Becoming non-traditional: A painful process

Hard as it is to admit, I am a "nontraditional student." I envision the nontraditional students who sat in the front row of class the first time I went through college, and I wonder if students of today think of me in the same way. I have now become that same "old lady" in class, shaking my head at the younger generation.

Cooler than sliced bread

As a college freshman attending a small West Texas college I, too, thought I was the coolest thing since sliced bread. So, I do not hold the need for attention against today's "traditional students" on a personal level.

Once upon a time I had long, glorious hair that could be pulled up into a ponytail that required two industrial-strength rubber bands to hold it all. I wore strange, quirky clothes and made it work by sheer personality -- cutoff jean shorts and turquoise-leather topped cowboy boots were one of my favorite get-ups for class. Yes, drawing attention was my main goal.

These days, if I pull my hair up into a ponytail I could use a micro-plastic rubber band (the kind used for castrating sheep) and would have to double it. I still have the boots, worn and scuffed from wear and age, but I would never attempt to wear them with some frayed-edge shorty-shorts in order to keep within the public decency laws.

Showing off the girls

As a non-traditional student, I watch these young whippersnappers shuffling to class in their pajama bottoms and fuzzy slippers and wonder if their momma ever really loved them. Admittedly, though, I would prefer to see pajama bottoms on these girls than some of the "shirts" I have seen them wear to class.

I am close to being ancient, but I will never get used to seeing shirts that would have been considered underwear only 15 years ago. I do not know when it became OK to show off "the girls" in public, or it must have slipped my notice somewhere between learning to be a wife and taking care of children.

Cleavage has become the new "normal," and lots of it. My nontraditional peers and I would try to hide our bra straps, but now bra straps are decorative accessories with sparkles, designs and bright colors. The next thing we know bra straps will be adorned with LED lights. Hmm, flashing bra straps would tie in with the thirteen pounds of eyeliner, the faces doubling as pin-cushions, the rat's-nest hair completing the Barnum-and-Bailey ensemble.

Pest control

I would be remiss if I did not mention that my very own daughter, also an AWC student, thought she would be fashion forward and purchase a hair extension for her pony tail (with her own money of course). My husband came home late one evening and made his customary rounds to each of the children's rooms telling them good-night. As he entered our sixteen-year-old daughter's room, he noticed the new hair extension hanging from her headboard. He swiftly left the room, returning with the Raid can from under the kitchen sink and began to douse the unruly varmint.

From my place on the couch, I heard shrieks of despair and ran to see who was being murdered in the back of the house. I found our daughter standing in the middle of her room with a red face and tears streaming down her cheeks, as my proud, trained killer of a husband triumphantly held up a dead muskrat. Needless to say, the hair extension died a quick but painful death and the point was clearly made to our daughter not to waste her money on furry animals that attach to her head.

Attracting prey

As for the traditional college boys/young men, where shall I start? Is it just my non-traditional self, or do boys dress like girls? In some cases, I cannot tell a boy from a girl when walking behind them. In the olden days, boys looked like boys. Of course, there were the shaggy haired boys or the rebel boys that wanted to pierce their ears -- until they got home and their daddy ripped it right out of their head (before that was considered abuse).

I see boys walking around campus wearing skin-tight jeans and girlie belts. In my day, we called that "cross dressing." Some of these poor cross-dressing boys have huge gaping holes in their ears they like to call "gauges." To me, they look more like miniature toilet seats and smell even worse. I have had the unfortunate luck of being seated next to one of these boys in class and had to smell his rotting ear flesh for the three-hour duration. The smell is somewhat reminiscent of deer urine I wore for the first few days of hunting camp in order to attract deer; so I am wondering if that rotting ear flesh scent is being used to attract those of the opposite sex. I suppose it is possible.

Extreme PDAs

As a non-traditional student, I often wonder if public displays of affection were as prevalent back in the day as they seem to be now. I know that we would kiss and hold hands in the halls. I also know that sneaking between the boy's and the girl's dorm was fairly commonplace. But I do not remember feeling like I needed to have blood work run to test for STDs and HIV just from walking through the Roman bath house scene in front of the library in order to check out a book.

Yes, showing your nineteen-year-old love and affection for your boyfriend/girlfriend is very normal. But when it becomes an almost complete sexual act within public viewing, it is a sure sign of insecurity in the relationship and disregard for others in the area.

I suppose we were more possessive in my day. We would not have wanted to share what was precious to us with everyone else on the library/study hall/recreational building steps. I know for a fact my husband would not think twice about stabbing a person in the head for peering into our bedroom window. So the fact that these boyfriends do not feel the same way about their little girlfriends is a very sad state of affairs. By all means share passion, emotion, feelings and spit with your loved ones; but if they are precious then treat them as such. That is just the nontraditional way of thinking I guess.

You go, girl

So whether it is shaking your "money-maker," your head or your walking cane, the journey from traditional to non-traditional is an adjustment process. I do not feel old. But I do sound an awful lot like the nontraditional students I would try to copy answers from.

I do not feel that I lack fashion sense and sensibility. But, I do wear comfortable shoes for the walk across campus, and I always try to get the parking space closest to my class -- just like the aggravating nontraditional students did when I was in college and I desperately needed close parking because I was running late due to a bad hair day. I do not feel that I love my husband any less because we do not "suck face" for the world to see. (Of course, it truly might gross some college kids out if we did.)

No matter what category a person falls into, traditional or nontraditional, education is a life-long adventure. If I had a chance to speak to the nontraditional students that attended classes with me years ago (some of whom have departed this earth by now), I would cheer them on. Good on them for stepping outside of the box and continuing with life's adventure. I would especially hug the one "old lady" that shook her head at me, but still helped me get through Algebra I.

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