Hooray! You did it … you graduated from high school! After a dozen long, studious years you’re in for the next phase of life, where you’ll be living away from home, setting your own hours and fighting your own battles. Don’t get me wrong, you’re not living in a remote silo, but for the most part your decisions (and their consequences) are your own for the first time. Dad and I are so proud of you.
We’ve always been open about, well … everything. You’ve grown up in an activist, non-profit household where you volunteered for Drag Bingo, built homes, stuffed envelopes for annual fund drives for HIV funding. You’ve listened when I took every opportunity to work in discussions on safe and responsible sex, alcohol and drugs. You’ve actively participated in conversations about responsibility, accountability and self-esteem. But it’s been easy because you’ve been here with us, and have to come home to face us at night after dates with your girlfriend and adventuring with your friends. At college, you report to no one but yourself. You are a legal adult now, so any trouble you might get into counts differently. You can go to jail. You can get kicked out of college. You can damage your permanent chance of future employment. You can change the trajectory of all future relationships. Fortunately, you know I’m not all gloom and doom … and that I’m going to use any opportunity I can find to create a teachable moment. Well, here it is.
Take sex seriously. Remember what Gran always told me about kissing: you’re kissing the person before them, and the person before them. Sex is the same way … you’re coming into contact with the person before, and the person before, and the person before … Imagine how embarrassing it’ll be to tell your wife or your partner you had gonorrhea or chlamydia or genital warts. How about HIV disease, Hepatitis C or herpes – those never go away. Sex is not dirty or scary or bad. It is a crucial, really fun and healthy element in adult relationships. Just be smart, be safe. And ALWAYS USE A CONDOM. Guys — you aren’t the only ones responsible for supplying condoms; girls — make sure you have them available, too. Do not trust a partner to tell you they’re clean, or taking birth control pills. Use a condom and keep YOUR body safe, which in turn will keep your partner’s body safe. Have respect for yourself and your partner. And for crying out loud, do not brag about intimacy. Have dignity. Oh — one last thing: just because you have gonads instead of ovaries does not mean you have to take abuse from mean girls. You have feelings, too.
- Know your status — AND your partner’s — Get Tested (HIV, STDs)
- How to put on a condom – Planned Parenthood
- Types of Birth Control
- HIV Infection, Syphilis and Gonorrhea infection rates in North Carolina
- Psychology Today: Going to College? Here’s Practical Sex Advice
- PBS: More college campuses swap ‘No means no’ for ‘Yes means yes’
- The Consent Debate: College Students, Experts, Activists Discuss Sexual Consent on Campus Amid Backdrop of Alcohol and Hook-up Culture
- How to Buy Condoms
- Everything You Need to Know About Condoms (But Were Afraid to Ask)
When you go to parties:
- drink water or a soft drink out of one of the red cups – you’ll look like everybody else (and your hands will have something to do) but still be in control;
- do not accept drinks from strangers – bad, violent and violating things happen to guys, too;
- do NOT ever get in the car with someone who has had anything (much less a lot) to drink – call a cab, call Uber, call me, or drive their car (as long as you have had zero to drink);
- do NOT invite strangers up to your room – don’t put yourself in the position of having to confirm consent or risk your own safety or health. It’s easy to confuse friendly gestures for romantic ones – you’re cute and gallant and like catnip, and often ignore how girls react to you. Draw a substantial, obvious line; make it clear you’re strictly friendly classmates. A one-night stand is not worth it. No means no. Drunk NEVER means yes.
- do know what kind of safety information girls are Googling — they just want to be safe, too (PS. you have strong protective urges, but it does not mean you are the only guy who can swoop in and save the day … walk away from physical altercations and call 911)
- do NOT stick around if drugs come into play. Just leave.
- do NOT fight the police if they show up. There are always attorneys and advocates. Go peacefully. Lie on the ground if they tell you to. Keep your hands visible. Follow directions. Most importantly: LIVE.
If you are going to try drugs:
- do NOT use anything with a needle that punctures your skin (Hepatitis C, HIV);
- do NOT take anything that is synthetic or manufactured in a lab;
- do NOT snort anything up your nose;
- do NOT take anybody else’s prescriptions;
- do NOT take any psychoactive drugs or hallucinogens;
- do NOT trade sex for drugs.
- Here is more information on commonly abused drugs and their effects. Not that I’m condoning it, but you’re not going to OD on weed.
Stay healthy and keep on running:
- CDC: Six Tips for College Health and Safety
- 101 Health and Wellness Tips for College Students
- 30 Great Ways to Avoid the Freshman 15 and Stay in Shape
Develop a successful routine:
- 10 Habits of Highly Effective Students
- Time Scheduling Strategies for College Students
- The Art of Manliness: Morning and Evening Routines
If something happens, find an adult. Call the police. Call us — it is NEVER too late to ring me up. Do not let your university silence you. We have insurance. We will forgive you. Just live to see another day.
And PS, we’re not paying for a fraternity.