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Things I Find in My Parents’ Dining Room: The Essay That Got Me Into Dartmouth

January 12, 2010

A few of you may know that I sometimes tutor students for the SAT, GRE, and GMAT, and then spend the money on trips to randomly-chosen exotic locales. Over the holidays, I found the (successful) college applications essay I wrote as a high school senior. The question was “Write your own question and answer it.” Here it is!

Jennifer Dziura
Frank W. Cox High School
Virginia Beach, Virginia

The Question:

Unbeknownst to you, an extraterrestrial life form has been observing you for the past twenty-four hours. He will use the information he has collected for his doctoral dissertation, entitled “A Study in Behavioral Science: The Human Dartmouth Applicant.” The life form has several pages of notes regarding your behavior and activities during this period; translate an excerpt from these notes into English and record it here.

The Answer:

Universal Time 3 1 : 234
Galactic Date 7819-420
Subject: human female Dartmouth applicant, aged seventeen earth years

The earth female is standing at the kitchen sink. She washes her hands meticulously; her arms, up to the elbows, are laden with soapsuds. A turn of the faucet increases the surge of water, and she rinses the disintegrating soapsuds from her skin.

Following this cleansing ritual, the earth female dries her hands on a filthy dishrag. She turns to leave, realizes what she has done, and resigns herself to another handwashing. Sensors indicate that the subject’s antibacterial efforts are successful.

The earth female eats an apple and retreats to the upper portion of her family’s dwelling. She opens a small, flat case, removes a “compact disc,” and inserts it into a machine apparently designed for this purpose. Peculiar sounds emanate from this apparatus: sensors identify the voice as that of Frank Sinatra, a musical performer of the twentieth earth century, also known as “Old Blue Eyes.” Sinatra proclaims “Luck be a lady tonight….” The significance of this is unknown.

The subject sits at her desk and opens a large, unwieldy book entitled A History of Civilization. She comes across the term “Thermidorean reaction,” appears perplexed. and refers to the book’s index. The earth female’s studying behavior is interrupted by a shrill peal that occurs at short, evenly spaced intervals. Sensors indicate that the source is a primitive communications device known as a “telephone.”

Having lifted the telephone from its cradle, the subject offers a traditional earth greeting; the voice of another human female is transmitted through the device. The following exchange takes place:

“Hi. Have you read the newspaper today?”
“No. not yet. I have tests in four A.P. classes tomorrow and a debate tournament this weekend. Why, did someone shoot the President?”
“No. but someone shot Bob Packwood.”
“Oh, good. No, really. What’s in today’s paper?”
“It’s about the Finnish National Wife Carrying Championships.”
“Excuse me?”
“It says right here. The goal is to carry a wife, preferably someone else’s, over a 780-foot obstacle course involving water, sand, grass, asphalt, and two fences. The fastest man wins the woman’s weight in lemonade.”
“That makes sense. The winner will probably be carrying an exceptionally small wife. Therefore, the officials will have to give out less lemonade.”

The two earth females engage in more of the same for approximately thirty earth minutes. The subject returns to her studying ritual. She is now attempting to perform a rudimentary mathematical procedure given the earth-name “implicit differentiation.” The subject is experiencing guarded success. An earth male, aged thirteen earth years and with a genetic makeup similar to the subject’s, softly opens the subject’s door. He flips her lightswitch to its “off” position. He remarks “It’s night. And it’s dark at night.” The earth male experiences a bout of what sensors term “hysterical laughter.”

The earth male retreats; the earth female sighs. She turns the light back on, closes her calculus book. and turns her attention to an oddly-shaped, rigid container. inside the container is a similarly-shaped, flat wooden box. It is equipped with several metal strings as well as what appears to be a long handle. Sensors identify this object as a “viola,” a musical instrument closely related to the violin, which was notably prominent in the earth movie Amadeus. The subject places the viola between her chin and shoulder and draws a lock of horsehair, stretched taut over a long stick, over its strings, causing the instrument to produce sound. Sensors identify this sound as “music,” although no assertion is made as to whether or not Luck is a lady.

The earth female replaces the viola in its container. brushes her teeth, and turns off the light, perhaps in imitation of the earth male. She climbs into bed and covers herself with several large, heavy pieces of fabric. She lapses into a state of unconsciousness typical of earth creatures. Sensors indicate a decreased heart rate. slowed breathing, and a tendency to keep the eyeballs covered. The subject remains motionless. Empirical evidence suggests that she will return to a conscious, ambulatory state within the next eight hours.

Some Photos I Dug Up Of Myself In College, Pursuant to a TV Spot I Will Be Shooting on Monday

September 13, 2009

I’m shooting a television spot on Monday that is related to my giving advice to my former self. As such, I needed to find a good photo of my former self, and by “good,” I mean “wearing large, plastic glasses and posing under the Christmas tree with a framed print of the New Kids on the Block.”

Here are some more photos I found, retelling in brief the sorts of things that happen when I am let out of my childhood home in Virginia Beach, Virginia and permitted to roam around a college campus like a feral schizophrenic.


This is me on the first day of college (that’s my Dad in front me, and me looking back at my mother, who is taking the picture). I might look unsure about college, but I’m actually just really, really annoyed that my mother insisted that my entire family drive from Virginia to New Hampshire to drop me off, which meant I had to sit in the backseat of the car with my enormous brother instead of sitting in the front seat with my dad, who can easily drive 10+ hours at a stretch in total silence. In retrospect, of course a mother wants to see her child off to the first day of college, and of course it’s not my brother’s fault that he took up the entire backseat of a mid-sized sedan, but dear god, do I hate family road trips. I hate them so much I now refuse to go on dates that require taking the subway with another person. It’s just awkward, and the next time someone grabs my arm and directs me to some particular set of subway stairs as though I don’t know how to use the subway, dude’s gonna get cut.


As soon as I arrived at college, I discovered Rocky Horror and dressed up as Columbia. I also decided I was a lesbian and cut my hair accordingly, but I didn’t know anything because I was 18 and from Virginia Beach.


I was crowned King at a drag ball.


I dressed up as Trinity from The Matrix, because it was the ’90s.


I became a crazy bodybuilder. I was also, briefly, a vegan. After experiencing such vast success in adopting incompatible goals, I decided to become a pacifist cage fighter / fascist bohemian / deaf air-traffic controller.


Finally, I emerged from several years of costumes and body modification as the head of a dotcom! (Also, suddenly a redhead). Then that tanked and I went broke and moved to New York and became a comedian.

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.

class issues and the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine

August 26, 2005

When a reminiscing alumnus uses the words “coxswain” and “regatta” in the same sentence, I still positively giggle, as if the speaker had instead declaimed “Here, darling, we bathe only in champagne.”

Also see previous post on this topic.

from a friend in L.A.

June 20, 2005

Despite having extensively covered my Dartmouth reunion on this blog, this was too good not to post:

I miss some things about Hanover. What you said about the clean air reminded me of most of them. The mountains up there are much more solid and joyous than the earthquake-formed shit-piles out here. I realized out here that what I meant by “I love nature,” when I said and meant it, was that “I love Eastern Deciduous Forests.”

back in New York

June 20, 2005

The New York Times costs $5.25 when purchased at the Hanover Inn!

I spent my last forty-five minutes at Dartmouth sitting on the Green on my ‘00 towel, stretching and reading the paper. It occurred to me that anyone watching might think I’m some kind of yoga-doing person, which I’m not; I’m just stretching because you’re supposed to do that after you exercise. My reunion souvenir towel did prove immensely useful for this purpose, and the weather obediently turned to sunny and breezy for the afternoon. They always say to leave the party while you’re having fun.

As pointed out by Cara as she was driving, there is a store near Andover, VT, called:

Over Andover Used Books

J Crew, meet Eddie Bauer

June 19, 2005

Yesterday I hiked with a friend and his dog around the periphery of the golf course, an hour and a half long journey that resulted in a bramble-burred dog and a deer sighting. When told this story, a classmate said that he had once seen a moose on the Green, a tale which others regarded as most probably apocryphal.

Last night we had our big class dinner on the (iceless) ice skating rink, at the bottom of empty bleachers that might seat thousands. I met and re-encountered some lovely people, and had maybe eight or nine of them tell me they had seen this website, and a handful more suggest that I should let them know when I perform in Boston, a city in which I’ve never actually been for more than five hours.

This morning, breakfast was served in the dining hall, which was packed, creating just the sort of socially awkward situation we hope will dissipate once we leave high school. In reality, though, we as adults are not necessarily better equipped to deal with cliques and bullying and such — if a guy with whom you were standing on line at the bank suddenly grabbed your hat and refused to give it back, holding it above his head and out of your reach and taunting you, would you really have a better mechanism for dealing with it than when you were ten? You’d whine “Give it baa-acck,” or you’d threaten to “tell,” or you’d try to play it off and pretend you didn’t care.

It’s not that we’re better equipped; it’s merely that these things happen with less frequency (but more disquietude when they do occur).

I’d really like to find a Sunday Times around here.

I suppose I could’ve tried to eat more unlimited free reunion bacon this morning. It’s the little victories.

the rain is drizzling and so is the chocolate

June 18, 2005

I’m at my five-year college reunion right now. It’s been raining all day, and at the first break in the rain I took a run around Occum Pond, which I never did as an undergraduate. The air is so much cleaner here; perhaps I can expel from my lungs some of the New York diesel that has accumulated there.

As always, I am uncomfortable in crowds of strangers; that’s why I tend to find myself on stages, where I have a clearly defined Thing to Accomplish.

I have an article coming out soon in the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine, about my being the first woman captain of the boxing team. This afternoon I ran into Alex, a fellow alumnus who was mentioned in the article — specifically, the guy who beat the hell out of me. It was a fair fight, too; he was in my weight class, and I got thoroughly whomped.

In our class tent, they handed out souvenir towels and water bottles. Carrying mine back to my old co-ed house, I looked like I was somehow on my way to the pool. We had dinner in the class tent — lots of free beer, pizza, and lasagna.

I stopped off in the alumni welcome center (free Dartmouth lint brushes in the lobby!), where an attendant tipped me off that the class of ‘94 had a chocolate fountain in their tent, so I crashed their party a bit and dipped peanut butter balls and banana slices into the chocolate drizzle. If anyone gets married and invites me, get a chocolate fountain. That’s all you need for a memorable wedding.

I was holding my umbrella while transferring chocolate-dipped morsels from the fountain to my plate, and I dripped chocolate on my umbrella, making it look like I had been through some Willy Wonka chocolate river fun ride of alumnitude.