Disgraceful: Confessions of a Shopaholic

By Grace Miller | 4/3/17 11:42am

My friend Pritika is keeping a list of all the things she still doesn’t know, so that at the end of the year she can say “I’m a college graduate, and I still don’t know what fire is!” She is very concerned about not understanding fire. About every other week, I get a text from her saying “what is neoliberalism?!?” We are both very concerned about not understanding neoliberalism.  We’re going to get to the bottom of it.

There are a lot of things I still need to get to the bottom of. Why are “antisocial social club” sweatshirts so cool? How do my cells know how to work even though I don’t know how they work? What are memories? How do I do my taxes? I have a persistent fear that I am going to accidentally commit tax fraud because I keep declaring myself as a dependent, but I think the notion that I’m my own dependent is quite poetic — possibly illegal, but poetic nonetheless. 


Two days ago, I checked in for term for the last time — accidentally late, for old time’s sake. My mom is ecstatic that this is the last payment she will ever have to make to Dartmouth after putting three kids through college. I just keep thinking how crazy it is that those dollars should be transferring into knowledge — and there is so much I still need to get to the bottom of! In one of my classes this week, the professor said that she calculated that every hour of instruction in a class costs $270 of tuition. I like to imagine what would happen if Dartmouth actually had us walk into class every day and hand our professor $270 cash. And then if we didn’t go to class we could spend that money on skydiving or buying a puppy or renting a bouncy house for a day. It is my senior spring, and I could not be more stressed out about which classes to take, how to absorb so much knowledge that I can do more than politely nod my head at fancy dinner parties when someone brings up “the Middle East” or “the economy.” This is why I shop a million classes the first week of almost every term. Actually, 10 classes this term to be exact. 

The key to shopping classes is to sign up for the classes that are the hardest to get into, and then start a dialogue with professors of other classes before the term begins. If a class is “full” the key is persistence. If you’re still there after a week, they usually resort to the “meh, why not?” and finally let you in. The worst part about shopping classes, though, is when you get 10 minutes into the class and quickly learn you do not want to be there. For me, this happens when the professor says “mandatory attendance,” “lots of reading” or “group paper.” This week, I was in a 2A women’s, gender and sexuality studies class, and I understood about 10 percent of the words that came out of the professor’s mouth. I’m a computer science major. We don’t get out much. Mostly, it sounded like “performativity is a canonical phenomenology, which is circumscribed through institutions of power and psychoanalysis.” I immediately knew that it was a “no” from me, but unfortunately, I was in too deep. Then came the dreaded phrase “let’s split into small groups and work through the readings.” Yeah, those readings I had for sure, not done.  

The rest of class went something like this:

My group: “What does Da Silva think of sexuality?”

Me: *Open the article, command-F sexuality*

People think I’m crazy for shopping so many classes, that it’s senior spring so skip class and take layups and “skools 4 nerds.” But I can’t shake the feeling that I want to be a well-rounded person when I graduate. Maybe I love sociology. I’ll never know unless I try it. Also, I’m playing the system. Every extra class I attend feels like an extra $270 in my pocket; I am stealing my education, and I feel great about it. Gaming the system, getting free stuff, knowing just enough about a lot of subjects so that you can have an overly-strong opinion on things you don’t understand.  

When you get to the bottom of it, isn’t that what college is all about?

Grace Miller