"Do you know he called twice while we were in the bar? He wanted me to pick him up some beer. I mean, what is up with that?"
My seatmate was turned in her seat, talking to her two friends in the back. We were bound for Saint Michael's College. All three of these girls were vivacious, even after a long night out on the town.
The last time I was vivacious was at some point during the Carter administration, and even then, not so much. I understand what George Bernard Shaw was getting at when he reportedly said, "Youth is wasted on the young," but I don't buy it. I think George had succumbed to old-guy syndrome, a malady I fight off daily.
"Molly, you are, like, angry," said one of the speaker's friends, a tall girl who was simultaneously texting. She stopped, stuffed her phone back into her jeans — no easy task as they were leotard tight — and leaned forward, gently placing a hand on Molly's shoulder. "This isn't working for you, girl," she commiserated. "You, like, got to do something. All of our senior year is ahead of us."
Molly shook her head and audibly sighed. She had lively green eyes and wavy blond locks, which, with the tiniest delay, echoed the movement of her head. "You know what he said the first time he called? He was like, 'You out with your girls again tonight?' Like he's pissed or something."
The tall girl snorted. "You should have said, 'Yeah, tonight and every night.' I mean, does he get to keep, like, tabs on you? You and Brad have been seeing each other since, like — what? Was it our sophomore year?"
"But he's, like, so pretty," the other girl chimed in. "You got to admit that, Darlene. The boy is a certified hottie."
Darlene was having none of it. "That's neither here nor there, Kristy. First off, our girl, Molly, is a super-hottie — she can get any guy on campus she wants. Second, if the relationship ain't working, what does it matter how good-looking the guy is?"
"He never arranges our dates," Molly continued, building the list of grievances, à la Martin Luther and his Ninety-Five Theses. Actually, not so apt an analogy, I mentally reconsidered, to apply to a girl attending a Catholic college. "It's always me who has to figure out where we're going, and then — more often than not — he expects me to pay. Dude never once picks up the check."
Maybe I'm old-school, but Molly's last complaint prompted me to enter the fray. "You know what I think?" I said, as we approached the interstate exit for St. Mike's. "It sounds like you've reached the stage in your life where you need a man, not a boy."
"Bingo!" Darlene said with a laugh. "Bing-freaking-oh. Listen to our cabbie, Molly. The man knows what he's talking about."
"Yeah, I know he's right," Molly acknowledged. "And the thing is, I'm pretty sure where it comes from. You see, I've hung out with him and his mother. She's constantly, like, 'Oh, Brad — you know I'll always take care of you.' I mean, I'm an only child, too, but my parents didn't, like, coddle me. Do you know that Brad expects me to make his friggin' bed for him? It's embarrassing to admit, but it's true."
I said, "You know, parents who baby their kids are not doing them any favors. They're creating people who don't know how to function in the world. It's actually a real problem. I would even call it a subtle form of child neglect."
Kristy said, "I agree with you, sir, and I am a psych major. And I think mothers do this much more with boys than with girls."
We came up on the campus, active again after the long summer dormancy. Poetic type that I am, I've been known to compare the annual comings and goings of our local college students to the movement of grazing herds across the Serengeti. Going with the analogy, I guess that makes me a lion, or maybe a Masai hunter. Either way, these students are essential to my livelihood and, every year, I welcome them gratefully to the giant watering hole that is Burlington. Study hard, spend a lot of money in town and take plenty of cabs — such is my advice to them.
"You girls living in the 300s this year?" I asked as we turned onto campus, knowing that a lot of the seniors live in the 300 units. For some reason unknown to me, the 100, 200 and 400 townhouses are grouped together, while the 300s are located on the other side of campus. All of which is valuable information for cabbies and pizza-delivery guys.
"Nope, we're in the 200s and the 400s," Darlene replied. "I guess you really know your way around the campus, doing what you do."
"Yup, that I do," I said with a smile.
"So here's the question," Darlene put it to Molly as we pulled to a stop. "Are you going to hang with us, or are you going over to Brad's?"
"That's an easy one," Molly replied. "I'm hanging with my girls."
"You know you're going to have to sit down and have a talk with the boy. You can't put it off forever."
"I know, Darlene. I know."
I felt for the girl. This is not a talk anyone ever wants to have, especially when the relationship has been long-term. It's searingly painful for both parties, dumper as well as dumpee. After my college girlfriend sat me down for that talk, I cried for about a week. The fact that the writing had been on the wall for months hardly helped at all.
"But not tonight," Molly added. "Not tonight."
All these stories are true, though names and locations may be altered to protect privacy.