Friday, August 1, 2014

Frat Boy: Chrissie - Part 1

There’s nothing more intimidating to a freshman boy than a senior girl.

I remember coming to campus my freshmen year and just being in awe of these woman. Part of it was the way they looked and the way they dressed but most of it had to do with the poise in which they carried themselves and walked around campus.

I usually don’t have issues talking to girls. Most of my friends are women, but walking onto campus, I had no idea whatsoever how to interact with these seniors, which is one reason why my friendship with Chrissie was so remarkable.

Chrissie was in color guard. Those are the people that wave big flags during marching band shows. Like the other senior girls I met through marching band and SAI, she walked around campus with an ease and confidence that I envied, but there was something more approachable about her. That feeling probably had to do with the fact that she’s the one who first approached me.

We both lived in the Plex and I would often see her at meals in the cafeteria we called Saga (I’ll go into the whole craziness that was eating with the NUMB-Mu-Alpha-Iota Magnum tables later). One day she just started talking to me. It was one of those conversations where one person talks a lot while the other person responds with one-word answers that keep the conversation going.

Chrissie quickly found out that we had some things in common besides the fact that we lived in the same dorm. We both liked comic books. This was a time that geek culture was just starting to become mainstream so when this came up someone at the table made a derogatory comment about comic books. Then Chrissie lowered her chin and opened up a can.

Chrissie didn’t take crap from anyone. She always had a response, had a death stare at the ready and could drop an insult that could put someone in his or her place as easily as breathing. But she wasn’t mean. She just didn’t like it when people disrespected others for no reason. She was the first person to laugh at a humorous jab at someone else’s expense but she was also the first person to jump in if a line was crossed.

As our friendship grew, I started talking more, while Chrissie continued to talk a lot. She had a parent who was on disability and there was a lot less money in her family than her. My parents paid my way through Northwestern. Her parents did not. She had to work to pay tuition sometimes at work-study jobs at the university and other times at places like Burger King.

When I came to Northwestern University I assumed most people there had families that could afford to send their kids there. There are a large percentage of folks on campus who are in this situation, but there are also a lot of students who take out student loans and work their entire time they are in college.

I didn’t have a sense of this my freshmen year and I assumed everyone was like me financially, because no one seemed to talk about this stuff except for Chrissie. It’s not like she was whining, but this kind of stuff was on her mind.

Chrissie knew how different our families were but it didn’t matter to her. There was no guilt she laid on me because of my level of privilege. We were born into different families and at the end of the day, what was most important to Chrissie wasn’t the circumstances that you were born into but the way you handled whatever crap came to you because of it.

I had a myriad of things to complain about freshmen year. I’m sure that Chrissie had heard it all before but she always validated my complaints, as ridiculous as they were in retrospect.

That was what we built our friendship on. We were very different in many ways, but we were there for each other. We made each other feel like what we were both going through in our lives mattered. For a new freshmen trying to his way and for a senior staring down the reality of life after graduation, what we were for each other as friends, could not have meant more.

As much as we supported each other there were things that were difficult for me to understand and it was joining PMA and Chrissie joining SAI that led me to question my friend . . . 

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