MacAwkward College: A survivor's guide

By Eva Thea Kuhn

Although Macalester students are diverse by nature, one common adjective seems to unite us: awkward. If I had a nickel for how many times I’ve heard my peers describe their Café Mac experience / Friday night / Tues/Thurs class / Walk from Carnegie to Old Main as “awkward,” well, I’d probably have free lattes for a semester. Personally, I blame this on a dynamic around here I call “Hi Today, Gone Tomorrow.”Picture it. You see someone, maybe he/she is in a class with you, introduced themselves at one point, worked with you on a group paper, or quite possibly shared a bed with you. That person passes you without so much as a nod of recognition or even eye contact. What gives? You’re left wondering if there’s something on your face, if you smell horrible, if you were so drunk you imagined the whole thing, or if you took your invisible pills that morning. If you’re me four years ago, you resolve never to speak to he/she again and seethe whenever the person walks by.

Or maybe you decide to take the bull by the horns and say hello. Often, you’re met with silence or a skittish and stammering, “Um h-h-i.” making the whole experience too uncomfortable to ever think of repeating. That’s admittedly part of the problem.

As someone extremely guilty of staring aggressively but not acknowledging, I can offer a few explanations. Firstly, there are roughly 1600 students at this school. By senior year, saying hello to everyone you’ve ever come into contact with can be a huge bitch. Especially if you’re not channeling Mary Sunshine at that particular moment and know you have five minutes to fight with Jay and Silent Bob and print out an essay due yesterday.

The second explanation lies in the ever-uncomfortable and usually drunken weekend hook-up or even flirtatious conversation. Since at this school inebriated rendez-vous and/or smiles around the keg often result in full-fledged college marriages, students often feel the need to ward off that possibility with complete dismissal. You bump into each other at the salad bar, or worse, Sunday brunch and general protocol is to walk right by: No I do not know you, and I have absolutely never made out with you. The defense mechanism of sober-ignorance-is-bliss may be necessary at times, or for the sake of dignity, but maybe we can all remember that saying “hi” post night together in Doty really isn’t a marriage proposal. It’s common courtesy.

Finally, many Macalester students, definitely including myself, may not want to overstep their boundaries. For whatever reason (is it something in the tofu at South?), friendliness or recognition goes unrewarded in many instances. This increases the significance of a simple “hello,” it seems. I propose that we diffuse this tension.

Sometimes situations go sour enough or wind up embarrassing enough that not only do you never want to say hello again, you never want to see that person / group of people before you die. Unfortunately this campus has an uncanny ability to place your subject around every corner of every building you ever frequent. I’ve learned to accept it, smile at your victim / victimizer, and walk away. It’s not that hard.

Finally, Facebook does not count as complete interaction. Requesting electronic friendship does not a social encounter make. If you’re about it enough to look up a person on and friend them (admit it), then hopefully you can muster up the courage to talk to them in real life. If not, well get over it and start. I promise the earth will not open up and swallow you whole. Additionally, that person will not assume you want to have their first-born son.

Genuine dislike remains the only exception for Say Hi, Don’t Rush By, in my opinion. In a perfect world, or simply the real world, we wouldn’t have to be around those we didn’t like. At Macalester, those people are often someone’s best friend / housemate/ fiancée. Use your discretion and judgment, and maybe bank that smile and nod for someone else.

Three and a half years at MacAwkward College have taught me that more often than not, the icy stare and raised eyebrows when passing peers aren’t worth it and make you look like an idiot. I urge everyone to get over themselves; Don’t Rush By, Say Hi. As a former transgressor, I can tell you it makes life easier.

Contact Eva Thea Kuhn ’08 at [email protected]