Rule Number 1: Never lower your standards.
The people who went to my school were all a bunch of weirdos. I was sitting on a bench outside Carrie Hall, the building that houses the departments of English and Modern Languages, when I decided that I was probably the only student at the entire university with any sense of propriety. There is absolutely no reason to be brushing your teeth as you're standing around outside chatting with a friend. (I hoped to God that kid hadn't, at 4:27pm, just woken up.) There is absolutely no reason to wear pajamas or athletic gear to class. There is also never a good reason to have an annoyingly loud conversation on your cell phone about your plans to visit the nerdy frat tonight—or about how rebellious you feel because it's a Thursday.
I was starting to feel disappointed with the utter lack of acceptable guys at this school; no one was attractive, or cultured, or able to dress himself. Wait, correction— I found one! A forest green blazer, patterned silk scarf, khakis… and Birkenstock Jesus sandals. Damn the Jesus sandals. Honestly I don't know how some people leave the privacy of their homes.
Looking up at the centuries-old brick buildings, uneven cobblestone pathways, and oak-lined gardens, I remembered why I even wasted my time coming here. Prestige, history, academia, blah blah blah. In two more years I was set to graduate and then I could get myself out of this place and back into the real world.
I glanced at my gold watch (gold is coming back in this season) to check how much more time I had before class, and decided that I'd best head in. I shut my little laptop and shoved it into the blood red shoulder tote I just had shipped from Neiman Marcus. I liked the buckles and braiding on the outside, but there was something about the length of the strap that I really just did not like. It fit between my arm and side too awkwardly. Oh well. After class I could go order another one, preferably with a longer strap this time.
My favorite part of Carrie (in fact, the reason I considered it one of my favorite buildings on campus) was the gigantic marble stairway that every student entering must ascend. I felt like Audrey Hepburn—my namesake and ultimate role model—as I slowly glided up each step, balancing my admittedly oversized bag on one side and silencing my cell phone with the other hand so that it would have something to do. If there's one thing I hate more than loud cell phone conversations, it's an awkward hand position.
I smiled inwardly as I climbed the stairs, almost like I was rising to heaven itself as a brand new angel; to the outside world, however, I did not let any inkling of a smirk show or else people might have thought me conceited. If there's one thing I hated more than awkward hand positions, it's the conceited bitch who thinks she owns the world. And if there's anyone I hate more than her, it's Jesus-sandals.
I saw that I'd caught his attention; he was glancing at me as he paused by the door to his classroom— he was pretending to look at the bulletin board, but I may have been a little more interesting perhaps? Just as I was frustrated with the lack of male species in this school, there was also a major dearth of acceptable girls. I liked to consider myself one of few… and I was looking especially acceptable in my velvet pumps and little black dress a la Diane von Furstenberg.
Maybe the Jesus-sandal escapade could be forgiven. Maybe he accidentally stepped in an oil puddle on his way to class, and his friend had extra Jesus-sandals from the hippie granola protest he was just attending. Maybe he was athletic and rode a bicycle to campus—ooh, maybe he was a racer—or a triathloner!—and his shoes were scuffed by his pedal and the only things available were the Jesus-sandals tossed in the trash?
No. A ridiculous idea. No matter how good-looking, well-dressed, funny, polite, or charming a boy is, if there is something about him that does not live up to your expectations, never lower your standards for him. It's never worth it.
I stepped into my class –Brit Lit II– for the first time in the semester. Technically, classes started for the year yesterday, but my Thursday classes only meet twice a week. I assessed the room quickly—nope, no one from my sorority, no friends, no one I knew at all—and decided to sit in the middle of the room, not too close to the front, but not too far in the back.
Jesus-sandals was in my class, and sat a couple seats to my right. The classroom was of average size, and I guessed that a discussion-based class like this one would be around thirty in population. I people-watched until class began, wanting to check out the rest of my classmates as they trickled in. There were a couple of the obvious nerd variety, (more than is usual, I guess because it was an English class?) but most seemed to be the average Plain Jane and Joe Schmo type. You know, the kind who can blend into anything, the kind who all look exactly the same. They wear, I don't know… jeans and polo shirts and scrub their faces clean and have absolutely no sense of originality. They're nice enough, but very uninteresting.
I had just resigned myself to a semester of boredom, besides learning about the exciting publications of 20th century England, when the professor walked briskly into the room, dropping a pile of folders and binders onto the desk at front.
"Greetings, my delightfully bookish class," she sang in a tone a little bit too melodious and peppy for my ears first thing off the bat. She was a plump woman with short, dirty blonde hair and—unless my eyes were deceiving me—earrings in the shapes of minuscule dolphins. "I am Professor Miller, and this is English 305, British Literature II: the glorious year 1800 to the modern day. If this is not the class you are supposed to be attending… well, there's the door!"
A couple people looked around the room nervously, almost hoping that someone had had the misfortune to walk into the incorrect classroom. They longed to bore their eyes into the poor embarrassed student and, even better, ridicule them on their way out. No one stood.
"As you can see," Professor Miller continued, "almost all of the desks are occupied this afternoon. Never has my class been in such high demand!" Her gaze happened to fall upon me, and she shone me the highest watt smile humanly possible. "And returning students! Miss Kensington, Miss Kensington, please, come up to the front of the class and introduce yourself."
My jaw may or may not have dropped in surprise. Slowly I rose and clicked my heels down to the front of the classroom; Professor Miller moved to sit at one of the empty desks. The rest of the students were dead silent, as if sensing my discomfort. This was the most awkward experience ever.
"Uh… hi! My name's Audrey, Audrey Kensington that is, and … as Professor Miller said, I took one of her classes last year—Brit Lit I—umm…" I looked at my professor, pleading for guidance or at least permission to sit down. I'm not usually so tongue-tied in public, but considering that she did not give me any forewarning I don't think myself too gauche right now.
"Tell the class something about yourself, like what you did over the summer or your major or where you are living this year, Audrey," Professor Miller smiled in that kind but evil way.
"Oh, ok," I smiled widely, hopefully winning over the affections or at least tolerance of the classroom. "Over the summer I visited my grandparents in the Hamptons for two months…"
As I began to describe my vacation to the class, a late student sauntered into the room, seemingly unapologetic regarding his tardiness. He slid easily into the seat next to Jesus-sandals and calmly began to unpack his laptop as I spoke, completely disregarding everything I was saying.
Finally he looked at me earnestly for a second—I felt almost like I were being appraised—and he interrupted my introduction.
"Sorry I was late, teach; got caught behind a group of freshmen in orientation," he said languidly, as if he were not actually sorry at all.
I paused in my sentence very clumsily, and unabashedly stared at this kid. Did he honestly think I was the professor? I was a sophomore! The class had immediately burst into laughter—at either his or my expense, I couldn't tell—and I was a veritable deer caught in headlights.
Finally Professor Miller gave up her sadistic ways and came to my rescue. "No, no, no! I am the professor," she laughed, introducing herself and moving back to the front of the room, which is, by the way, where she was supposed to be all along. "Let's go around the room and everyone tell us your name and something of interest."
I breathed a sigh of relief as I retuned to my seat next to Late-boy and Jesus-sandals, whose names, apparently, were Craig and Joshua, respectively. I had half a mind to tell Joshua that his choice in footwear was generally considered unacceptable by all sane standards, but figured that a comment like that might harm the reputation I was building… slightly.
As the juvenile name game moved around the classroom in a large circle, I took the opportunity to study my rowmates. Joshua had short, dark hair (a little bit lighter than mine) and tanned features. He was tall, but Craig might have been taller; it was hard to gauge while sitting. I liked his sense of style, and it was good to finally see some guys who cared about their appearances. The quality of their apparel was obviously very good, if a bit typical Upper East Side, which is the kind I'd been around all my life. Joshua seemed to have a bit of a quirkiness about him (or at least, that's how I explained the travesty of his Jesus-sandals), and some other odd quality that I had yet to figure out.
Craig, on the other hand, seemed like he could be read like a book. His platinum, messy haircut was a bit too long and fell in his face, but it was almost in a teasing manner, as if he were daring some unsuspecting girl (perhaps one of the freshmen on the orientation he'd been stuck behind?) to push aside stray blonde stragglers to become lost in his sea green eyes. Or, in non-romance novel terms: he was hot and he knew it. His skin wasn't dark like a surfer's, but rather that elegant fairness of gentility. He had that air of carelessness that is my absolutely favorite! He wore slacks, a loose t-shirt, and cream sport coat; plus—and here's the clincher—high, haughty cheekbones. There's nothing I enjoy more than a guy who knows he deserves me. If he weren't so damn obnoxiously arrogant, he might have been delicious.
Easily the best-looking non-nerdy guys in the room, Craig and Joshua seemed to have flocked toward me, the only normal girl. It's a little bit sad how, at this school anyway, one of the main factors contributing to normalcy is knowledge of a girl's appearance, but I guess that's probably true everywhere. I was an obvious choice in a seating partner; Craig and Joshua might have been able to discern, along their own methods, that we were cut of the same fabric.