The Two Year Itch: 1997-1999

Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time considering my next move. Three cities are in the running, including the incumbent Brooklyn. If I stay here, I will likely stay in my unicorn apartment – roomy rent controlled 1BR – for what would be a third year. And this apartment would have the honor of housing my longest tenure this side of adulthood. Other than the house I grew up in, I have not spent more than 2 years (give or take 2 months) in any one place. It feels right to be considering a move at this time in my life, but I do wonder if a part of my decision is informed by the real estate wanderlust I’ve unwittingly acted out thus far. At a shade younger than 32, I certainly didn’t think some form of permanence would seem like a far off concept. But here I am, ready to jump yet again. Hopefully not into another 4th floor walkup.

September 1997-June 1999
1820 Sheridan Road #407; #312

Technically it’s 2 different rooms in one dorm, but that’s splitting hairs. I went to Northwestern, and I felt special for getting in. I was not alone. Someone came up to me and asked me how I got in. It was shock, not awe. And I guess the other meaning of “special” is what they meant – because I wasn’t in honors math and science, clearly I was a moron. Nevertheless, I was determined to make the most out of my college experience, and determined to get the hell on that plane and move already. When I toured the school as a prospective student, I learned about Residential Colleges. Not dorms, no! But accommodations with a purpose, a unifying theme or tenet shared by its inhabitants and the faculty advisor. I fell in love with Jones, the Fine and Performing Arts res coll. Any building with a dark room was a friend of mine. Even better, I had to write an essay as to why I belonged there. I excel at essays wherein I must single myself out as a complete freak. I am more honest in writing. It worked, and this time no one asked me why I got in. The chubby photo editor wearing a Death T-shirt gets a pass on having to explain voluntary exile. And so I moved to Jones. I was placed on the 4th floor, away from the actors but close to the academics – the freaks among the freaks. The RA’s door was covered by a THIS IS HARDCORE poster. (An album I bought used at the now closed Dr. Wax in Evanston years later.) Jones was the first time I felt the communal joy in finding others Just Like You. A little part of me felt as if I was betraying my inner loner. But most of me was happy to stay up late at night talking Kids in the Hall during thundersnow.

The honeymoon lasted until the first week of sophomore year, when the specialness of the incoming freshmen became unbearable. It’s always a bit shocking to have your flaws thrown back in your face from across the hall – little mirror images running amok. Freshmen were just so…young. As sophomores, we were wiser, having declared our majors and our allegiances and come through the mess of early identity politics with a sense of self in tact – for the moment. And identity politics seem to fall along sexuality first, then everything else. Which is why when I decided to figure out what I wanted to be before who I wanted to be (believing that the former will always supersede the latter), I effectively signed my “do not fuck” warrant. I went on to have zero sex in college, but I made a film about art and murder. Sophomore year in Jones was a return of the outcast. When I wore that same Death T-shirt on moving in day, my hair dyed freshly Black Cherry, I was saddled with the nickname Goth Girl, or G-Squared. I would have been proud of it in high school, but college was when I was supposed to emerge out of my doom chrysalis an artist. I wanted so badly to fit in one niche and when I let it define me, I was pissed off. Instead of getting to know people – and effectively reach through the persona – I shut down a bit. In struggling against the persona, I allowed it to become me. There were moments that I believed things could be different, that I wouldn’t be stuck in that shell forever. Like when a freshman boy told me I looked cute in a freshly blue-painted stairwell during a theatre party. He was an actor, who like all actors, once had a bit part in Law and Order. I remember seeing him in an episode, not placing him at first, but recognizing a tugging sense of disappointment that came with a lot of early college memories. The actor was – of course, dating someone prettier. Too often the disappointment was something I held on to, like I held on to the gold thrift-store blouse and pigtails I wore that night. I was scared and I wanted more.

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