'I feel like death:' Your hangover is generic

by Jean Ellen Cowgill | 11/30/07 3:02am

Urggghhh. Your alarm goes off. Or maybe your alarm doesn't go off, because you never made it back to your room. Maybe you wake up because the Psi U dog is licking the dried bits of Heorot foam party foam off your face. Or maybe some girl you swear you've never seen before in your life nudges you and says awkwardly, "Umm, yeah ... so ... I'm going to class ... " and by that you are pretty sure she means "... and please don't be here when I get back."

In any case, you are probably naked/only wearing a sombrero from Margaritas/the flag from Coolidge. And your head hurts. No, it really hurts. And you start to recall, vaguely, that you called/e-mailed your grandparents/your ex/your prof. But when you lean over to your computer/stumble into Collis/check your cell to find out what, in God's name, you may have told them, you boot all over the brand new Mac/the Collis guy/her bed. This is officially the worst day of your life. At least since what you did last Saturday.

At least you can tell all your friends the "morning after" story. One quickly incorporates it into one's cadre of social gossip upon entering college (or maybe high school for some of you ... you ragesters). Freshman fall, Dartmouth generously supplies each new class with an entire week to themselves to create their own contributions to the genre (Senior boy, remember waking up in the girls' shower stall in Brown sucking your thumb? That freshman floor does too).

The stories even have their own vernacular distinct enough to confuse your parents as much as txt msg spk and hook up culture do. (No, Mom, "pull the trigger and boot" does not refer to a country western, the "stride of pride" does not refer to gay pride parades, and yes, "superman" can be used as a verb in the phrase "superman that ho.")

Why do we keep telling these stories? Why do we like them so much? Maybe I've just become a tad overly analytical doing too many close readings for class this term. But seriously, why? Sure, they can be funny, sometimes. But really, if you have heard one "and then I booted on ________ in front of ________" story, you have heard them all, right?

Maybe it is our way of justifying the pain and embarrassment of that horrendously sunny morning, the silver lining to the cloud of last night's memories. One should note a difference here between "morning after" and "night before" tales. Although close relatives of the "I was so wasted last night, I ____" legends, hangover stories are not the same. It's easy to understand why people relive the glory of the latter, the not-so-subtle subtext being, "I am so hardcore."

Morning-after stories are different. They deal with consequences and shame. Rocking out on the pong table 'til 4 a.m. may make you super sweet. Waking up in your own fluids at 1 p.m. the next day, not so sweet.

And that's probably why, when I started asking around for prime examples of the "morning after" literary form, they all came in the form of "this guy I know," "a frat brother of mine," "my friend," etc. I became a little skeptical, I have to say. Where are all these "people" we know? Really, your roommate sophomore fall did that? Didn't you live in a single that term?

Just in case that wasn't disguise enough, no one was willing to go on the record (to the complete chagrin of my editors). To be honest, a lot of them aren't even worth recounting in detail here anyway, because you've already heard them in some form or another: the girl who booted in FoCo, the guy who came into class with PENIS written on his forehead, etc. The stories generally can be broken down into the four N's of the next day (excuse my corny alliteration):

Nudity: "A brother woke up on the roof of our fraternity ass naked. He later discovered that there was a single piece of his clothing in almost every room of the house." -- '08 boy

Narcolepsy: "A friend of mine went to the bathroom during an exam the morning after and fell asleep for the entire 2A." -- '08 boy

And Nooo ... (as in, "Noooo, tell me I didn't ____ last night"): "At Colby, a friend of mine got a call in the morning from his parents, who were wondering why there was an LL Bean canoe that had been sent overnight express to their Upper East side apartment in Manhattan (and how was the UPS guy supposed to now fit it through the doorway?). What were they supposed to do with a canoe in New York? He realized after talking to some people that, what does one do in Maine at 3 a.m. except go to the 24-hour LL Bean store and send their parents gifts?" -- '08 transfer student

The fourth is Nausea, but I refuse to print yet another booting story. Sorry.

The subsets vary in intended reaction, from mild amusement blended with mild disgust (I can't say I'm a big fan of that last variety) to the completely ridiculous. (A canoe? Really? That one's really a gem, even in this hackneyed genre.) In every one though, suddenly that hardcore rager becomes the sober punch line of his or her own drunken joke. Note: The "I'm so ragey" stories (which tend toward annoying self glorification) are rarely as funny as the "And now I'm so sober ... And naked ..." stories.

And maybe that is why these stories keep being told. When we tell the story of the boy who woke up cold, confused and hungover, we are really asking the listener, "This is funny right? We can laugh away this crazy mishap for this poor naked boy, right?" And when we all laugh, we are saying, "Yes, it's OK to make mistakes." And that isn't a message Dartmouth students hear very often.

So keep telling those overused yarns of morning-after lore. Mistakes are funny! Especially when they involve morning-after canoes.