Bateman: How to become a true individual

By Oliver Bateman

If you’re interested in finding yourself, you’ve come to the right place: college. If you’re interested in finding yourself, you’ve come to the right place: college. As your parents, older siblings and various raunchy teen comedies have undoubtedly made clear to you by now, the four-year journey toward the bachelor’s degree offers the perfect opportunity for soul searching, the accumulation of a soul-crushing load of student debt and wild experimentation of all sorts.

But what if you don’t have any interests besides an interest in ensuring that your Madden 2012 dynasty unfolds exactly as planned? What if the only thing you’ve been experimenting with is sleeping in past 4 p.m.? If that’s the case, friend, put down that greasy controller and change those stained sheets. We’re here to take you on a guided tour of the myriad possibilities that life’s rich pageant has to offer.

To start with, why don’t you take a good, hard look in the mirror? Are you happy with the person you see there? Unless you’re nebbishy cutie pie Michael Cera or quirky sitcom starlet Zooey Deschanel, your answer should be a resounding “Of course not!” Yep, seems like you’ve got work to do — and, given your brilliantly assembled schedule of “cake” survey courses and big “blow-off” lecture classes without attendance policies, what better place than college to do it?

So who do you want to be? If you’d like to affect a more conspicuously “indie” or “hipster” style, horn-rimmed “fashion” (i.e., without prescription lenses) glasses and a pair of champagne-colored unisex capris from American Apparel will work wonders. Wannabe “bros” should invest their hard-earned student loan dollars in a baseball cap with an unbent brim and an “officially licensed merchandise” hologram and an Ed Hardy T-shirt that’s tight in the arms and loose around the paunch.

But the proper attire is just a start. If you’re going to walk the walk, you’ll need to figure out how to talk the talk. See, those champagne-colored unisex capris will only carry you so far — they’ll get you through the door of that groovy new coffee shop, but they won’t help you deliver a killer “slam” poem once you’re in there. No, if you’re looking to launch a completely unprofitable hobby in creative writing, you’ll need to start hitting the books.

Don’t fret, though — hitting the books doesn’t mean you’ll actually have to read the books. You’ll just need to get copies of whatever books seem “with it” and “avant-garde” and carry them around with you at all times. “Gravity’s Rainbow” by Thomas Pynchon and “Infinite Jest” by David Foster Wallace are both good bets, since they’re the kind of inscrutable tomes that almost nobody has the patience to read and fewer still have the insight to understand. Acquire these two heavyweights after reading a couple of author interviews and some online summaries, slip them into your messenger bag alongside your coated-cardboard Moleskine and prepare to start impressing the other coffee shop habitués with the sort of knowledge you can’t obtain in the classroom (not that you’d ever know, given your uncanny ability to enroll in courses that don’t have attendance policies).

Aspiring bros won’t need to immerse themselves in highbrow literature, but they can’t just kick back in their unwashed hoodies, either: The suite of skills required for successful bro-hood is diverse and ever-expanding. From scoring an impressive “head shot” kill in a game of Call of Duty to crafting an unbeatable fantasy football lineup at a moment’s notice using only waiver wire leftovers like Peyton “Overrated” Hillis, an expert bro must be able to do it all. And he’s got to do it while mastering some of the toughest physical challenges outside of decathlon training, such as performing “strict” biceps curls, neatly trimming the chin beard grown to mask the increasingly bloated quality of his face and subsisting almost exclusively on a hardgainer’s diet of malt liquor 40s and $5 pizza pies.

Of course, these two attractive options might not float everybody’s boat, particularly for folks of a more political bent. Fortunately, college offers aspiring legislators a chance to experiment with the coolest political philosophy of all: libertarianism. Sure, libertarianism boasts an entire complicated intellectual foundation you could waste years familiarizing yourself with, but who has the time now that ABC has rolled out its impressive fall lineup? Suffice it to say that libertarianism is a belief system that’s totally 420-friendly and opposed to any sort of mandatory drinking age. Since those out-of-touch blue suits in Washington are too busy porking it up with their pot-belly bills and tax increases to address the two biggest problems faced by lazy 19-year-olds, why not seize the libertarian mantle and throw your vote away for Ron Paul, M.D.? That kindly old man’s got plenty of other things to say about wars, abortion rights and the like … but does it really matter? He’s all for the “kine bud,” man! And if he makes it the White House, you’ll never again have to worry about whether your fake is good enough to pass at the local speakeasy.

No matter how you elect to spend the next six years of your life, we can write with absolute certainty that you’ll wind up quite different than you are today. In addition to being six years older and either a “bro,” a “hipster” or a hybrid variant thereof, you’ll probably find yourself with narrowing life expectations, a receding hairline, an expanding waistline and a sweet car of some kind. Maybe it’ll be a Honda Civic, maybe it’ll be a Subaru Outback. It might even be a Hyundai Sonata. Who knows?

Put on those Ray-Ban Wayfarers, my friend — the future is bright indeed.

Oliver Bateman and his friends invented the Moustache Club of America, a website that specializes in hot college humor. You can read their hilarious stories about keg parties and hipster hoedowns at And if you’ve got a killer suggestion for a column that (hopefully) has something to do with hardgaining, $5 pies or Maddens 2006-2012, send it to [email protected].