First things first: before you ask “but Molly, isn’t Spring Break just a trash-cation for college-aged garbage people?” Yes. Yes it is. I should know – I used to be a college-aged garbage person.
But before I was a college-aged garbage person, I was an impressionable tween learning about my world through MTV. I have no idea if MTV is still considered cool or relevant to today’s teenagers. I just know that when I was 12, MTV was “all that.” My parents didn’t love it, but I was like “guys, they’re marketing to ME! Now, can you please buy me some Clean & Clear and a Seventeen Magazine subscription? I’m told I want both.”
Late 90s, early 2000s MTV is where I learned about the American rite of passage known as Spring Break. This, coupled with watching P.C.U. on cable, formed my basis of what college was like in the 1990s. Imagine my surprise during my 2008 trip to Panama City Beach, when I learned that Spring Break is nothing like I was led to believe.
Expectation: When you go on Spring Break MTV will be there, filming everything.
Reality: A tenth-level MTV affiliate, like MTV-Z or MTV-X, will be there. But creepy old men will also be there filming everything. Yeah, the internet gets pretty weird in the 2000s.
Expectation: You won’t just dance to awesome party jams, you’ll BE the awesome party jams on Say What Karaoke. By the way, Say What Karaoke is where I learned the lyrics to “Too Close” when I was just old enough to know what it meant.
Reality: Say What Karaoke goes the way of the dinosaur by the time you’re in college. However, your first night in Panama you will find a seedy karaoke dive bar with cheap drinks, and you’ll go there every night. The troll-looking bouncer becomes obsessed with one of your friends and for some reason, you find this not just okay but hilarious. But seriously, college kids: if it still exists, you should go to the cheap karaoke bar in Panama. It’s a blast. It’s just not Say What Karaoke-level glamorous.
Expectation: You will spend the weekend in the sand and sun, surrounded at all times by a crowd of fun-loving drunk college kids.
Reality: No, that’s all true. But all of those things are awful.
Expectation: You’ll make friends with college kids from around the nation and maybe the world!
Reality: Here is a rundown of “friends” we made on spring break:
- The kids from Ohio who taught us all the OH-IO cheer. Actually, they were cool but it only goes downhill from here.
- That troll-looking Karaoke Bar guy.
- These guys we met the first night at the karaoke bar after a 24-hour sleepless bus ride. They were from the South and took us to a diner for grits. Then they took us to see the high-rise the one kid’s dad owned; they were staying in the penthouse. Then they were like oops, that driver we said would take you home just left and it’s 5am, guess you all have to stay! TL;DR I got kidnapped.
- The girls from our college’s most vicious sorority, whose room was next to ours. When my friend accidentally went into their room and fell asleep like Drunk Goldilocks, she woke up to one of the girls saying “If I were you, I would kill myself.” My friend responded “If I were you, I wouldn’t be such a bitch.”
- The Christians in a white van who offer free rides to people.
- The DJ who was from the same super-tiny town as my friend, which gave us a pass to request See You Again by Miley Cyrus more times than was even okay in 2008.
Expectation: You’ll probably run into Jesse Camp!
Reality: Nah. You’ll run into a lot of people talking like Jesse Camp. That’s because they’re all wasted. The one that stands out in my mind is a girl in our hotel lobby raving about the Baconator she just bought. I congratulated her without any irony, because she was really proud of that Baconator.
Expectation: You will observe and take part in all kinds of wacky contests and win fabulous prizes!
Reality: The contests all involve things like mud and jello, and the grand prize is an extra-large giveaway t-shirt that for some reason people will go apeshit for.
Expectation: College spring break is the best you’ll ever look in your life, just like those girls on Fashionably Loud.
Reality: Let me break it down for you:
After an hour of pre-trip bathing suit shopping, my friends and I were so miserable that we decided we must have low blood sugar. We bought some Auntie Anne’s pretzels, signed up for department store credit cards that we should NOT have signed up for in order to get a 20% discount, then wore our bathing suits occasionally at our house to get used to them. This is probably not an advisable bikini-body plan.
I was also day-glo pale the whole time, because even in Florida, even on Spring Break, I’m still a freckly redhead. And I had giant bags under my eyes because bars closed at 4 A.M. and the free band on the beach started playing at 8 A.M.
Finally, the week before Spring Break I decided I wanted my hair to be more manageable. Do you see where this is going? I went to the bargain salon chain in our small college town for something between chin and shoulder length. This was the second of three times in my life when “between chin and shoulder length” ended up being ear length. I don’t know if it’s my hair type or if all of these hairdressers went to some weird anatomy class where your ear is located somewhere after your face. Then I had to go back the next day and get it cut even shorter because the right side was two inches shorter than the left.
Anyway, I looked sort of appealing, in the same way Dorothy Hamill did and also with the same haircut. It was the haircut every mother hopes her daughter will get right before Spring Break.
So yeah. I did not, in fact, belong on Fashionably Loud, even from far away in one of the crowd scenes.
Expectation: You will be so pumped for SPRING BREAK! that you’ll have energy for days.
Reality: After a full day on a bus, which kicked off with you scurrying down a gully on a bathroom stop to get shots at an Applebee’s, you will still be shouting “SPRING BREAK!” That’s because you’ll have energy drinks for days. Energy DRINKS. One of my friend had a bunch of Red Bulls then totally tweaked out. He called us in a sweaty panic because his wallet was missing. His wallet was in his bed.
Expectation: One of the hottest bands of the 90s will play for free!
Reality: One of the hottest bands of the 90s WILL play for free. At 8 in the freaking morning. In 2008.
Expectation: You’ll have a crazy week full of wacky stories that you and your friends will laugh about for years to come.
Reality: That’s completely true. But you’re sort of laughing at yourself instead of with yourself, if that makes sense.