Arc of Some Skivers

In the fall of 1985, my mom dropped me off near the little town in Minnesota where I would be starting college.

Fortunately, my aunt and uncle lived at the spot where she stopped the car, so it wasn’t like I was left trying to hitch a ride to campus or anything. Mom had a meeting back in Montana the week my college experience commenced; thus, she dumped me on my aunt and uncle a little early with instructions to “ditch the girl at the dorm next to the smelly ponds sometime next week. Oh, and here are her sheets, size Extra Long.”

They heeded her words, and a week later, Sheets and I were deposited at an imposing cinderblock structure on an otherwise bucolic campus. After the goodbyes, I felt as many freshmen do: a little excited; a little bewildered; a whole lot lonely. I tried to act confident and cool as I blasted my cassettes of Howard Jones (“OOOOH, what’s love got to do, got to do with it?”) and bought new highlighters, accoutrements which would, I hoped, help me decipher my HISTORY OF EARLY MODERN EUROPE textbook. Who was this Balzac, I wondered, and would covering his life story with bright yellow marker make it more meaningful?

Essentially, I was bewildered and adrift.

Gradually, though, that business of hanging in there and faking it did pay off. I met some people, and we flirted with each other. Pretty much, they all lived in my dorm. On some levels, they affirmed my feelings of worry and inferiority, for they were Big Smart, well-traveled, and accomplished. In comparison, I felt Just Smart Enough, provincial, and a touch hayseed.

More importantly, however, they affirmed my worthiness. They thought I was funny; they invited me to sit under their tapestries and listen to The Replacements; they wanted to go in with me on a late-night Domino’s double cheese pizza. Together we wrote (in highlighter) own new history. They transformed me.

Now, twenty-two years later, these pals from college still rock me like a hurricane. After graduation, everyone cast about for careers, spouses, homes. While we threw our voices into the greater world, this college crowd also continued its common thrum. I was with some of them the first time they got drunk. Later, I was with them when they got married. We’ve carried each other through divorces and the deaths of parents and the joys of babies being born. Damn it if these people haven’t turned out to be found-siblings that only cost our families about $30,000 per year in tuition to discover.

Along the way, there have been times when our closeness has waxed. Then it’s waned. For a few years, I thought some of the relationships were gone, that they’d shriveled beyond repair or care.

Now that I’m forty, though, I sit at the vantage point of a queer maturity: I can see the larger arcs of friendship. It came as a big life lesson to realize that even when a relationship has seemed dead for some time, it can still be revived. What I sometimes thought was belly up had simply gone dormant. With the slightest puff of air, we always resuscitate completely.

Hence, when many of us gathered a couple of months ago to celebrate the birthday of one of our luminaries, it was a true celebration–and not just because there were little hors d’oevres of butternut squash soup served in shot glasses and shrimp tacos and scallop empanadas and free wine and Red Velvet cupcakes and itty spanikopitas.

It was a celebration of longitudinal camaraderie.

And buttercream frosting.



By Jocelyn

There's this game put out by the American Girl company called "300 Wishes"--I really like playing it because then I get to marvel, "Wow, it's like I'm a real live American girl who has 300 wishes, and that doesn't suck, especially compared to being a dead one with none."


  1. Mysterious Forces compelled me to check the blog about five minutes after you posted this . . . no fair making me tear up (and making me look at my own dazed October face) on a Thursday. Love you to little bitty bits.

  2. Maddy–To me, it means a slacker. And we were, in many respects. Lots of expensive classes were skipped. We skivved off.

  3. I have lost touch with a lot of my college buddies, mostly because I’m embarrassed of what an asshole I was back then… erm, still am.

    I mean when you wake up with concentric burn circles on your palm and an entire car door from a friends car in your bunk and your pants are down, there’s ‘splainin’ to do.

    ‘splainin’ is a kick ass made up contraction is starts and ends with apostrophes, totally doesn’t f around

  4. What is it with the extra long sheets??? I was never able to find any, so it’s a good thing my funding fell through and I had to go to the community college instead.

  5. This is very touching.

    I love the photo & comments. You all look like the kind of pals Iā€™d want sticking around for a lifetime.

  6. I went to school in Japan and had a great group of friends like this. Unfortunately, they we’re all East Coast people and I’m a West Coaster and it was just too hard to keep in touch. Plus a couple of them stayed in Japan and the phone bills were just incomprehensible.

    I can totally relate to your feelings of inadequacy too. I kept feeling like an imposter who didn’t belong.

  7. I’m a Navy Brat and skivvies are your underware. Just thought you’ld like to know!

    How amazing that you have managed to keep up with this wonderful group of friends. Keep holding them tight!

    Susan at A Slice of Life

  8. Ha ha! I sent a Christmas card tonight to my high school boyfriend’s parents and I was thinking about how I still own the top EXTRA LONG sheet from college, because my sheets amd matching towels were a graduation gift from them – 28 YEARS AGO! I think it’s so great (and so Big Chill) of you guys to still be friends and get together.

  9. One of the things I really love about you, Jocelyn, is that you truly understand and appreciate the value of things.


  10. Hmm, ‘larger arcs of friendships’ there is a certain comfort in very long term friendships that you have captured beautifully.

    Skiving is a very worthy past-time, which can, through years of practice, be translated into a full time job.

  11. high school was a painful experience and i could not wait to get to college and put it all behind me. college was heaven. and like you, i found friendships that have endured and even after time and distance are resurrected with the slightest effort.

    here’s to skivvers and buttercream frosting!

  12. It is possible that you are confusing Howard Jones, “What IS Love Anyway?” with Tina (Rest in Hell Ike) Turner, “What’s Love Got to Do with It?”

    Not possible?

    I like the girl with the gnome.


  13. Yea, IJim, like I told you through email, you are ever my fact checker, catching me when I’ve been rushed to get a post up and haven’t done a proper check myself.

    I will hire you and pay you in molasses cookies, okay?

  14. What a lovely tribute to your friends.

    Sadly, I let all of my college friendships slip away, but for one, which I know will be lifelong. I wish I had worked harder.

  15. I’m a bit choked up after reading that….last Christmas I had a similar gathering with some of my old (and now far-flung) friends from High School – even people I hadn’t seen since we graduated were still comfortable friends, it was wonderful.

  16. I wish I could be your friend too, for reals.

    Also? I wish I had a group of people in my life like this. I just don’t, and probably never will, and that saddens me.

  17. I have a few friends from back in my college days, but not like that — for many of the same reasons as Furious. Too much of a jerk back then.

  18. Knowing those delicious little bits of info about people is sometimes better than an entire life’s narrative… it means you are really paying attention.

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