Read an Excerpt
You've never done this before. You can't even come up with some neat comparison to a past experience to make you feel less awkward. It doesn't help that everyone else is doing it, since it's because of them that you have to do it in the first place. Suddenly you have to accept this totally backward behavior as if it were logical, from now on, no end in sight.
In college you wear shoes in the shower. You are halfway across the country living by yourself for probably the first time. Your childhood seems like it's over. You are surrounded by people you don't know, from places you've never been, who probably all have athlete's foot. Your dorm room is supposed to be the same one you saw on your college tour, but you know it's smaller, colder and uglier than the one you saw when your mom was with you. You walk in and are standing in front of a girl you've never met, who you will have to live with all year. She is dressed differently from you and is from a state you've never visited. You probably have nothing in common. No amount of protective footwear is too drastic under these circumstances.
The first few days are like a dream. The shower continues to be the testing ground for your ability to adapt to these conditions. You are sure that everyone but you has figured out how to shave her legs in these small cubicles. You glance wistfully at the people in the hall wondering who could possibly fill in for the best friend you left at home, in whose bathroom you could always go barefoot.
You cry yourself to sleep a couple of times and find yourself counting the days until Thanksgiving. What were you thinking? The state college thirty minutes away would have been just fine, probably much safer. You call home and tell your parents how homesick you are. Sure, you went to that party Saturday night, which was okay, but surely they understand that that's nothing compared to your misery. Your parents say "Give it a chance" so often that you become convinced that they are putting the phone down next to the family parrot and walking away.
But after a while, the Shoeless Night happens. It comes to everybody, sooner or later. Perhaps for you it is a midnight McDonald's run with some girls on your floor and a post-McNugget conversation, way into the night. Your fear of various foot diseases begins to fade somewhat. You might actually like some of the girls.
You might still cry yourself to sleep that night, but something's changed. For a few hours, you got to remove the mythical shoes from the feet of your soul. Because the important thing about The Night is that it is followed by Other Nights. The night of party hopping is preceded by a two-hour primping session with the same girls, before piling far too many of you into one car. The night of stealing other halls' furniture together allows you to let them see you in the morning after an "I'm too tired to wash my face" night.
Eventually, when you need to cry (because you still might, for a while), you find yourself walking down the hall to someone else's room instead of getting on the phone to your parents. When you do call them, all you can talk about is that girl down the hall who understands everything you say and listens so well. Your parents are thrilled and begin teaching the parrot to say, "That's great, Honey!"
One night while standing at a party you turn to your friend and say, "Are you ready to go home?" Then you realize you're referring to your dorm, that place that seemed so cold and ugly the first week. Well, they must have turned the heat up, or repainted or something. You still wear shoes in the shower, but you and your friends know it's just because of those people on the next floor.
You can't be too careful.
(c) Lia Gay and Rebecca Hart, 1999. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission of Health Communications, Inc. from Chicken Soup for the College Soul, by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Kimberly Kirberger, and Dan Clark. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442.