The group meekly moves into a well-appointed room with large windows, more pillars and enough crown molding to recreate Colonial Williamsburg. The extended family, of course, takes up all the chairs in the entire front row. The Gwyneth family sits in the back, like they’re the cool kids or something. Backpack mom plops smack dab in the middle and I direct my son to sit towards the back and using a series of dirty looks we fight over who gets the aisle seat. I win.
The university representative attempts to be funny, but is so not funny I don’t even think he deserves a polite, pity laugh. He seems to be in his late 20’s and is working some early male pattern baldness. I look in my purse to see if I have a Rogaine coupon I could discreetly slip him. (Don’t doubt that I carry Rogaine coupons. I’ve been using it since my 30’s and say hello to thick, luscious locks.) My son glares at me for making noise. I glare back because I know sorting through coupons in a sandwich size Ziplock bag hardly makes a sound.
The whole thing is pretty boring and warps speed to mind numbing when the Power Point gets started. Now, I like and respect a good Power Point, but this was not just lame, but lazy. No good use of color in the fonts, no background and where’s some music and photos? Hello – you’re talking to the Instagram generation they need pictures, lots of pictures. It’s like they’ve reverted back to being a toddler when they loved board books.
I was also getting annoyed because the guy must have sold cars in his previous job. No where in his overview of the college does he mention price. Sure, he talks about financial aid, scholarships, student loans, but gives no hard data on what it’s going to cost you to drive the first year of college “off the lot.” Where’s the sticker price? That’s what I want to know. So, I ask. I know I had promised my son I would keep my lips firmly locked, but screw it, I wasn’t letting him go here anyway based on the lack of pre-tour snackage.
Mr. Rogaine acted like he got this question a lot. He smiled and said, “There are just too many variables for me to answer that question” and then proceeded to brush me off.
Sadly for him I was not brushoffable. I’m more of a you have to scrub me off using at the very least a significant amount of Clorox, Comet cleanser, a SOS pad and maybe even a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. I quickly replied back to him. “Why is it so difficult? What is the average number of semester hours a freshman takes.?”
He answered, “15 hours.”
“So, why can’t you take those 15 hours of tuition x 2, add in the cost of books, room and board and auxiliary fees and give me a number? It’s not like I’m going hold you to it, but I need to know what this college costs for not only budgeting reasons, but to compare it to the other schools we’re going to look at.”
Some mom, trying to be helpful, pops up and tells me about websites that calculate college costs. I smile at her and say, “That’s all well and good, but I think a college meet and greet should include a price tag.”
Mr. Rogaine then admits that “He’s not at liberty to answer my question” and the kicker is he says it like I’ve committed an etiquette faux pas. Like “how dare I mention something as silly and mundane as money.”
See, I was right. The whole no snack thing was a red flag. Who wants their kid to go to a school where they don’t believe in feeding or hydrating their guests and are too hoighty toighty to talk about what something is going to cost. We are so out of here. If only I could remember what our agreed upon safe word was. I was about lean over and whisper to my son that I wanted to skip the walking tour when I saw Linen Capris look over the back of her chair and smile at me. All of sudden I knew I wasn’t ready to leave yet. I still had to find out how “going gay” got your kid in college.
Minutes later we were freed from the meeting room and assigned tour guides. The guide we got had a really squeaky voice, so I suggested to my son we ditch her and hook up with the other group. My real reason to abandon guide was that I wanted to be with Linen Capris. When she saw me walk over, she took off her backpack cooler and offered me a bottled water. I eagerly took it and thank God I did, because the tour turned out to be a death march through every inch of the campus.
I learned many useful things like dorms still suck and that this particular college we were looking at was a Diet Pepsi school. I discovered this by trekking through one of the cafeterias and noticing that only Pepsi products were served. I told my son there was no way he’d be going to a Pepsi school. Not on my watch, my friends, not on my watch.
He just rolled his eyes and said, “Let’s imagine for a moment that by some miracle I get accepted to Stanford and Yale and they’re both, as you put it, ‘Pepsi schools’. You’re saying you would not allow me to attend either of those colleges because of their soda offerings? That could be a first Mom, kid declines Ivy League because of lack of Diet Coke on campus.”
I had to think hard about that and sighed, “Well no, of course I would let you go, but it’s not a good sign. A school needs to have Diet Coke on tap, not freaking Pepsi. It speaks to overall character.”
“Soda speaks to overall character?” He asks in a real smart ass voice.
“Yes, it does and apparently that’s a lesson you’re going to have the learn hard way. In couple of years from now don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
He shakes his head at me and walks to the front of the group which is perfect because I was over due for a chit-chat with Linen Capris. I hang back until she’s walking with me and ask, “So, what’s up with the whole going gay you mentioned before the meeting started?”
She smiles at me and says, “It’s going to be my angle.”
“How is that an angle?”
She’s takes a Nature Valley granola bar out of her backpack cooler, slowly unwraps it and right before she takes a bite says, “You are familiar with the essays that kids have to write to get in to college?”
“Yes, of course. Well, really I’m not super familiar with the process, but my son seems to be on top of all that kind of stuff.”
Now chewing she says, “That’s a big mistake, you know, leaving it up to your son. If you want your kid to not only get into a school, but to get a little something, something, in terms of financial aid you’re going to need a killer essay.”
She pauses, takes another bite of the granola bar and resumes talking, apparently totally at ease conversing with food in her mouth.
“The essay needs to hit all the right notes and by that I mean it needs to focus on some sort of personal struggle, where your kid took a stand and was brave. Even better if the focus hits on a current event. That’s why I may be going gay.”
“Still so not getting it,” I say.
She sort of acts ticked off and continues with, “I want my daughter’s essay to be on her personal fight for the rights of gays to get married. It’s so topical. I’m thinking in order to give her essay some authenticity I may start dating – women. It would provide such great detail for her essay. She could write about personally seeing her mother fall in love, the discrimination she witnessed firsthand. It could be killer! Her SAT’s aren’t where they should be. She’s going need something big to get her over the heap.”
“Wait, let me see if I have this right. You are currently not gay, but are thinking of exploring being gay in order to get your kid into college? That is some crazy shit.” (As a rule, I normally don’t curse in front of strangers, but I think this called for a crazy shit.)
“I’ll admit it sounds weird, but trust me these colleges are looking for that kind of real story. What are most kids going to write about? The deep depression they went into when they couldn’t get the iPhone 6?”
“Yeah, well, it sounds more like Lifetime movie then a college essay to me, but you’ve gotten two more kids into college than I have so what do I know.”
“Linen Capri stops walking, tucks her granola wrapper into a pocket on her backpack and says, “It’s a game, this college thing. You need to remember that. It’s just a big game.”
“It’s something, that’s for sure” I say as we each start walking to catch up with our kids. When I get up to where my son is standing by a fountain he sees me and says, “SAT scores.”
“What about them?” I ask.
“No mom, S-A-T Scores, remember our safe word?”
“Oh yes, of course, SAT scores. Let’s go! I am starving.”
We discreetly ditch the tour by turning left as they turn right to go into the library and haul to our car. My son, per my instructions, begins looking for the closest restaurants on his iPhone. We settle on a hamburger place that got awesome Yelp reviews 5 miles away. As I’m driving I look over at my son and blurt out, “You know I would go gay for you.”
“What?” he asks half scared, half confused.
“I mean just what I said, I would go gay for you.”
“And why would you do this for me?” He says slowly like I’ve just had a stroke or something.
“That lady back there. The one with that Igloo cooler backpack, well, she told me she’s going to start dating women so her daughter can write an amazing college essay about marriage equality and get herself into an Ivy League school.”
“Mom, that is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard and how disingenuous to conveniently become gay as way to get your kid into college. Oh and news flash you don’t ‘Go Gay’. Science points to the theory that human sexuality is neurologically hard-wired into your DNA. (At this point I am beaming at my son’s use of disingenuous, which I knew to be a SAT vocab word and his mastery of science terms.) God Mom, you attract the weirdest people. You’re like a welcome mat for all the crazies.”
“Whatever, I just wanted you to know I would totally go none DNA hard-wired gay for you if that’s what needed to happen to get you into the school you wanted. I love you that much.”
“You do know what being gay means don’t you? It’s not going out to lunch with your girlfriends.”
“Of course, I know what being gay means. I’ll have you know that there are three, maybe four women I can think of right off the top of my head, that I could have a committed relationship with. In fact, I’m all a tingle thinking about it.”
“Mom stop! You’re freaking me out.”
“Calm down. There is nothing to be freaked out about and I think you should know, while we’re exploring this topic, your dad, he would not go gay for you. He’d take a bullet for you, but gay I don’t think he could do. I, on the other hand, would not only go gay, but also take a bullet. So, if there ever comes a time when both of us need a kidney remember me gay and bullet, your dad just the bullet.”
“Okay, okay, you can you stop talking now.”
No, I can not. This is important very soon you will be leaving me and I need you to know that nothing, no one, not one thing in this whole, wide world is as important to me as you are. File that away. You are going to have some days when knowing this will make you feel better. Remember, no matter what, I am here for you. Even from the grave I’ll be there for you. I don’t know how, but I’m sure there is some portal or something that allows mothers to still get to their kids.”
“Mom, when was your last Diet Coke? I think you’re going through withdrawal and it’s affecting your brain. Should I be driving? I really think I should be driving.”
“I am fine. I’m just trying to adjust to you being gone.”
Don’t worry mom you still have one kid left at home to screw up.”
That made me smile. “I do, don’t I?”
My son patted my arm and said, “Yes, you sure do.”
*Attention Snarky Friends, I have a brand new book out. It’s the second in the Snarky in the Suburbs series – Snarky in the Suburbs Trouble In Texas. You can buy it for your Kindle or in paperback on Amazon. It’s also available for the Nook or you can get it for your Kobo reader. Click on a link and give it a test read. I hope you like it! 🙂