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.


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!


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...


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


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:


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!


One Heartfelt Tribute

Allow me to deviate for a moment from our regularly scheduled programming of embarrassing stories and general ridiculousness to pay a tribute to a woman  whose death has caused me a surprising amount of grief: the inimitable Whitney Houston. Despite what some might call a mild obsession with celebrity culture, I’ve never before felt truly upset upon learning some famous person had passed away. But last night, hearing that Whitney had died, I was absolutely struck to the core. Some of my greatest memories are set to a Whitney Houston soundtrack.

My friend Nichole had Whitney’s Greatest Hits album, this massive, amazing 2-disc collection featuring all of her standards from I Wanna Dance With Somebody through her jaw-dropping rendition of The Star Spangled Banner which, truly, is the way the song is meant to be sung. Trapped at Fort McHenry, Francis Scott Key dreamed of a day when his words would be belted with pitch-perfect harmony and sheer joy by a gorgeous woman rocking a bandanna headband and patriotic red-white-and-blue track suit. God, what a diva.


We used to listen to that album over and over, singing our favorite songs, screeching them, really, so off-key but endlessly enthusiastic. We especially loved How Will I Know and, of course, I Will Always Love You. I remember one summer at soccer camp in Penn State, a group of us, probably 15, jumping up and down on one of the skinny hotel-issue beds in our dorm just shouting that song at the top of our lungs, drawing out the “IIIIIIIEEEEIIIII” as long as we could until one of our older teammates stormed in to shut us up - the rest of the team was trying to nap. Years later Nicole got married, the first of our group of girlfriends to get hitched and when the DJ played our song we huddled together in the middle of the dance floor, swaying and shouting until we all but cleared the room. Apparently the rest of the wedding guests didn’t find us as charming as we did?

Totally coincidentally, yesterday was Nichole’s little boy’s first birthday. Another of the million reasons why she’ll always come to mind when I hear a Whitney song.

Whitney followed me to college, too. My friend Paul adored Whitney and under his tutelage we spent night after night, first in dorm rooms then in bars and eventually at Paul’s own wedding (yes, this wedding) having massive 15-20-30 person dance parties with that song on repeat, some of us taking the main parts - “Don’t you wanna dance, say you wanna dance, don’t you wanna dance” - others chiming in on the background beats: “Dance.”  Paul always went for the high notes, chiming in on “Don’t you wanna feel the HEAT with somebody?”

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eH3giaIzONA] Such a beautiful talent, a life cut much too short.  Because we are who we are here at One Awkward Year, let’s mourn her passing with a moment of joy and bask in the absolute ridiculousness of late 80’s fashion and music video styling:


Work that ladder, girl!

Thanks for being a part of so many beautiful memories, Whitney. Rest in Peace.