By Griffin Brammer, Staff Writer
Let’s get one thing straight: first-years are not college students. Or, at least, not mentally.
They go to and live at a college, yes, but in their mindset, they are more akin to experienced high school seniors than they are the typical, functional college kid. It’s almost a Schroedinger’s age gap. They are, in reality, often legal adults, yet there’s this persistent feeling that they’re so much younger.
If I had a dollar for how many times I heard my Manresa friends call their group members “their kids,” I’d have some serious spending money.
There is a certain social immaturity that arrives with each incoming class, and with it, first-years tend to fill in the blanks with common perceptions of what it means to live at college. This fits into the usual, negative clichés: drinking, pot and dorm room “ragers.” And while I could say my fill on those practices, there is one category that I find doesn’t get talked about nearly enough: relationships and hookups.
Here’s the thing. We’re all of legal age here, but rewinding the conversation back to Manresa, I’ve heard one horror story after another of different Manresa leaders who have all had to deal with or overhear one of their group members flirt with them or their partner. Every single time the common consensus has been an overwhelming feeling of disgust or being creeped out.
But, why do we feel that way? A lot of it has been concluded to involve that artificial age gap, but it’s really a matter of experience.
I write this as a sophomore, someone only a year older than the first-year class. However, that year was spent at college. That means I already have a full year under my belt.
The first-years, by contrast, are inexperienced and don’t fully know what they’re doing as of yet and how to function in this new environment. I mean, that’s why they’re forced to take Goa. The most exposure they have to higher education is a couple AP classes and a college visit. So, it comes as no shock to say there is a stark power dynamic between the incoming class and the rest of us.
I’m no philosophy major, but I like to think that humans are inherently good, or at the very least, aware of the opportunities around them to be good. When a situation arises where a first-year flirts with the upper classes, a lot of us are able to identify the power gap and know that, even if it’s legal, it still doesn’t feel right.
Those upperclassmen who may accept a first-year’s advances, however, are abusing the power dynamic between them, and thus, will not have the first-year’s best interests at heart. They may recognize that they know more than a first-year, and they may also recognize a first-year’s desire to feel mature through their relationship.
This could lead to taking advantage of that, too. The bigger the age gap, the bigger the issue in my opinion. So while I can’t tell a first-year not to pursue relationships such as these, all I can say is please be careful.
So by now, I’m sure I’ve received a lot of rolled eyes and sighs from first-years who think I’m some abstinent Puritan type, but that’s not my intent. I was just like you all last year, thinking I needed to rush into something that I couldn’t control to feel bigger and more mature. So leave with this parting advice: Give it some time.
Right now, I speak for quite a few upperclassmen when I say your advances are not charming. They are weird. We don’t find you more mature for having the cajones to hit us with your best pick-up line, we just find it jarring. If pursuing a relationship with an upperclassman is something you actually want, give it at least until the end of second semester — although honestly, sophomore year is more preferable, personally. That way you are able to take the time to grow as a person and really start to know what you want.
And if this all really does boil down to maturity? Well, there’s nothing more mature than being able to know yourself.