Back to School
A Guide to Sex, Drugs, and Dropping Out
Back to School
By Cienna Madrid
You've been liberated from your parents' basement, and you're eager to start humping like a responsible adult. (Hump, hump, hurrah!) Here are a few pointers on how to be a safe, healthy, conscientious sex partner.
Never leave home without condoms and breath mints. Stuff them in your wallet, pockets, computer case, shower bag, in your bra, or between a couple purse-sized skin tags—whatever's handy. Short of mind-freaking like a Christian (aka abstinence), condoms are the surest way to protect against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and mints are a neat way of saying, "Thank you for having sex with me. I can't guarantee this will be fun, but at the very least my breath won't smell like corpse rot."
You know what screams "Have sex with me!" louder and more persuasively than a bullhorn and a bunker filled with breath mints? Flashing a clean bill of health. (Literally! Frame it above your bed! Make wallet-sized copies! Hand them out like business cards!)
Having sex with multiple partners means getting your junk regularly tested for STIs—at least once every six months. Think of it as travel insurance for your dong or lady garden. If you don't feel comfortable getting tested at your student health center, Harborview Medical Center operates a public STI clinic five days a week, and Planned Parenthood offers a battery of STI tests for men and women on a sliding fee scale (since you're a student, you'll be at the dirt-poor end of that scale). And if you're a dude who humps dudes, you can get free HIV and syphilis tests at the Gay City Health Project—just call and make an appointment.
If you were born with a vagina, now is the time to consider putting it on birth control. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, birth control is available for free—meaning no co-pay—through all new and renewing health insurance plans. Just go to your doc and get a prescription. If you don't have insurance, simply make an appointment at the nearest Planned Parenthood and enroll in Washington's Take Charge Program to gain access to free birth control. (You should also consider keeping a stock of emergency contraception handy, aka the morning-after pill. The pills are effective at preventing pregnancy up to five days—or 72 hours—after unprotected sex, and they're available without a prescription for anyone age 17 or older. Just head to the nearest pharmacy, flash your ID, and pick up a pack from the pharmacist. And if the pharmacist tells you no, you can't have any, sue them.
Even if you are 100 percent careful, sharing warm holes with someone of the opposite sex means there's always a chance that you or your sex partner could wind up pregnant. Don't feel bad—that's precisely why God invented abortion. In Washington State, many health insurance plans already include abortion coverage, which could save you hundreds—if not thousands—in medical bills. Also: If you're an uninsured woman, our state is one of the few in the nation that will pay for you to have an abortion. Just contact the Department of Social and Health Services, prove that you make less than $28,000 a year and are a state resident (meaning you've lived here more than 12 months), and you'll receive a medical card that covers the procedure.
Dudes take note: If you've accidentally knocked up your partner, it's your responsibility as a humane, sexually active adult to provide emotional support, car rides, financial assistance, more breath mints, Kleenex, and fart jokes during this difficult process.
If you're a pregnant lady, the CAIR Project (www.cairproject.org) staffs a toll-free hotline (1-888-644-2247) with women trained to provide you with accurate, non-biased information about abortion. They'll also refer you to abortion providers in your area and offer financial assistance in the form of small grants.
And finally, if you suspect you're preggers, be wary of Christian pregnancy centers advertising free pregnancy tests. These centers, which often call themselves Crisis Pregnancy Centers/Pregnancy Care Centers/Pregnancy Medical Clinics, are staffed by anti-choice religious nutbags—not doctors or medically trained staff—who will tell you that abortion leads to cancer and infertility, among other lies. The easiest way to vet unfamiliar service providers is to ask when you call to make an appointment whether the facility is staffed by trained medical professionals and if they make abortion referrals. If their answer is "Nope!" thank them politely and hang up. You don't need strangers shoving a crucifix up your vagina while you contemplate making such a personal medical decision—it's crowded enough in there.
By Bethany Jean Clement
You are a person, and as such, you would like to get your genitals on or in another person. Nothing weird about that! It's the human condition! Also, FUN!!! And not so complicated. Let's do this!
First, shower. Every morning. And again later, if you got sweaty or otherwise less-than-fresh—shower again. If you are going somewhere where there is even a .001 percent chance of someone besides you interacting with your privates, and you have any questions about your cleanliness, shower again. And ACTUALLY WASH. Scrub! Use a washcloth for some friction to knock the dirty off. Don't use smelly shower gel—it's an expensive gimmick from the cosmetic industry, and there's a reason the French call it gel douche. People have been making regular old soap since at least 2800 BC, way back in Ancient Babylonia; humanity kept going without shower gel for grazillions of years, so, PROOF, you do not need it to get laid.
Wash your hair at least every other day. Look at your shoulders: Are there white specks there? If so, buy a dandruff shampoo and use it (they work!). Get a haircut regularly, and use any hair product so minimally that you can't actually tell it's there. Hey, your head looks good!
Wear deodorant. Note that hippie kinds don't work; you may get Alzheimer's from the aluminum in the regular kind, but at least you won't still be a virgin when you do.
Regarding scent: Gentlemen, eschew the aftershave except in very small amounts. No, SMALLER. We are not going to address body spray because IT STINKS TOO MUCH. DO NOT USE IT. Women, you, too: Go very, very easy on the perfume/cologne. Consider a classic: Old-school men's colognes or French perfumes available at a nicer department store are more nuanced than Ted Bundy II or Honey Boo Boo's Luv Me 2 Da Fragrance.
Now, to your mouth. Brush your teeth—and gently brush your tongue—morning and night, and again if you're going somewhere where there is even a .001 percent chance of someone besides you interacting with your mouth. Floss—SERIOUSLY, floss, it gets some horrible, potentially smelly stuff out of your pretty mouth. Smile!
Finger- and toenails: These should be clean and trimmed. They do not need to be manicured or have rhinestones bonded to them, just clean and not too long. Ladies, note: Fake nails are gross.
Heterosexual men should bear in mind that women do not exist to conform to airbrushed "beauty" standards—if you're holding out for that, well, have fun masturbating. Likewise, homosexual men should avoid adopting the insane self-scrutiny that women have been led to believe is required. Women: You're beautiful! Don't let any asshat tell you otherwise.
Keep it clean, keep it real, relax, ask the other person questions, be a little weird, and have fun. They're going to like you! But first: Smell good.
By David Schmader
Want to avoid a whole galaxy of possible problems, complications, and expense? Don't drink or do drugs, ever, starting now. Want to enjoy the rapturous pleasures of adult intoxicants without ruining your life? Read on.
The short version: Stick with the basics—pot and alcohol. Don't do either more than twice a week. Drinkers: If you puke and/or black out, you're doing it wrong. Stoners: If you find pot makes you contract into a paranoid ball of angst, stop using it. As for everything else, here's a freakishly brief primer.
Cocaine: An expensive drug that requires snorting, which is gross. It will make you feel smart and sparkly for 20 minutes, after which you'll immediately crave more, which is also gross. If you must do coke, do it no more than once a year.
Hallucinogens (LSD, mushrooms): All but mandatory for a complete "college experience," hallucinogens require care and planning. Set aside a day, preferably in nature, for your trip, and don't answer your phone or look in the mirror for the duration of your brain-exploding, soul-expanding journey.
Methamphetamine: Do you want to be a twitchy freak with facial scabs and no ability enjoy your life unless high? No? Stay away from meth.
Prescription Drugs: Enjoy in extreme moderation. (If you can't get through your exciting, promise-packed college years without painkillers, the rest of your life is going to be hell.) Same goes for Adderall: If you get in the habit of using focus-enhancing drugs now, the rest of your life is going to be a sad and desperate scramble for normality. (Do not use any drug, whatever it is, for more than two days in a row.)
Ecstasy (aka MDMA, E, X, "Molly"): Everything coke wishes it were and then some, with no gross snorting! Don't do it more than twice a year, and prepare to be depressed the day after.
Heroin: Just kill yourself now.
IMPORTANT FACT: Washington State enacted a Good Samaritan law, which says people who call 911 for someone who is overdosing are immune from prosecution for their personal drug possession. If you have illegal drugs but are watching someone overdose, you can call 911 without having to worry about getting prosecuted for your drugs. Godspeed and good luck.
By David Schmader
Once upon a time, pornography was a rare and exotic thing—something found only in skanky "adult" stores or under your older brother's mattress. Now, anyone with an internet connection can see as much of whatever kind of porn he or she wants without venturing out of the house. This is a blessing and a curse. The blessing: You can find images targeting your precise interest (say, Blatino nurses in Uggs or Family Guy characters fucking King of the Hill characters) with unprecedented ease. The curse: Devoting too much time and energy to cultivating your own highly precise, closed-circuit interests can make dealing with the real, non-porn world tougher than it should be. So remember this sage advice from The Stranger's and the world's resident sexpert, Dan Savage: "Masturbate in moderation—no more than 10 times a day—and vary your routine (left hand, right hand; firm grip, soft touch; with toys, without; lots of lube, just a drop; etc.). I can't emphasize this last point enough. A vagina does not feel exactly like a clenched fist—nor does a mouth, an anus, tit-fucking, or humping. If you vary your routine now, you'll be able to respond to different kinds, levels, and intensities of sexual stimulation when you do become sexually active. And try to cultivate your own erotic imagination. (Translation: Don't jerk off to internet porn exclusively; use your imagination once in a while.)"
By Anthony Hecht
You've probably had an e-mail address for as long as you can remember. It's part of your identity, like your name—but unlike your name, it's like a skeleton key for your digital life. If you're not protecting your e-mail, you might as well walk around naked with all your passwords tattooed on your ass.
"Forgot your password? A reset link has been sent to your e-mail." Sound familiar? This is how nearly all online services work. If you can't get in, you enter your e-mail address and you get a reset link. If someone else has access to your e-mail, they can take over everything else. Yikes!
Fortunately, there are easy ways to protect yourself.
First, treat your e-mail account and password as super-secret information. Don't share it. With anyone. Ever. Not your boyfriend, not your grandma, not your Chatroulette buddies in Ukraine. Nobody.
Make sure your e-mail password is strong, and change it at least once a year. Don't use the same password anywhere else.
If you use Gmail or other Google services, turn on two-step verification, a simple way to protect your account that requires you to use both a password and a code on your phone to log in. It's easy. It's great. Do it now.
Put a passcode on your phone. Your phone has your e-mail on it, and phones get lost or stolen every .0002 seconds. No passcode? Your e-mail is wide open to anyone who has access to your phone, even for a few minutes.
And the most important thing you can do to protect yourself? Backups. Backups backups backups. Automated local and online backups (you need both) are easy and cheap, and they'll save your ass. If someone gets into your e-mail or your Facebook account and deletes everything, you'll have a copy safely stashed away. A mess, but not a disaster.
For more details and recommendations, read this: http://s.trn.gr/OMRdu8.
By Brendan Kiley
The phrase "student debt" sounds so, so boring, but bear with me here. Like many boring things that eventually change the political landscape—like, say, a British tea tax—it seems meaningless, but might be huge. Here's why.
As many American children grow up, they are bombarded with this message: "YOU MUST GO TO COLLEGE OR YOU WILL NEVER HAVE A FULFILLING LIFE OR A JOB WORTH HAVING!" Many of those children can't afford college—and, since every institution has been panicked about money for the past decade and scholarships have dwindled—those children take out very large loans. They feel obligated to take out those loans.
What those new tuition borrowers may not realize when they sign the dotted line: All debt is crappy, but student debt is extra crappy. A person can declare bankruptcy and have most debts forgiven, but not student-loan debt. You have to file a whole different lawsuit and win in court—which barely ever happens, since people overwhelmed with student debt don't usually have the time or money to prepare a court case—to have that debt discharged. According to the New York Times, as of September 2012, nearly six million Americans were in the swamp of student-debt default.
Meanwhile, students graduate and find out that the job market sucks. So we have a generation of educated young people who went to college because they thought they had to and graduated with a boatload of debt and few job opportunities. Meanwhile, they're prohibited from creating their own job opportunities because of their debt (debtors have a tough time borrowing money for new ventures). It's as if we'd shoved a generation of teenagers with no money into a casino masquerading as a library.
At this point, you may be wondering why millionaire bankers and the American auto industry got bailouts for their ridiculously huge and risky debts just a few years ago, but college graduates can't file bankruptcy to get their youthful, paltry debts forgiven. It's a good question. It's been one of the central questions of the Occupy movement. Ask your economics professor and let us know what you find out.
Stop reading this article right now if you want to be, like, a surgeon or a NASA scientist, because you're going to need to stay in school for the next 12 eternities. This piece isn't about coping with college—it's about why you may want to quit school, which, again, you can't do if you want to do surgery on Mars.
Everyone else—like, all you people who want to run businesses or write books or go into politics—you have a choice. You can spend the next four years piling up tens of thousands of dollars of student debt and "learning things," or you can start piling up four years of experience by doing things. And the proof in your pudding is when you apply for a job. Consider the competition: Every other applicant will already have a college degree. Basically all of them. But what will none of 'em have? Experience. And experience gets you hired.
Dropping out isn't for everyone. However, if you're the sort of person who is reading thousands of words deep into a feature in an alt-weekly newspaper (admittedly, one written by stoned, drunk dropouts), you're probably also the sort of person who can (a) read and (b) learn shit on your own. And if you can learn shit on your own, you can find a job that teaches you more stuff and climb the ladder of your own career. So maybe school isn't for you.
On the other hand, school is ideal for people who have money now (or will have money later). Let's just think for a moment about the sort of job that you want. Writing? Nonprofit work? Musician or actor or artist? You're not going to make enough money in those jobs—$50,000 a year, if you're lucky—to pay off your debt of $75,000, $100,000, or $150,000 without working for a decade. Or going bankrupt. Because four years of tuition can cost about as much as a house. So if you have the money, sure, enjoy the privilege of an education. But you—and your family—probably aren't made of dollar bills.
So think hard: If you want years and years of debt, you better make sure it's in a field that's gonna pay off that debt. Otherwise, embrace the fact that there's basically nothing in college you can't teach yourself—while you're making money and actually living your life—unless you wanna perform surgery or go explore the solar system.
This article has been updated since its original publication.