I have a friend with a pretty shaky notion of reality.  She took the dean’s words as gospel when he said at opening Mass our freshman year that underage drinking WAS NOT tolerated on campus. He said it with a gleam of severity in his eye that struck awe and obedience into the bones of all in attendance, she thought. So it was with shock that she received her roommate’s invitation to share some Irish coffee that night, with growing horror that she graced her first dorm party, and with utter dejection that she learned the character of her most stolid Catholic companions.

She melted over a classmate’s confession one Theology 101 lecture: He and his brothas, he shared, had committed to nightly grotto visits during Lent. That weekend, post-grotto, apparently, she saw him so slobbering drunk that the girl he pursued rebuffed his advances with, “Those aren’t even words. Those aren’t even words.”

She eventually drafted an impassioned plea to the OBSERVER, bewailing the sundry sins of her comrades with such phrases as “the temple of your body,” “selfish indulgence,” and “distraught by wasted potential.”  But the letter merely marinated in the back drawer thanks to an amalgamation of cowardice and self-reproach. The only thing more fearsome than debauchery to her pious psyche was pomposity.

Today, a bit older, a bit braver, and a touch more arrogant, I champion her cause. I’ll spare you Bible thumping, Aristotelian analysis, or arguments from New Natural Law, and instead share with you what the more principled of your peers murmur behind your back. Their analyses are unquestionably scientific, based as they are on naturalistic observation. Note well, they are also fed by sorrow and sympathy. Their motive is neither spite nor condescension, but love and regret. Here’s a little slice of alternative culture, in a fair and balanced attempt to even this campus’ spin.

(The) One bright afternoon in London, a friend raced screeching across the crowded lawn of St. James’ Park, turning the occasional cartwheel for effect. Tearing back over with bouncing curls and a humongous grin, she exclaimed to me (and about 10 passersby), “This is why I don’t need drugs!”

As I feigned invisibility, she continued more soberly, “Really, I’m sad for people. I think they fry their circuits and can no longer feel this happy normally. The brain makes happy chemicals on its own! Why screw it up with artificial chemicals?” I nodded approval, and she skipped off through a flock of pigeons.

Another friend has confided his disappointment with the undergraduate culture on numerous occasions.  “It’s not just the immorality, not just the waste that bothers me, but the uniformity.  It’s just not creative. Can’t we go play harmonica by a fire and build forts and stuff?” So we did. And camped. And hunted coons. Duck Island has alternative ends, my friends.

Another social critic:  “I can’t relate to the girls in my section at all. They squeal about their loofahs, and every third word from their mouths is ‘creeper,’ ‘sketch,’ or ‘legit.’” Then she laughed, “Mom told me the other night that I would have been in my element in the era of Victorian balls.”

Yet another: “I wasted half my time at Notre Dame. Now that I’ve graduated, I’m faced with a severe shortage of intellectually curious peers. College is a select 4 years to figure yourself out, to challenge your unexamined opinions, to meet interesting people. Boozing with [sport removed to protect the innocent] guys was not elevating in any sense of the word.”

A personal testimony: “It hurt more deeply than any lovers’ quarrel I’d ever had. He was a man—somehow upstanding, yet universally admired. Then he slipped, I don’t know when or why exactly. Can you give me any reason I should care for him now, over any of the 3,000 bros to choose from on this campus?”

Blunt words from the wise, on Catholic companionship at Notre Dame: “The hypocrisy is mind-boggling. I simply do not understand. P.S. I simply do not want to hear about your lecherous escapades on our walk to basilica Mass.”

An unapologetic assessment (not for the thin of skin):  “These rectorly ‘shepherds’ legislate a policy of hushed up sin (Ends justify means, right? Better drunk in the dorm then mugged in South Bend. Better “treated” in the hospital than in the alley. Right?) Their residential minions wink and nod, and the poor flock degrades itself in the name of ‘community.'”

Freshman 1: “I went because I thought I would meet someone.” Freshman 2: “Ohmygosh same here! Have you EVER had a meaningful conversation at those things?”

One final male opinion, regarding the sauced lasses who regularly try to climb in his window: “Let me put it this way. There is the kind of girl guys marry, and there is the kind they don’t.”

By way of conclusion, here’s a plan I’ll toss out with the flippancy of Cain’s 999, in honor of this daydreaming freshman’s folly, as a provisional alternative, and as a beacon of hope and change for other foolish freshmen.

Ladies, reclaim the social scene, if this is the best the gents can do with it. (Contemporary Topics taught me men used to rule the school and women the revelry. Now our fortunes have reversed.) Let’s play good music. Let’s talk about deep things. Let’s make tea as popular as 23. Those mini-skirts are not our friend, not tonight, not in the morning, and not when we’re rearing ladies of our own. Let’s not go so far in our efforts not to seem holier than thou that we lose our own thou (or holy). It is time we unify (deunify?) for weekend fun.

Or for a plan plagiarized from an equally venerable source: To thine own self be true.

Katie can be contacted at kpetrik@nd.edu for tips on tapping into the sober scene.