Scarlet Letters

| May 2, 2014 | 3 Comments

BU’s colors are conspicuous.

It’s almost hazing, what we do to admitted students during Open Houses: nothing screams “I am still a child” like a scarlet lasso thrown around the neck. I remember seventeen-year-old-me furtively trying to hide mine, asking my parents to take theirs off, noticing the way students in backpacks looked at me and wanting to die. I felt exposed, and branded, and vulnerable. I did not belong.

The funny part is, I did belong, but it took until after matriculation for my perspective to change. Slowly but surely, a dominant theme revealed itself in my closet’s color ratio. I often joke that a large portion of my friend group has never seen me in “civilian clothes,” perhaps believing I only own hockey and basketball jerseys; by the time February rolls around, I’m suffering from “Scarlet Fatigue” and desperately cling to shirts and pants and shoes that don’t give the impression I work in admissions—except, of course, for when I’m working in admissions.

I took to wearing a scarlet-and-white braided bracelet to benefit the Travis Roy foundation; I started calling my Candy Apple Red lipstick “war paint” and slathering on a thick layer every single day. That obnoxious red lanyard that had once embarrassed me now held my car and dorm and house keys, so I was never without it. I decided I looked good in red (but never Crimson, for obvious reasons), and instinctively checked all new purchases to make sure they wouldn’t clash with the hues of my alma mater.

But then something weird happened.

My family came to visit me last week, and while they were here, we took some preemptive graduation pictures so loved ones could receive photographic evidence of my impending diploma, or at least get proof that a friend who graduated last year had loaned me her cap and gown.

Not exactly flying under the radar.

Not exactly flying under the radar.

This seemed like a good idea in the planning stages, but as I teetered down Comm Ave in too-high heels and that billowy robe/cape that is flattering to no one, a familiar sense of dread welled up inside of me. People were staring, strangers were acknowledging me, and I was no longer blending in. Every glance felt like an accusation, and every “congratulations” felt like a challenge. Once again, I felt naked in public.

But why? Hadn’t I reclaimed that color? Hadn’t it earned a sacred spot in my life? Why, in the twilight of my senior year, did I suddenly feel so much like a freshman?

There’s poetry here, a cyclical and symmetrical sort of bittersweet beauty that I want to ignore but really can’t. It’s good, I think, that I feel uncomfortable, that I can relate to the apprehension I spy in the class of 2018 as we pass each other in the GSU. After all, it’s only been four years since I was in their shoes!

For better or for worse, time marches on, and in four more short years, these wide-eyed baby terriers will find themselves where I’m at today, with shoes that look and feel a lot like mine. With any luck, they’ll have bright scarlet laces, and I hope they’ll have hung onto that lanyard—it will match their graduation gown quite nicely.

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Category: Boston, Campus Culture, featured

Rhiannon Pabich

About the Author ()

Rhiannon was once asked to write a "bland, professional bio" and she failed miserably. She is, however, good at some things, which include yelling in hockey arenas, explaining the importance of comprehensive sex ed, and pursuing adventures. The journalism major hails from the deep south and, on a good day, enjoys scintillating conversation and copious amounts of caffeine. On a bad day, she enjoys sarcasm-laden conversation and obscene amounts of caffeine (but really, isn't every day a good one?). She likes playing with paint, crying happy tears, red balloons, and you.

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  1. Stop Calling New Students Baby Terriers - Culture Shock : Culture Shock | December 26, 2014
  1. Tino Bratbo says:

    This was absolutely wonderful.

    Also, it freaks me out a little that the freshman class is 2018.

  2. Carly says:

    Congratulations Rhiannon! You are a great representation of the incredible people that BU attracts. Continue to rock the scarlet!

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