“Finding yourself” in college is a process. One I began by diving head-first into the deepest, most glamorous pool I could find.
I found my college roommate on Facebook. A lot of the freshmen were meeting each other that way and hastily making friends in order to lock-in a roommate before the school had time to assign you a random one. And at this point in my life, the only thing that could marsh my mellow would be a nerdy roommate. I marked that I was a “smoker” on my application (not because I was, but because I wanted a roommate that identified as a smoker) and went on from there.
I wanted out of college the romantic, idealized version of teenage hedonism I saw in movies and online: running around Hollywood, brushing shoulders with the rich and famous, being photographed leaving clubs at 2am, wearing wild ridiculous costume-like outfits, looking fabulous and befriending the freaks and weirdos. I think I wanted to be a 2010’s LA Club Kid.
Career-wise, my only aspiration was to be an actress: less because I’m a performer (which I am!) but more because I am addicted to glamour.
Before freshman year began, I befriended and started chatting to as many of the alternative looking girls as I could find on our college message board. From the comfort of my childhood home in the suburbs of San Francisco, I messaged any pretty girl with a moody profile pic, obscure bands listed in her likes, and the vague desire to “party.” I ended up narrowing it down to two girls, Kiernan and Elizabeth, before ultimately rooming with Elizabeth: a gothic-chic punk-presenting blonde from the beaches of Orange County.
I may have made the wrong decision. Let’s just say, I’d probably have a lot more Instagram followers right now if I’d have chosen different.
Both Elizabeth and Kiernan were Southern California natives with great music taste and a desire to party. Kiernan, a plus-sized blonde-bombshell with an incredible grasp of social media already, bonded with me online over a love of glitter and the city of LA. Elizabeth and I, on the other hand, both enjoyed the Sex Pistols and Iggy Pop. Both girls talked a lot about how they wanted to drink and party, which is exactly what I wanted. Glamour!
Elizabeth spent the first few days leading up to the start of classes sleeping in other people’s dorms (she kept getting too drunk and forgetting how to get back into our building), so I started preparing for a year living with someone who partied a little more than me. Someone without the savviness to figure out a fob key.
Little did I know that these first few days of knowing Elizabeth would foreshadow the last few times I ever heard of her. Years later, once we’d grown apart and stopped talking, I heard rumors that Elizabeth had withdrew herself from the life she was living in LA in favor of Europe and suspiciously lost her personality. Or maybe she found a new one; one she had before but never let loose in front of me. Who knows. She’s completely off of social media and I can’t find any trace of her.
Shortly into the first week of college, in between getting to know Elizabeth and dipping my toe into the theatre department, I met up with Kiernan and her roommate Melissa: a very rock ‘n roll New Yorker from Queens with long, thick brown hair and a ginormous lip ring. We all bonded over music and the activity of smoking cigarettes. Shortly into the semester I brought Elizabeth into the mix and we became an unstoppable foursome. After a year of “partying” (concerts, impromptu trips to USC parties, smoking weed, clubbing, etc) we made plans to live with each other sophomore year in attached suites: Elizabeth and I in one and Kiernan and Melissa in the next.
In that first year I learned more about my new friends. Kiernan was a bonafide socialite in Los Angeles: close friends with heiresses, artists, musicians, models and actors (many of whom I knew about before meeting her, or researched on my laptop after talking about them and then tried to pretend like I didn’t know who they were to her face). She was respected for her embodiment of the phrase “IDGAF” and her body positivity. I was surely intimidated and felt almost unworthy of her thinking I was cool.
Elizabeth, I came to find out, was an heiress herself: her father was a chief officer at one of California’s favorite burger chains. She’d give us free burger/shake coupons if we got her to go there with us, but was stingy about giving them out otherwise. She also had a boyfriend, Michael: a tall, skinny artist about five years older than her who would visit multiple times a week from their hometown in the OC. I actually really liked Michael and didn’t mind the visits: they never so much as made-out in front of me, he always offered to drive us places, and he was very respectful.
Elizabeth and her boyfriend shaped my first year in Los Angeles: together the three of us would go on adventures into LA, which is how I learned about the city and other important things like dubstep. They got me tickets to the first FYF fest ever and I watched Panda Bear alone while they checked out Death From Above. They’d stay up late explaining the differences between Datsik and Excision, and sometimes, if I was really lucky, Elizabeth would force-feed me edibles even if I said I didn’t want them and didn’t want to be high (questionable!). They introduced me to venues like The Echo, where I met Joe Lotruglio (who at the time was, to me, the guy from Superbad):
Elizabeth and I loved being “different” (read: feeble teenage attempts at a punk rock version of Penny Lane from Almost Famous). We plastered the room with rock ‘n roll posters (The Buzzcocks, Iggy Pop, The Sex Pistols, The Rolling Stones) and played around with clothing and makeup that made us look scary, now that I think about it (we personally discovered MAC’s lipstick shade “Icon:” a frosted brown that they no longer carry, and our favorite hobby was to not wear a bra under sheer clothing). We liked velvet, vodka, and Viktor and Rolf’s “Flowerbomb” (America’s #1 fragrance which still reminds me of Elizabeth). We developed unhealthy habits together like smoking, binge-drinking multiple nights of the week, not eating in hopes of being skinny, checking in with each other about how much we’ve not eaten, and getting high and/or drunk before our film class (which was just watching movies, but still).
I distinctly remember being in the backseat of Michael’s car on the way to The Avalon in Hollywood listening to Skrillex’s “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” while a strong edible kicked in. The wind from the car window smacking my face–not just any wind, but Hollywood wind–felt tingly and special. When I bumped shoulders with the fame-o’s Steve Aoki and A-Track later, I thought I had really made it.
My addiction to glamour was innocent. I was obsessed with an ideal curated from hours of MySpace and Tumblr and I had that typical teenage urge to transform. To transform into who I thought I should be! A mix of Taylor Momson, Jeffree Star and Debbie Harry. I figured it was not only hidden, but also not-important that at this time I was still an insecure, approval-seeking, scared little girl. I tried to hide it with glitter and vodka and whatever other trendy accessories were around but the truth always finds a way to nip-slip out of your see-through men’s sweater, doesn’t it?
It took me a long time to admit Elizabeth wasn’t a good fit for me. It wasn’t until I decided to open myself up to meeting other people at school that I realized there were people who I’d feel less self-conscious and more self-actualized with. A lot of why our friendship didn’t work could’ve been chalked up to my own insecurity: how I always felt like I had to prove that I was “cool” enough in front of her and Kiernan. There were other people out there who weren’t glittery and fashion-forward LA punks like I craved, but they also didn’t care that they weren’t and didn’t care that I wasn’t.
Those first few weeks when Elizabeth came out as a raver, I didn’t see a red flag. I thought maybe I can open myself up to dubstep even though it wasn’t really my style deep down. When she force-fed me edibles I thought maybe I was the weird one for not wanting to be high. When I quoted her as saying “theatre is gay” for a theatre assignment, I was embarrassed but gave her the benefit of the doubt (maybe she didn’t know any better!)
When I did finally admit that we weren’t compatible, I somehow found myself admitting it to her face at about 3am in our sophomore dorm that we shared. I had to move out after that. And this is only a few mere months after having to convince her to not get me an 8 ball of coke for my birthday.
So I barely made it a year in the beloved fast-line of my new LA lifestyle before I found myself with a loss of speaking-privileges with 66% of the little group we made! I had become disillusioned with glamour, but through trying it on that year with those girls I learned more about what works for me glamour-wise. Like, I didn’t care about clubbing or Hollywood hot-parties anymore, but I did go to bad college parties and find myself the most glamorous punk-rock one there.