Snog anyone who might end up famous (and other useful tips for college)
To survive college, stay away from student politics, be sure to be gay for a while, and make sure to get good at lying about stuff you haven’t read
The myth of all-nighters: Never, ever try to pull a study all-nighter – they never work. Photograph: Thinkstock
1 Snog anyone you think might end up famous
The most important thing you will leave university with is stories not scrolls. If you meet anyone you think might become famous in a few years it’s very important that you kiss him or her as soon as possible. Chris O’Dowd was in the year above me. He was charm itself, like a younger, hairier Bill Clinton. He didn’t fancy me, I didn’t really fancy him, but I knew he was going to be famous. Every time I see his bearded little face on my screen I regret not just launching myself on top of him all those years ago. Would he have been horrified? Yes, but what a tale I would have had. So, kiss everyone. Just to be on the safe side. No one cares.
2 Self-loathing is boring
In one’s late teens and early 20s it’s very easy to mistake hating oneself with being interesting. Sure, it seems fun to appear broken and damaged like a young Edie Sedgwick, or doomed and misunderstood like a young Gabriel Byrne, but both usually involve vomiting in someone’s bin at a house party. It is a very played-out look. Everyone hates themselves at that age so stand out from the crowd by trying to be nice and kind to yourself instead. Live every day like Oprah Winfrey can see everything you do. You’ll save a fortune in therapy later.
3 Don’t get into student politics
Student politics is the socially acceptable version of Dungeons and Dragons; it makes absolutely no difference in the real world, nobody outside either bubble cares, and it guarantees you won’t have sex until you’re at least 25. If you really want to spend four years arguing with strangers about campus lighting save yourself the time and just start shouting at lampposts. It will be less socially embarrassing.
4 Be gay – for a while
It’s very important to be gay for some or all of your college experience. You don’t want to be that weird boring person who was never even gay for a little bit; they always end up voting Fine Gael and that’s just sad. Worst of all are the people who leave being gay until later life, when all the fun is gone and it’s all Fiona Shaw touring one-woman plays and shopping at Whole Foods. So definitely be gay for a little bit.
5 All-nighters are a myth
Never, ever try to pull a study all-nighter – they never work. You spend all your energy telling people you’re going to pull an all-nighter; buying yourself chocolate and Red Bull for your all-nighter; watching YouTube clips to treat yourself because, OMG, you’re pulling an all-nighter; staring into the mirror trying a new eyeliner because you’ve so much time, you’re pulling an ALL-NIGHTER for GOD’S SAKE. By four o’clock you’ve turned into Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind, nothing you’ve written makes any sense, and half an hour later you’re asleep in front of Euro News. You wake up the next day at 2pm surrounded by Kit Kat wrappers and a half written Eurovision song you started while off your tits on Red Bull. You do not make your deadline.
6 Only study something you think will get people to sleep with you at parties
Let’s be honest, most degrees have little to do with the job you’ll eventually be doing in five, let alone 10 years’ time. See them less as precise co-ordinates for the way your life is going and more vague directions you’re going to forget half way through. I studied English literature and, try as a might, I have never successfully brought up the role of women in Beowulf in a job interview. I have, however, used it at dinner parties when I want to sound like I’m in a Woody Allen film, and that’s the best one can hope for. Some subjects are sexier than others: English, history of art – good; geography – less so. Nobody ever fell in love with anyone over their knowledge of an ox-bow lake. Before any lecture starts ask yourself, “could I bring this up casually in conversation with Melvyn Bragg?” If the answer is no, leave as quickly as possible, rolling your eyes and sighing heavily.
7 Get other people to read emails that make you feel icky
When it comes to important scary emails go by the Schrödinger’s cat rule. Remember, until you actually open it, it still contains both good and bad news: you have both passed and failed your year, the man is both interested and gently letting me down, the test results are both positive in a figurative and a literal way.
Try to put off opening all icky emails for as long as possible. Wait until it either becomes irrelevant or until one of your friends agrees to read it while you hide, with your fingers in your ears, crouched in another room. Then get them to shout out the gist of it under your locked door. I imagine this is how Schrödinger ended his famous experiment, but then in his defence he did probably have an angry radioactive cat to worry about.
8 Spread rumours about yourself
When you start a new class always be in the process of breaking up with someone. It immediately endears you to everyone and will give you plenty to talk about during those awkward first few weeks. Remember to keep it light and breezy, so no tedious trauma, just the inevitable end of something that was never really going anywhere anyway. Do throw in a few anecdotes about how rubbish they were to speed up bonding, but remember: judge the room, you don’t want to come across as bitter or shrill. Something about a forgotten birthday should be enough to get everybody onside; you’re aiming for feisty and brave, not doomed and broken. If you are actually going out with someone make sure you change the name of your imaginary ex-partner in case they bump into your real one at a later do and everyone is mad at you for getting back with them.
9 Always have a prop
If you find yourself in a situation you know is going to be awkward, bring an attention-grabbing prop. It should provide a distraction from whatever is happening and deflate some of the tension. A small child is good, an attention grabbing hat adequate, or even, if you know it’s really going to be a right old cringer, a bandaged limb that may be broken. Once in my first year, when I knew I was going to bump into someone for the first time after drunkenly making a misjudged move on them, I decided to wear a Christmas wreath on my head for “the laugh” to the student bar. There was nothing whimsical about my headgear; I knew exactly what I was doing. While everyone thought I was being my usual eccentric self I was actually being icily cunning.
I knew when I bumped into my erstwhile beau all attention and conversation would be drawn to the table arrangement precariously balanced on my head and not the events of the night before. Unfortunately he didn’t come into the pub that night so I was left with a crown of fir branches on my head. But, to be honest, by then I was really working the look.
10 Get good at acting surprised around food stains
If you are already half way to class before you realise you have a massive stain down the front of your top, instead of going home to change, just act surprised when anyone points it out to you, as if it has only happened moments before. Practice looking down and appearing surprised. This should convince everyone you are just a messy eater; ergo: probably good in bed, instead of being a lazy slob; ergo: probably not.
11 Only share secrets with self-obsessed people
If you’re desperate to talk about something but scared of word spreading, find your most self-obsessed friend and spill the beans to them. You will get all the release of getting it off your chest with the peace of mind of knowing they will probably never even remember the conversation. It’s the human equivalent of talking to the river. Be careful not to include their name in your story as that might trigger certain synapses in their brain to start working. Bookend it all with questions about them as insurance.
12 Get good at lying about stuff you haven’t read
In a tutorial, if a lecturer catches you on the hop and asks you about a course book you should have read but haven’t, save face by saying it reminds you a lot of another book/film that you have read/seen. Then start talking about that instead.
“Oh yeah, Ulysses. I thought it was so atmospheric, with all those men talking. Leopold Bloom is like Don Draper in a way, you know, like trying to figure his stuff out. God, he really messed things up with Megan and his daughter, she’s going to be him in 20 years’ time. Man, I wish I lived in the 60s, who here likes the 60s? let’s do the hippie hippie shake! Who’s everyone’s favourite Beatle?”
13 Don’t give up!
Just remember that college years are not the best of your life, because no time is. In 10 years’ time you will only vaguely remember 98 per cent of the things that happen. Your dearest friends will be blurry people proudly announcing someone said yes on Facebook, and the whole experience will be like some American TV show you were really into for a while but now you can’t remember which cast members are still alive. Just try your best. Whatever happens always, always remember that if you throw enough shit at a wall, eventually you will get a hand that smells of shit.
And that stench will follow you around for the rest of your life, tainting everything you do, touch and taste with a constant reminder of the time you tried to get shit to stick to some wall. Just like everyone else.
Best of luck kid, you’re going to do great!