My freshman year at UC Santa Barbara was one of complete culture shock. In high school, I was part of the goody-two-shoes gang, know-it-all four-eyes who always raised her hand, always had the right answer. So I felt like a brand new person moving into my double room at Santa Cruz residence hall.
With early admission, I lucked into the very best on-campus dorm — the one right next to the beach volleyball pits. I saw college as my opportunity to create an entirely new image. Looks-wise, I fit in well with my long beach-y, bleach-y hair, aqua contact lenses, and cute figure. But inside, I was still very shy and nerdy. I drank a lot, so as not to stand out.
Goal number one: find a boyfriend. Since I never dated anyone at my own high school, I hadn’t learned the rules of playing the field in a closed, gossip-filled environment like the on-campus dorms. So it didn’t take long for me to start making rookie mistakes. I set my sights on the cutest guy, flirted with him at a party, went back to his room and slept with him. There was no date, and no second time. Soon after that, he hooked up with another girl who lived on our floor, and they ended up dating the rest of the year. So I drank some more.
The guys in room 204, Jake and Tim, were epic hosts. Most weekends were an all-day/all-night open house party in their room, starting about 3pm on Thursday afternoon. They kept the Beastie Boys on repeat, bongos at the ready, and the cheap beer flowing. They convinced us drunker girls to dance topless one time. I never did that again; I felt way too insecure about my flat chest.
Everyone knew my roommate, Stacey, was a virgin. She studied opera, but we had some things in common: She was valedictorian of her senior class in high school, and I had the highest SAT scores at mine. We both loved Depeche Mode and would plink out the song, “Just Can’t Get Enough” on her little electronic keyboard. Every Saturday morning, though, she would wake up at 8am and start practicing her arias. So I started sleeping over at room 204 from time to time.
One morning I woke up naked in Jake’s bed. He wasn’t in it. I scrambled to find my bra, underwear, shorts, and crop top. Reaching down to the floor from his top bunk made my head spin. I took a breath, and the previous night’s events came flooding back.
I’d drunk way too much the night before. The last thing I remember was taking a little nap in the room next door from 204. The guys who lived there were friends of Jake and Tim. People came in and out, smoked pot, chatted, and laughed at me all passed out. At one point, Jake came in and told the guy whose bed I was in, “Make sure she doesn’t leave. She’s mine tonight.”
My reaction to this was very odd. I felt simultaneously terrified and honored. I knew I was in no state to consent; but of course, that concept was not widely discussed in 1987. I honestly just felt like I owed Jake something, for all the kegs he bought and all the times he let me sleep over.
So although I could have gotten up and walked down the hall back to my own room, I waited obediently. I didn’t tell whoever that guy was, who was watching over me: “No way. I’m not staying here.” So, yeah. I woke up in Jake’s bed the next morning, and thought, “This is all my fault. I’m the slut of Santa Cruz dorm.” My internal narrative echoed in the whispers I heard in the corridors and dining hall, for the rest of the year.
As spring quarter of our freshman year came to a close, the dorm’s social committee organized an impromptu little awards ceremony. Everyone got a song dedicated to them, representing something funny or memorable about them. My roommate Stacey got the “Like A Virgin” award. The one they gave me was, “Just Can’t Get Enough.” I pretended not to be insulted, and held my head high as I carried my award to the edge of the beach, where I sat alone.