richards, Bruce Springsteen, and ... a 23-year-old Iraq War veteran from Virginia.

But, well, Welsh and the other folks over there have more earned the right to be interviewed by one of the world's best-known "cool" publications.

Of course, she's had the luxury of living in a sheltered world in a sheltered college town, far away from places like Fallujah and Baghdad, free from the fear and courage required to survive things like attacks on Light Armored Vehicles.

I have yet to meet a Jarhead in Oxford Fucking Ohio, wandering the streets with the leftovers of a line of Coke powdering a red nostril, looking at the world through such rosey Gucci eyewear.

* * * *

I sat on a bench in Uptown Park until well past three, watching as all the pretty young fish filled an already overcrowded fishbowl.

I watched as sober-looking guys escorted very drunk women down High Street, one hand on an asscheek and the other holding up potential date rape victims.

One rather arrogant guy, with very young looking girls under each arm, had the balls to leave a woman at a table next to mine, saying something about how he didn't fuck fat chicks.

I walked over and asked the woman if she needed some help. She simply threw up, asked me if I thought she was fat (she was probably 120 pounds or less, about 5'5 or 5'6), and staggered onward into the night, hollering at the guy that she wasn't fat and she thought she was in love...

* * * *

At one point, a rather attractive brunette decided to sit down and, well, see why such a hot guy was looking so like lonely.

Sat down, as in literally hiked up her skirt and straddled me. She started telling me that I had nice shoulders and that she liked older guys and thought guys in black tees were like hot...

Did you know the barely-remembers-to-shave-once-a-week look is apparently back in style, according to several fashion magazines?

Ask me if I give a shit.

I also looked like the guy who worked in [My] Library, the she'd interviewed as part of a Mass Com class assignment last year.

Well, it's good to know I look like myself, I guess.

I noticed she had black Xes on each hand; she was under 21.

For the price of a case of Keystone Light, I could've had an 18-year-old sex toy to, in her words, do whatever I wanted. I wouldn't even have to use a condom, because I looked "clean."

Wow. There's a visual examination for AIDS now?

And to think, there are human rights organizations actually trying to stop illegal sex trafficking and forced prostitution... why bother?

There are apparently young, affluent American women willing to sell their bodies for a case of cheap beer.

As long as you look "clean."

* * * *

Welcome to Fall Semester 2006, in Oxford Fucking Ohio.

Something tells me the kids, well, may not be alright, after all.


Joanna said...

You know, last year when I was finishing up my master's degree, I had a weekend research methods class. One weekend, the folks I was down there with and I were on our lunch break and we went to, Subway I think it was and there were a lot of 'kids' around since it was homecoming weekend. This is not something I normally had to deal with since my classes were at night. And looking at them I had to wonder if they were actually old enough to be in college. Made me feel really old! I imagine that bunch was prone to party but I never went to any of the local bars. That was one good thing about being a commuter to campus I guess, you don't get too involved in the life or politics of campus life. It would seem to me that even with such a young librarian, you would still be seen as an authority figure on campus and that students wouldn't take such liberties with you. Maybe I just have old fashioned ways of thinking and doing things. I don't know if that's a good thing seeing as how i'm only 30 myself!

Em said...

you know there are days i'm embarrassed to be a miami student. this is one of them. i HATE the girls here who think we're all here to fuck stupid boys get herpes and become gold diggers. i HATE those bitches really.

hello! i'm in school to get an education! i came here because its a good school with a great reputation. it sucks because i feel like i can't do ANYTHING on the weekends that doesn't involve drinking or dumb guys wanting to hump my leg or something.

i think i'll just stay single until i graduate actualy. i met my last bf at skippers and he turned out to be a tool.

120 pounds and that's fat??? i work out three days a week and i'm a hot 130 easy. guys like that need to be shot. zenfo, next time kick him in the balls.

you rock BTW :-)

The ZenFo Pro said...

You know, at 28, there are days I wake up wondering if I've fallen into some bizarre mash-up of Logan's Run and MTV.

One of the big problems with the larger student body in this town is that, on the surface, on campus, they seem like well-rounded, stereotypical college students. But unlike, say, Ohio State or bigger universities, there is absolutely nothing offered to students recreationally beyond public drunkeness, tanning salons, and some game called "cornhole." Theculture is eerily similar to Duke University, actually - I'm waiting to wake up one morning and find a sleepy college town bombarded by national press, reporting on some rape scandal...

Lol, the big problem with librarianship, in general, is nobody seems to know what the hell it is librarians do anymore. I got into a rather interesting discussion a few days ago with a woman who thought anyone who worked in a library was automatically a librarian. Technically, "librarian" usually implies that one has a Master's level degree in Information Science, Library Studies, etc.

And, lol, I guess the fact that I have the maturity level of a 16-year-old doesn't help much ;)

Lol...the Skippers reference at least let's me know you're a local reader :) And, lmao, my advice is to NEVER, EVER date a guy you meet in a frigging college bar. Thanks for commenting, btw.

You know, you're not the only one. The gripes I hear most often from female students - on and offline - almost always boil down to the fact that hard working, intelligent women are left feeling like they're the campus freaks for, well, having some self-respect.

Last week, I talked with three very different local students who I'm almost certain are unaware of this site (fingers crossed on this one) who voiced the same raw disgust at the situation here - not just the guys, but with that approx. 30% of the female student body here to drink, fuck, and wait for some rich guy fix their problems. Personally, as an observer, it seems to me that these women are actually feeding a lot of the problems normally attributed to the male population.

And no, 120 pounds is not fat...good for you for being "hot 130."

Watch out for those leg-humping guys, and, yeah, thanks for reading :)

Anonymous said...

omg you do live in oxford. fuck i hate that place. glad i left.

The ZenFo Pro said...

Lmao. Yup. Right here in beautiful Oxford :)

Erebus_Star said...

I lurk here on occassion, redirected from Ms. Monkethong's site. I enjoy your insights as an "zenfo pro" as I happen to be an "infowhore" myself... But mostly, I'm fascinated by your insights into Oxford, OH where I spent two years as a townie, while my mother attended graduate school. We moved from rural Arkansa, so you can imagine it semed like a big town to me at the time. I decided to leave you a note, basically thanking you for punching the drunken "bros". Though the young women involved may not fully appreciate your actions, trust me, it was no fun being crassly propositioned by frat boys when I was twelve years old. I kind of feel like you punched them for me, and I'm not ashamed to admit it makes me smile.

Anonymous said...


As an alumna of the "Local U" I wanted to echo some of the sentiments expressed here by others. When I was a student, Oxford was an almost magical place. You had my ex-husband's beloved Boar, Mac and Joes, record stores, and of course the legendary WOXY radio station. Sometimes I read your site and wonder what the hell happened. What broke down? It breaks my heart to see what the town has become.As a woman and mother I want to say thank you too for being a decent guy.

Don't be too hard on yourself either. Not too bad on the eyes there buddy. My daughter (one of your OSU lurkers) has your poster in her dorm.

I'm so glad you decided to keep writing.

~ K

cooper said...

This is too much for me to consider. It seems everyone has gone on either total hiatus or is on a post binge.

You got too much a going on their….. at old Miami U.

Cute alumni posting in our blog.

The ZenFo Pro said...

Hey, thanks for the note! It's not often that somebody who has spent time here as something other than a student stops by and shares a personal testimonial.

There are a lot of folks, I'm sure, who read some of the stuff I write and go "Aw, it can't be that bad, can it?" Well, they've probably never lived here. This was a MILD weekend experience. I can't imagine growing up here.

And, to be quite honest, there are quite a few folks, faculty, staff, and grad students, I've met who can't imagine raising kids here, either. And that's a big reason why many choose to commute from places like Cincy, Hamilton, and even Dayton - or to leave before having children. That's tragic - the folks brought in to provide students wih the best educational opportunities are being chased off by the same students.

Oxford, during the summer and despite all of its problems, is actually a wonderful college town to live in - during the summer. I know there are quite a few folks who view the students as, well, the ultimate paradox. On one hand, they provide the life blood of the community. On the other hand...

Hey, again, thanks for sharing! I've actually met quite a few alums, especially from the 1970s and 80s, who've bemoan the "cultural decline" they've witnessed. Oxford has always, I guess, been perceived as a drinking town with a college problem. But, well, when there's very little left culturally beyond tanning salons, sub shops, and with almost all the "Mom and Pops" gone, there's some huge problems.

WOXY 97X does live on, by the way, as an Internet Only station out of Cincy. For those unfamiliar with the name, WOXY was once the best-known independent radio station in the country, and helped launch the "Alternative Radio" format nationwide. Oxford Fucking Ohio was once home to the hippest indie rock station on the planet. Hard to believe, but true.

Lol, yeah, well there's quite a bit I needed to get buried before some local folks sobered up and found the site in some gen. ed. class ;)

And to think you could've been one of those students rolling into town last weekend... blows my fucking mind.

As for alums, I learned several things this past summer. One, no more generalizing "sorority girls" unless I'm speaking stereotypically or willing to name the specific sorority. They really don't like that and there are quite a few actually working to change the Greek dynamic.

Two, the majority of local student lurkers seem to have now, lol, graduated.

weirsdo said...

Powerful post. I hope you don't mind if I link your site.

The ZenFo Pro said...

Oh no. Go for it. But thanks for asking.