Forget usual wisdom — embrace irony after NU

Mike Sherman Column

I am now a college graduate, and all I have to show for it is overwhelming existential angst, debt and a piece of squashed dead tree with University President Henry Bienen’s Xeroxed signature.

Ahh, graduation. Two thousand unemployed 22-year-olds wearing identical outfits that make Northwestern students even less sexy, if that were possible. President Hank Bienen appearing in the flesh a second time — the first time being a sleeping pill of a speech during New Student Week. Some old people, including a token minority, getting free worthless diplomas. Four thousand parents filling the stands of Ryan Field, pretending they can see their kids. Alcohol. Ennui.

And a commencement speech. Our speaker was some lady named Wendy Chamberlin, former ambassador to Pakistan. After hearing her speak, I know why Pakistan hates us. “Wendy’s 10 Words of Wisdom” was maybe a half step above “What is the meaning of graduation? Webster’s Dictionary defines graduation as blah blah blah …”

I’m sure Ambassador Chamberlin was well-intentioned, but things like “trust” and “partnership” are useless to the modern college graduate. To compensate, I’ve made my own list. Call them “Mike’s six words of realism.”

1) Unemployment. With the economy showing no real signs of a turnaround, there isn’t hope beyond “Would you like fries with that,” or …

2) Fellatio. You can suck your way to the top. You can suck your way into graduate school. Actually, you can’t anymore. With all the hooking up without intercourse that goes on at American universities, the competition for blowing your way up is, um, stiff. Don’t worry, you can still turn tricks in dark alleys. You might have some money left after you get those sores checked.

3) Depression. When the whole prostitute thing starts to wear on your self-esteem you can still get that job at Burger King. In the words of filmmaker Alex Cox: “There’s fuckin’ room to move as a fry cook. I could be manager in two years. King. God.” That’s a nice segue into the next word of wisdom:

4) Irony. The only way a 21st century youth can survive in the post-modern world is by sarcastically detaching oneself from the pain that is real life. Irony lets you take the dramatic (no job, oral herpes, the rising cost of Zoloft), and turn it into a “meh.” So you can keep cooking those fries. Don’t forget the salt.

5) Wal-Mart. Sure, the clothes are cheap. More importantly, anyone with a fake ID and a signature can get a gun. When ironic detachment no longer works, you still have a way out. If it’s good enough for Ernest Hemingway and Kurt Cobain, it’s good enough for you. And remember, sleeping pills are for the weak.

6) Apathy. Things like working a street corner and committing suicide take energy. One just can’t be bothered. Apathy is your guiding light. Quit caring. Move back in with mom and/or dad. Live in the basement. Do drugs and watch cartoons until the next dot-com bubble starts filling with the blood of the working class. Then, college graduate, you pounce. And that seat on the Board of Trustees that you’ve always dreamed about will be yours. Let the money laundering begin!

Congratulations graduates!