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The Dartmouth
May 23, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Alice Unchained: Ace of Basements

My dad has always claimed that college is like the "junior high" to grad school's "high school." I was never entirely sure what he meant by that until I went to the Richmond Middle School dance last week. I hadn't been to a middle school dance since tenth grade, so I was pretty stressed out about what to wear in order to fit in with the popular kids. (I wore my sweater on backwards and inside out ... apparently that was appropriate.)

Myself and several other members of Delta Delta Destruction were invited to chaperone the school dance, a job that required a little door monitoring, "NO! No crowd surfing!!!" and a bewildering amount of Cotton-Eyed-Joe-ing. We volunteered to help out in order to fulfill the service requirement that must be completed in order for us to attend our own dance, which is actually called "a formal," because we're like, waaay more mature.

Richmond is a brand-new school with a sterile, yet cheerful, aesthetic that was modeled after the first floor of Alpha Chi Alpha fraternity. When I arrived, DJ Rocking Lou was setting up in the cafeteria, which had been transformed into a dance hall via the flick of a light switch. The juice-and-milk-packed vending machines contributed a pretty trippy strobe-light effect to the whole atmosphere. I was told that The Wallflowers, Jock Jams, and/or students prone to strobe-induced epileptic fits could go hide in one of the basketball games going down in the "open gym" across the hall, and that at least one Tridelta should stick around to referee at all times ... which was a terrible idea.

The arrival of 7:00 p.m. unleashed a parade of exactly what you would expect from a middle school dance. The Steve Madden shod girls all carpooled into the lobby and immediately "out-ied" to the bathroom, (whatever, loser, fly away). There, they painted their nails blue, butterfly-clipped their Rachel hairdos, lip-smackered and hiked up their cord skorts just in time for the boys to ollie in on their Soaps. One look at the spaghetti-strapped dance floor and the boys tripped over their own chain wallets and flailed around for a few minutes before carefully Airwalking to the basketball court to go Dennis Rodman on poor Lauren Lotko '06. The girls were left behind to slow dance with their Tomagatchis all night in a sea of glitter and stick-on bindis.

Wait, did I black out? That was a dance at my middle school? But I don't recall ever going to any middle school dances. To put it politely, I was pretty much a buck-toothed Hanson-cyborg back then, so I wasn't exactly "allowed to leave the house." "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" was my "Open Gym." I told my mom that I couldn't go to the "Fall Fling" because I had to "do this thing," i.e. watch "SNICK" and listen to Alanis Morissette while I waxed my braces all night.

I didn't really have any interest in going to those dances anyway. I mean, I interacted enough with boys. When I wasn't kicking their butts at H.O.R.S.E. after school, I went "chat-rooming" with them all the time on AOL. My favorite chat-room dive was "The Great Outdoors," where I would try to impress the boys with jokes like: "I have a husband! I call him DEER!" or "I like to fish... with granades!" My screen name was "Geekgirl13." I thought that I was being "ironic," but clearly I had no idea what ironic meant.

Anyway, enough about me, let's talk about you for a minute.

Is Dartmouth like middle school? Junior High's "Social Studies" and "Language Arts" have evaporated and re-emerged as "History" and "English." I feel like that transformation is a pretty good metaphor for what has happened to most of the landmarks of sixth through eighth grade. My thesis is: Everything that we immediately associate with middle school continues to be present in some form here at Dartmouth.

Okay, well maybe not everything. Unfortunately, the Spice Girls are pretty much long-goners, but hey Decibelles! It would be a real service to my argument if you would cover "If You Wanna Be My Lover" at some point soon. I'll give all of you friendship bracelets!?! Seriously, there are a lot of cool ones that I can order from the back of YM this month. If I buy 12, I can enter to win a yin-yang Discman autographed by Mase!

Eeek, side-tracked!!!! Nurse's pass?/pill-cup/"I-C-U-P"/gotcha!/shiny-thing!!!1/water fountain, 3-2-1. (Insert topic sentence here.) When I was in middle school, passing notes was a daunting endeavor, but it is pretty much all I recall doing in my sixth-grade Social Studies class with Mr. Van Panwize. We all sat in a semi-circle in front of a white board where Mr. V.P. (a notorious "um, uhh"-er) would spend an irrational amount of time with his back turned to us.

When we weren't busy counting how many times he "umm-ed" over the course of forty minutes, we occupied ourselves by flinging a beanie baby frog across the room whenever he turned away. Notes were always fixed to this frog with a scrunchie. Though high-risk, this form of airmail was a lot more efficient than ground delivery, ("please-pass-to-Leo" style). As the year progressed, the old M.V.P. seemed to grow increasingly suspicious that something fishy was going on whenever he turned to scrawl something on the board. He warned us that anyone caught passing notes would get a detention.

Joanna Zimelis '07 was a good friend of mine in middle school. One fated afternoon, we were engaged in an innocent game of M.A.S.H. when the note frog came soaring towards Joanna's head. It missed by an inch and went slamming into the fourth-story window beside her. Bright purple, Mr. V.P. spun around and screamed, "Umm, uhh, THAT'S ENOUGH!" to which teary-eyed Joanna promptly chirped: "the poor bird!"

V.P. spent the rest of the class trying to prove to his traumatized students that the bird had survived and flown away -- but I was pretty sure there was eagle blood on the window.

The moral of the story: Blitz is a lot more efficient than frog-mail.

In middle school, cliques were generally gendered entities that seemed to surface in the cafeteria. The Backstreet Boys sat at the window table, the Venga Boys sat near the Spice Girls, and the "Magic: The Gathering" kids sat on the floor, (they were a co-ed house).

Middle schools all over the country have taken a variety of measures to disassemble cliques within their student bodies. They have gone so far as to declare a national "Sit With a Rando at Lunch" day, in order to encourage non-"Mean Girls"-ness.

Things are just a little different here at Dartmouth. Our cliques are officially recognized by our institution of learning, and perpetuated for the purpose of cultivating forums for raging and breaking the house. (No parents!)

Seriously though, if it weren't for the cliques at Dartmouth, Richmond would have a really hard time forcing anyone to chaperone its middle school dances. But I did it, I survived, and I have my philanthropy credit, so I can go to our formal. All I have to do now is score a fake I.D. for my Tomagachi. (There's an open bar. We're way more mature.)


1 Bibliography: Dobbins, Amanda: "A.D.D(obbins): Undiagnosed." Atlanta, 2006.