When I went off to college back in the Jurassic, there were a whole host of bonding rituals we did in the dorms. No one was pretentious enough to actually call them “bonding rituals,” of course, and certainly nobody planned them, but that’s what they were. It was a more social age, and it went without saying that if you were going to be stuck living with a few dozen complete strangers, you’d better hammer out a modus vivendi pretty quick. Even the obvious “grinders” were forced to participate — you have to leave the library sometime, dorkus, so we need to know what kind of a person we’re bunking with.
One of the most fun was a drinking game called “never have I ever.”* You say “never have I ever ____.” Anyone who has ever ___ has to drink, while providing a detailed description of the incident. Young people back then actually had hormones, so of course a lot of it was sexual… but a lot of it wasn’t, and a funny thing happened: We noticed a clear divide between what are now pretentiously (and rather scarily) called “first generation” students and the others. The “first generations,” i.e. me and and all my soon-to-be friends, had a lot more experience than the kids whose parents were college grads.
Not just sexual experience, either (I myself was woefully deficient in that, alas, though not for lack of trying). One of the earliest “questions” was something like “never have I ever been in a fistfight.” Since getting drunk is half the fun, and telling your story is the other half, the guy who said this obviously intended everyone to drink. Sure enough, almost everybody chugged… but not the kids with college grad parents.
So, kids being kids, pretty soon the game revolved around getting these goobers to drink.
It was a real challenge! Never have I ever: cheated on a test. Skipped class. Shoplifted. Smoked weed. Etc. Not all of us had done all of those, of course — we were a fairly law-abiding, well-mannered bunch, all things considered — but the alumni kids hadn’t done anything. Getting them to drink involved epically dorky shit like “never have I ever scored over a 1300 on my SAT” and “never have I ever attended a Boy Scout jamboree” (both 100% real, I swear). And this was not, let me be clear, at some hoity-toity Ivy League campus. This was a third-rate public school in one of our less intellectual states. The simple fact was, any kids who started out in the middle-class pipeline were incredibly sheltered…
And this was half a lifetime ago. I can’t even imagine what the quivering little mice I taught were like back in high school. Never have I ever… complained about having to go straight to soccer practice after my violin lesson?
This stuff matters, because it has real world consequences. One of the reasons they’re stuck in the eternal now, for example, is because history is meaningless to them. How could it be otherwise? How can you even start explaining something like Prohibition to a bunch of kids who have never taken a drink? Or who get blackout drunk every weekend, depending? They can’t process nuance because they lack context, because they’ve never actually done much of anything. Their lives go day care – grade school – soccer practice – SAT prep class – college. They’re never allowed to go off-script, because they’re never ever unsupervised. And, of course, they think they know everything, because in their world, they do know everything, and have the A+ to prove it.
If you’ve ever wondered how so many college kids could be so gung-ho for a septuagenarian Jew whose platform was laughably unrealistic when Eugene V. Debs was pimping it back in the 1910s, there you go. Never have they ever done jack squat, but since doing jack squat has gained them nothing but praise their entire lives…