Starter for Ten has got to be one of my favourite books. For anyone who hasn’t read it, it’s about an English Literature student’s first year at University and all the embarrassing mistakes he makes. For those who have seen the film and not read the book, THE BOOK IS SO MUCH BETTER.
I read it the summer before my first year at University, thinking it would make me a little wiser on what I was about to spend the next four years of my life doing. Before I read the book, I had some pretty idealistic imaginings about what University would be like. I saw myself in a big Hogwarts courtyard, sitting under an oak tree, reading and understanding big, dusty books, before going out with all my new friends, perhaps staying up all night, discussing Life, the Universe, and Everything, and maybe even smoking. I also thought my fashion sense would magically transform.
And so, for those who’ve read Starter for Ten, you can perhaps imagine my bemusement at the University life it portrays – it wasn’t what I imagined at all. Straight A student, Brian, leaves his home in high spirits, but when he turns up at his new flat, his expectations don’t really meet reality. His flat-mates are douches, he tries to be someone he’s not, befriends the wrong people, loses interest in his course, and is caught between his life at University and his life at home. He generally passes his days in a guilt-ridden, hungover, and self-loathing state. Sounds pretty depressing, right? But I really enjoyed it. After reading it for the first time I thought, ‘Huh, quite a good book’, but during my first few months at University, I read it over and over and over and over again and thought it was absolutely HILARIOUS. I was also comforted in the knowledge that there are other blundering idiots like me out there (yes, I think characters are real people).
When I finally got to University, I felt as though it swallowed me up. The first night of Freshers, one of my flat-mates came in and asked me to do up her bra. I think I managed to contain my shock quite well (WHAT. She wants me to do up her bra? I’m not ready for this!!!!) with an air of nonchalance and a casual ‘yeah, sure…’. But this thing had about 10 hooks on it – I didn’t even know bras like that existed – and it took me a LIFETIME to do up. I didn’t even manage to do it up properly…just sort of hooked the first and last hook and left the others open. I was in a state of panic and just wanted that half-naked girl, who was obviously a lot cooler and worldly than me, out of my room.
That was the first flat-mate I socially alienated myself from.
Any student has probably met people who have said that they get on really well with their flat-mates, but there’s one who keeps to themselves. I was that flat mate. Seriously, I was pathetic. I would only go into the kitchen when I was sure there was no one in there, I spent the majority of my freshers nights in, eating jam roly poly and when I did go out, I made a complete fool of myself.
One night at the union, I got dragged into a game of Never have I Ever, which I thought would be quite fun…but after two rounds in, I was pretty sure I was the only virgin there. ‘Never have I ever had sex in a shower’, ‘Never have I ever had sex in a kitchen’, ‘Never have I ever had sex in a pool’…I hadn’t even touched my drink and so vowed that the next one, no matter what it was, I would drink to. ‘Never have I ever had sex in a field’…
I drank. Not truly comprehending what I was drinking to.
‘What?!’, they all said. ‘You’ve had sex in a field?!’
I froze, a silly, drunken rabbit caught in the glare of incredulous, self-sussed students, thinking my plan to fit in probably wasn’t the best, but then I shrugged my shoulders and said, ‘Erm…I’m from the country…?’
AND THEY LAUGHED AND I FELT LIKE I BELONGED.
But the next day when I woke up, my mouth feeling like a camel’s armpit and my head thumping, I could vaguely remember other people from my halls playing the game. And I didn’t remember them drinking much. They were obviously fine with the fact that they were still virgins and now, here I was, the slut in halls who had once had sex in a field.
That was my first attempt at fitting in.
The next few weeks passed in a haze of staying up late (most likely watching t.v. programmes), missing lectures, procrastinating, hiding from the kitchen, and fearing that I would have to down the King’s Pint in the next game of A Ring of Fire. Basically, like Brian, I passed my days in a guilt-ridden, hungover, and self-loathing state. Also, for the first time since I was about four, I found myself thinking that I wanted my mummy.
But again, like Brian, I survived first year and now here I am, half way through third year. I mean, I’m still non the wiser, but I’ve at least stopped lying and bought a bra with more than two hooks – this one has FOUR!