Welcome to The Dorkyard, Bitch

In this week's 'Holy Shit, I'm Getting Old' news, apparently the television masterpiece The O.C. premiered ten long years ago, making it a full decade since we first heard the phrase: "Welcome to the O.C, bitch!" This fact kind of blows my mind. Where does the time go?!

We already know I had a deep, abiding love for all things Newport Beach (fake engagement to Adam Brody, anyone?) and it turns out I'm not alone. The internet is abuzz with tributes to the show, from The Daily Beast to Grantland to HuffPo...Vulture is even running a full week of O.C. themed coverage. I try not to get too wrapped up in nostalgia, but I can't help getting caught up in the enthusiasm this time.

You see, this show actually holds a deep and special place in my memories. When The O.C. premiered in the summer of 2003 I was in their prime target audience: I'd just graduated from high school and had nothing but time on my hands and a deep interest in all things teen melodrama. The show aired just enough episodes before school started back up to get viewers hooked and upon arrival at college, it quickly became a sort of ice breaker with the girls on my dorm floor.

"Do you watch The O.C.?" someone shyly asked over getting-to-know-you games in the building lobby.

"Oh I do!" I chimed. "Me too!" said another pal. One of the gals invited us all into her room later that night to watch and et voila: a lifelong friendship was born.

We watched every episode together that year, crowding together on the tiny dorm beds or the floor with the neon pillows and blankets that were de rigeur of collegiate interior decor of the day.  I still maintain that the first half of the first season of The. O.C.  is one of the greatest pieces of art ever created. The rest of Season One and some of Season Two are still top notch, before shit really got cray (RIP Marissa!!) but oh, the beginning of that first season, before Oliver came onto the scene, and life was all bagels and Chrismukkah and Captain Oats and Ryan/Marissa sexual tension, damn, you guys, that was some great TV. And not even 'guilty pleasure' watching, either. Just solid, humorous, dramatic, just soapy enough, good TV. 

And whether it was trash or gold, it was a cornerstone of my friendship with my very first college girlfriends, a group which collectively came to be known as "The Dorkyard." Because, you guessed it, we were dorks. And prouddd of it. We were a group of A+ goodie two shoes who all voluntarily lived in the substance free dorms freshman year. We spent most of our weekend nights watching corny TV movies, eating junk food, going to the movies or Barnes & Noble together and loved every second of it. Time has passed and a lot of us have grown up, changed and moved on but I still hold these women in a special place in my heart and consider our years together in The Dorkyard to be some of the most formative and important in my life.

And The O.C. was there through it all.

Allow me to visually illustrate my story here.

After Freshman Year we all parted ways for the summer and came back the following September equally excited to see one another...and the new Season of The. O.C. To celebrate the premier of Season 2 we had a themed viewing party...complete with costumes and virgin cocktails because, well, we're the weirdest.

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Here we are in all of our glory. Clockwise from top left we have Summer Roberts, Kirsten Cohen (me in my blonde days! woof!), Marissa Cooper, Julie Cooper and Anna Stern. You'll note that we're missing some very key characters, namely Seth and Sandy Cohen and Ryan Atwood but, well, it's just not that easy to convince boys to dress up like O.C. characters. Or so I'll have to assume. I'm sure it doesn't take a detective to realize that we didn't really hang out with a lot of boys at this period in our lives.

Who need's 'em! Let's look at more pictures!

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Here we have frenemies Kirsten Cohen and deliciously evil Julie Cooper snarking it up. That drink in my hand is a foreshadowing of Kirsten's upcoming alcoholic spiral, one of the show's low points. Kirsten Cohen will forever be my role model and life hero. I love that women. That said, huge soft spot for old Julie Coops, too. Bad girls are so much more fun.

I just had a memory! I went to an LGBT support meeting in college one time and we all had to go around the room and say our favorite quote from a book or movie or TV and ALL I could think of was a recent episode of The O.C. when Julie seduced Marissa's ex boyfriend Luke and she shows up at his door and says, really dramatically: "Luke, this is a booty call." And so I said that as my favorite quote. WHY! I don't even remember why I thought that was funny AT ALL, I just did. And everyone looked at me like, why are you the weirdest person ON EARTH and proceeded to rattle off inspirational nonsense from like, Shakespeare and Toni Morrison and Shawshank Redemption and all I can come up with is some weird quote about booty calls from a teenage soap opera. Whyyyyyyy!

I never went to another meeting of that club again. I could have made such huge inroads in gay rights by now but I was too embarrassed by how weird I'd been and quit the club. Whomp.

Never not losing the point of the story, am I?

Moving along...

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Romantic rivals Summer and Anna. Who will Seth Cohen pick? The comic book cutie or the unattainable girl of his dreams?!

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And ONCE AGAIN, Marissa Cooper is passed out drunk on the lawn. Will Ryan come to her rescue? Will she finally get her act together and lay off the sauce? Or will she continue on a path of bad decisions (both chemical and romantic), shoot her boyfriend's ex-con brother and eventually die in a fiery car crash, hunky Ryan sobbing over her dead body, while 'Hallelujah' plays in the background?

Ummmmm spoiler alert:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKYuUzkPHLA]

Oh what a show.

Yes, it ran wildly off the rails and do not get me started on the whole final season where Summer is like, a trustafarian wierdo at Brown and Ryan's in a coma and hallucinating  and what have you, but those first few years, dang they were something special. As were the nights with my college pals -whether we were snuggled up in bed or prancing around dressed as our favorite characters. Memories of the two are linked in my mind as some of the best days of my life.

Did you nerds watch The O.C.? Or do you have any shows/movies/books/albums/etc that are inexorably linked with a particular time and place in your life? I'm always so fascinated by that sort of multi-pronged sensory memory, how for me, hearing a certain Joseph Arthur song (oh those hip soundtracks) or or the word Tijuana ("It's 'tia-huannnnna,' mom, god you are so white") can ship me right back to the early days of college, to the Dorkyard. I'd love to hear what works that way for you!

Aaaand thus concludes my contribution to The O.C.: Ten Years Later archives and, unsurprisingly, it turned out to be a lot less about the show than it was about ME. Shows may come and go but some things never change.

California, here we come!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i9cCMr1nYcA]

One (Slightly) Awkward Reunion

Oh god, ouch. You guyyys! I have to tell you about my college reunion! The other weekend I was down in Baltimore celebrating 5 years since graduation and now, approximately 216 hours later (but who’s counting?) (yes, I used a calculator) my hangover seems officially, finally gone. College is over, folks, and as I draw rapidly closer to legal subscription to AARP: The Magazine it has become all too apparent that I can no longer hang. Not that I ever could hang all that much, if we’re being completely honest with ourselves. Maybe some of us were never meant to hang, maybe we were built to stay in, eat oreos and debate the pros & cons of various American Girl Dolls (Samantha = snobby, but gorgeous hair & pinnafores, Molly = spunky & spirited but who wants glasses?) before tucking in for a decent 10 PM bedtime. The reunion bled into a crazybusy work week - Book Expo America, the largest annual publishing conference in the Western Hemisphere (toootally made that up) was in NYC all last week. I won’t bore you with the details but to give you a sense of what we were dealing with, I’ll quote 2011 presenter and one of my good personal friends Mindy Kaling: “There’s more tote bags here than in Terry Gross’s attic...It actually looks like a high-school reunion where all the jocks died in a plane crash on the way to regionals, and the plane crash killed all the minorities too."

So yeah, that was exhausting. And just to prove how very little I have changed since leaving college, the only industry #swag I took home from the conference was a stack of flyers from the American Girl Corporation teasing the release of their newest historical doll, Caroline. They have yet to reveal any deets but girl needs to work if she wants to be anywhere close to Felicity or Kirsten (pronounced Keer-sten!) level amazingness.

I need so much help.

Anyway! The reunion! I don’t know how to say this without bragging so I’m just going to come out with it: I am extremely popular. So SO many of my former classmates revealed themselves as fans of my esteemed writing, I am a major internet celebrity. We’re talking like, Charlie Bit My Finger...that kid who questions life after getting gassed by the dentist...One Awkward Year. That’s it. That’s all you need to know about the internet and the world. Done and done.

I am only slightly exaggerating! People really did approach me from all angles --ALL ANGLES! -- and confess to reading the blog, despite having limited contact since college and I obviously loved every goddamn second of it. Everyone kept saying “oh! I’m sure this reunion will make for an awkward blog!” (so demanding, my fans are) and it did, kind of, but not in the ways I thought it would. There were some run-ins with old foes, I guess, and some small talk and a lot lot LOT of that thing where you see someone and don’t know if you should like, hug them or air-kiss or high five or whatever so you kind of just like, half wrap your arm around one side of their body and pat them on the upper back while trying not to spill the giant gin & tonic you’re holding in your other hand, but for the most part, the awkwardness came not from catching up with long-lost acquaintances but from trying to suppress just how much I’ve been keeping tabs on said acquaintances in the past five years.

I know a billion words have been written on The Facebook and its role in the socializing of the youth or whatever, I don’t really read much not about celebrities and/or food, and as a member of the social media generation, I have no idea what reunions were like before the interwebz took over our lives. All I know is that I walked into a room of people I hadn’t seen in half a decade and I knew every. single. thing. they’d allll been up to. Everything! I knew who got married, who got fat, who got thin, who came out, and who questionably still wasn’t out but like, come on, dude, really? I knew it ALL!

Every conversation was a struggle for me not to reveal how truly creepy I am. “I like your hair that length!” was totally a cover for:  “I like your hair that length! So glad you got rid of the bangs. Remember how badly the reacted in the humidity when you took that trip to Puerto Rico for your parents’ 30th wedding anniversary? The one you went to right before your sister had her baby! He is so cute, by the way! I love the name Jack too, though it’s getting a little trendy, but at least it’s not Aiden, am I right? How’s your boyfriend? How many tattoos does he have, like 12? Is he enjoying his new job, at the courthouse? How do I know what he does for a living? Oh, because I’m a terrifying stalker, bye!”

It was so hard to play it cool! But I’m so clearly not the only one. So many people admitted to the same behavior. But instead of feeling solidarity with them, I mostly denied my true nature. Sometimes, especially after someone would out themselves as a fan of the blog, I would pretend to have no idea what they were up to so as to appear cool and aloof and above it all which: haha nope! Sorry, just kidding, I know everything and thanks for reading!

I actually only had one particularly awkward moment related to this cultural phenomenon, in the ladies room during the Dinner Dance/Late Night portion of the evening (there was a martini bar involved, god I love you, LoCo) when I asked a mild acquaintance about her little girl and she asked “How did you know I had a daughter?” and I replied “Ummmm, read it on the internet.” And then her friend, possibly even best friend, a girl who perennially wears magenta bandage dresses and has Barbie bangs announced to the entire room (bathroom!) that her friend’s baby was unplanned and reminded us all to take our birth control. Calling out your bestie on her illegitimate child in the middle of the college reunion? Ouch, way harsh, Tai.

  But that was it! I Went To My Five Year Reunion And All I Got Was This Lousy Story About Facebook Stalking and Bathroom Conversations. I truly, truly wish that I could have had better stories for you, especially those fellow graduates who revealed themselves as fans...and fellow creeps. Would that I could have fallen on the dance floor (again!) or accidentally made out with a former professor or pooped my dress or just, something, anything at all. Alas, I kept it classy.

I suppose there is always the Ten Year! See you there, friends. I promise to cause a scene!

 

And now, because I am vain and I read somewhere that people like blogs with pictures, here are some choice photos from the weekend. I’m so demure!

We have to go back, Kate! We have to go back!