On a Jaffa block in a kitchen in a row house just off campus in West Philadelphia, a bottle of Marsala cooking wine sits alone. The bottle stands proudly, beaming at the cereals and the mac 'n' cheeses, knowing it is of a higher rank. The bananas aspire to achieve the pride of the cooking wine before their counted brown-spotted days come. Animal crackers quietly yearn to be thought of as something more than just an easy snack with a cool box. But at the end of the week, the bananas have been eaten, the cereal has given its life and only the wrappers of microwaveable mac 'n' cheese testify to the artificial cheese massacre of the past week. The Marsala cooking wine remains -- alone. When I bought Marsala cooking wine on my first trip to the supermarket this year, my housemate Stanislav mocked me for my purchase. "Why would you buy cooking wine if you never cook?" he jeered. "Do you even know how to use it?" he asked, as if it were some kind of weapon. Foolishly, I thought that if I simply bought the ingredients that my mother used to make dinner at home, I would magically be able to whip up the meals she makes on a regular basis in an easy half-hour. Somehow, purchasing that Marsala cooking wine made me feel like an adult, ready to take on adult responsibilities, make adult dinners and adult decisions, and do big, bad, smart adult things. That Marsala cooking wine was a metaphor for the journey I was willing to make into the adult world. I was an illegal immigrant; the wine was my falsified passport. It is now four weeks since I have moved into my house. I have consumed more mac 'n' cheese than I'd like to admit, made enough veggie burgers to fill a small room and eaten more bananas than a monkey trying to satisfy a potassium deficit. But the Marsala cooking wine remains untouched, because despite the fact that I have the passport to go to the all-important land of Adulthood, I simply don't have the vehicle to get there. Despite three years at Penn learning about everything from the Doppler effect and Wordsworth to Hellenistic Greece and Kant, I still do not know how to manage my life. I don't understand what to do with my tax forms. I can't pay for my own tuition. I don't know how to cook anything that doesn't involve microwaves or grills. I don't fully understand insurance. I don't know how to manage my money. And worst of all, I gave my pet Siamese fighting fish, Mr. Yappy, to a foster family because I couldn't handle taking him on the train from New Jersey to Philadelphia in a Ziploc bag. I am an unfit adult. Despite years spent at Penn trying to become a worldlier, more educated individual who is most capable of taking care of herself in the real world, I find myself grossly inadequate in the department of caretaking -- especially when it relates to taking care of myself. Where Penn has provided me with an education that can make me delightfully snobby at cocktail parties, intelligent in an office setting and eloquent as a writer and a speaker, I have been left on the side of the road when it comes to real-life skills. At Penn I have learned one scary thing about the real world: Once you hit May, you're on your own, kid. There needs to be a way to make that real-world entrance less like jumping into a pool of your own phlegm and more like slipping comfortably into a warm Jacuzzi. Admittedly, I am perhaps a little further behind than most in the everyday "taking care of yourself" department, but I don't doubt that thousands of students at Penn are just as clueless about the real world. To ameliorate the effect of sending thousands of recent alumni into the world knowing only about Nietzsche and artificial cheese, Penn should help us enter the real world by having a preceptorial, or a program during Senior Week, in which students could learn about all the things they didn't pick up while they were too busy reading Paradise Lost. Because even though we may have all the ingredients to become adults, they'll just sit there untouched unless we learn how to use them.Comments powered by Disqus
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