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Column: Rules for dealing with parents

The women of Room 302 have a rule.

Whenever a mom calls, they survey the closet. If the tightest top has been taken, if the flip-flops are floored and the wedge heels are out walking, they know what to do. "I'm sorry,"a roommate says sweetly.

"Your daughter's not here. She's studying in the library." Then she hangs up, kicking the discarded Tevas into the corner.

"I don't want to lie," says the said daughter later, "I just don't think my parents are ready for my life. I mean, what am I supposed to say--sorry Mom, I was out blowing my boyfriend?" She licks the lip-gloss off her lips and smiles. "I don't think so."

Starting today, parents are flooding our college bubble. They want to know how we're doing, what we're studying, our friends and our activities. And while parents' inquiries are wholehearted, we know they're half-full as well. After all, there are some things a parent just doesn't want to know.

"That's not true," my mother's voice crackles over the cell. "I'm interested in your life. I'd just rather not hear about the parts that belong in Playboy, okay?" Point taken. But at least my mother admits that maybe, just maybe, the parts of my life that belong in a Maxim really do exist. Some parents can't.

"Tell me about it," groans a friend over coffee. "I am so hung over, and I was supposed to meet Mom for breakfast. I told her I had to write a paper." Fishing for Tylenol, I notice picture of her doing keg stands has vanished from the wall. "If my father sees it," she warns, "he'll stop paying my tuition!"

"That's right," said my dad, looking up from his drafting table. "I'm not paying Duke for you to learn how to get a hangover. If you were learning how to drink without getting a hangover, that might be worth my money!"

And even though I laughed, I figured he was right. In the long run, Intro to Western Art and Beginning Biology are just a small part of the Duke experience. Building our lives through relationships, social events, midnight conversations and tough decisions is really where the education comes in. And maybe our parents need to know some of what we're learning. I climbed the stairs to 302 and found one roomie home, pulling on her tightest top and wedge heels. When I told her my new philosophy, she pointed to a picture on her wall. In it, a young woman sits on the hood of a Chevy, smoking a joint. "That's my mom," she proclaimed before popping a mint. "I think our parents know exactly what we're doing. I think they did the exact same things when they were in college. It's not that we're so scandalous and different from them that's the problem. It's the sameness that scares them."

She was about to leave when the phone rang. "Can you get that?" she asked as she flew out the door. It was her father. "Do you know where she is?" he asked. "I'm sorry," I answered sweetly, gazing at the old photo on the wall. "Your daughter's not here right now. She's studying in the library."

And then I hung up.

Faran Krentcil is a Trinity senior and senior editor of Recess. Her column appears every other Friday.

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