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Thursday, June 13, 2024
The Observer

Burning questions

Last year, I wrote a “fictional” short story for my creative writing class about a freshman girl’s experience during her first year of college. In a plot twist of plot twists, that girl was me. Though turning in 12 extraordinarily detailed pages on my inner feelings and most embarrassing moments was certainly dangerous — Disney Channel’s “Read It and Weep,” anyone? — the exercise was valuable in one regard. During workshop, other students would analyze my protagonist, unknowingly offering me a free psychoanalysis of myself from an outsider perspective. Some comments were kind: “I want to be this girl’s friend.” (I want to be your friend too, Caroline from writing class!) Some were necessary wake up calls: “Why does she keep pretending to drink the tea her roommate brews her? This girl is wasting a lot of Lipton. She needs to just toughen up and explain she doesn’t like chamomile!” Some were harsh: “This main character gives way too much information in her letters. No one would actually talk with that amount of detail in real life.” Regardless of people’s personal takes on my personality, all agreed on one detail: The protagonist asked an absurd amount of questions.

A naturally inquisitive gal, my queries are constantly being quelled by the public. One time during Holy Confession, a priest told me I was only allowed to ask two questions. But keep me down no longer! I officially have a column and 1,100 words of free reign, baby. In no particular order, here are my most pressing preguntas.

Do non-California girls feel left out when they listen to Katy Perry/Beach Boys?

Wisconsin women, I’m looking at you. Whenever I ask girls in my dorm this question, they laugh as if this is a silly ploy at humor. Make no mistake, this is a very serious inquiry. If I was trying to be funny, I’d have tweeted it.

How do Midwestern girls feel, always listening to musical artists sing the praises of women from other states? After all, if Katy Perry were singing about Nebraskan girls, I don’t think I could sing along with the same vigor. If the Beach Boys were saying they wish we all could be Illinois girls would I, in good faith, be able to further that message? Probably not. 

Similarly, do non-Irish people feel weird cheering for an ethnicity that is not their own?

I’d feel a lil odd shouting “Go Confrontational Swedes!”

What exactly does discernment mean?

And how is this different than deciding? I thought discernment only referred to choosing a major, but people at Notre Dame like to bust this word out on the regular. You’re not “discerning” what to have for dinner, Lindsay, you’re just choosing pizza because it tastes good. Please calm down.

Where were YOU when you found out Michael Jackson died?

I don’t really need an answer to this question, but I did go through a phase where this was my go-to conversation starter. Yes, I am extremely popular.

What’s up with the gif-filled emails?

Remember when you were in fifth grade and would sign your emails, “peace, love, chocolate” and spent an additional 15 minutes choosing the right font color and font highlight? But then your mom told you it was unprofessional and to just send what needs to be sent, so you stopped? Behold the mother-free maniacs of South Bend. Gifs run wild. Word art overpowers. Each missive is dotted with abbreviations, perky slang, Google images from rudimentary searches like “funny lecture memes.” I applaud the enthusiasm, but at the risk of sounding like the Grinch, I must admit, sometimes I just want to know what time the meeting is without having to sift through 18 shots of Steve Buscemi’s reaction to puppies.

Why is it that all the boys who say girls and boys can’t be friends are precisely the boys with whom girls don’t want to be friends?

‘Nuff said.

Do people plan for their phones to go off in class?

I only ask because, for the sake of optimism, I choose to believe no one set their ringtone to “Cotton Eyed Joe” or “Careless Whisper” without ulterior motives. These people are akin to those who drive around with vanity plates that say SPCYDAD. I admire their confidence but am suspicious of the planning.

Why can I get free food anywhere on campus but four AAA batteries costs $6?

Everyone talks about free food like it’s the holy grail, but to be honest, I’d be more psyched for some bargain school supplies. It feels like “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” around campus. At first, I felt like Robin Hood, stealthily slipping complimentary saltine crackers into my pockets on my way out of the dining hall. “This will show you, Dining Hall Staff! Feel my wrath, university officials!” But now we’re just a month into the semester and food is already piling up in my room. Towers of ramen are caving in. Packets of Goldfish spill into the halls. Last night I woke up in a cold sweat worrying that the 65 yogurts I got at Grab-n-Go had all gone bad. I’m going to college, but I feel like I’m stocking up for the apocalypse.

What would happen if a man used volumizing conditioner on his leg hair?

None of my friends will explore this for me. If a civic-minded reader would like to dedicate his body to science, please shoot me an email.

Who decided mint means fresh?

As a picky eater and proud opponent of mint, I have been doomed to never achieving freshness. I would like to propose we, as a society, transition to citrus — a much tastier option and just imagine the vitamin uptake increases across the world. A win for all.

Why do we say “spring has sprung” but not “fall has fallen?”

Similarly, are male fashionistas fashionistos?

Do people actually eat at Arby’s?

Not judging, just confused. I know a total of no people who have ever been to the joint, yet I see them everywhere. How are they staying in business? Who are the people eating there secretly? Why do they feel the need to keep this consumption covert?

When doing laundry, do gray clothes go in with the whites, colors or darks?

Last week, with the confidence of a SPCYDAD, I threw them in with the whites, but it took me 10 minutes to deliberate. What is proper protocol?

Do boys feel left out from the world of twirling?

I would. I don’t think men get enough recognition for the service they offer the dancing world. Being twirled or dipped is the best. When I’m dancing with my girlfriends I always feel a bit of bitterness when I dip my friend without reciprocation. But boys always spin us and never get spun. I feel sad just thinking about it.

If you have some answers, send ‘em my way. If you have some questions, send those too. My friends would appreciate a new puzzle for me to hound them about over dinner.

Julianna Conley loves cereal, her home state of California and the em dash. A sophomore in Pasquerilla East, if Julianna can’t be found picnicking on North Quad, she can be reached for comment at

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.