As I sit here in Kogan Plaza on this fine, sunny January afternoon, I find myself confused. This confusion stems from two sources, but at the moment they seem to be fused into one big blur. The sun is shinning, it is 70 degrees out and I’m drinking lemonade. The issue arises in the date – it’s January!
Sitting in Kogan Plaza, laptop and all, I was left to ponder the intense Indian summer-like heat and one other thing – why do I see the same people all the time, wherever I go. There must be another explanation. My guess is these conformists, or “pod people” as I like to call them, are just going about their business unaware of their uniformity. This seems to be a bit of a generalization, but hear me out.
Not so many years ago, adolescents had pink hair and wore baggy clothing, ripped shirts, platform Converse All-Stars sneakers, with clunky chains around their necks. They pierced parts of their bodies unmentioned by your garden-variety conservative adult. But, it seems, it’s not individuality if you roll with three other friends in bell bottoms and blue streaks; it’s just rebellion.
Hair has returned from brilliant rainbow hues to traditional brown, red and blonde. But are we still conforming to another norm, or should I say abnorm, that today fits our style? It’s said the way one dresses and presents oneself is highly representative of who they are. Sitting on campus, it seems that every student is one and the same.
While killing time people-watching, the movie “The Breakfast Club” comes to mind. In that tiny library you had the jock, the priss, the nerd, the bad boy and the freak. Kogan Plaza is an extension of the library. It’s like Andrew Clark, Claire Standish, Brian Johnson, John Bender and Allison Reynolds with all their friends in different corners of Kogan.
As I look across the street to Crawford Hall, I see a group of three baseball players laughing and looking tough flanked by two blonde girls. Each have their different-colored hats on backwards, but other than height they look incredibly similar – short hair, mesh shorts, college T-shirts stretching around their sleeves to show off their big arms, standing bow-legged with arms crossed in front of their chest. One is wearing a backpack. The biggest difference I can tell from 50 yards away is their height, an unchangeable trait. As they talk, they stand strong and still, greet each new member of their clique with a pound and nod.
Next, I noticed a group of sorority girls standing in the plaza. They seem the most difficult to tell apart. With their stick-straight hair, Herve Chapellier bags, tight Mavi jeans, little white T-shirts and black boots. Again, the only visible distinctions are their height and individual choice of color coordination. As two sisters leave the group, they kiss each member before heading off, grab their cell phones in one hand and the black nylon strap of their bag with the other. They seem to walk in-sync, not talking to each other, but both having individual conversations on their phones and nodding in laughter at each other every 10 steps or so.
Their male counterparts, the frat boys, flank them on both sides. Their uniform consists of tight Banana Republic shirts, Diesel jeans, crew-cut hair with a flip in the front, sneakers and no bag, leaving me to wonder where they hold their books. Is it no longer cool to carry books? They walk in trios more often than duos, but always look macho.
A 15-degree turn yields a group of students of Middle Eastern decent hanging around Kogan Plaza’s clock. They’re all dressed in black with messenger bags for their books, and most of them wear small, wiry glasses. As a beautiful BMW pulls up to the front of Gelman Library, one of their buddies jumps out to join them.
And as I turn my last 45-degrees to make my last observation, I find the Starbucks crew out in front of the Marvin Center. They all carry some form of iced coffee in one hand, while holding a newspaper in the other. They wear worn-looking clothing, but wear them well. As one talks, the others sip, and vice versa. They seem extraordinarily hip, but one would find it difficult to pick any one of them out of a line-up even after careful study.
I finally have to ask myself, where has all the individuality gone? Ask Anthony Michael Hall.
–The writer is a sophomore majoring in English.