Friday evenings are always special because the workweek is over and I can relax and socialize. I have learned to do these things on any evening, but it always seems better on Fridays.  This particular Friday I had done both, having had dinner with friends and then browsing through the books at Barnes and Noble before going home. Waiting for me at home was an email from one of my students that read:

"Dear Dr. Hofmann,

One of my roommates, Jackie Hall, and I want to invite you to our party on Saturday.  It's a cowboys and Indians theme, and we thought you might want to come because you kind of look like a cowboy.  Anyway, it will be a fun time, so if you want to come, let us know.  By the way, thanks for cancelling class on Friday.

Julia LaBarr"

My first thought was that the word 'canceling' has only one "l" in it. (Sometimes it's hard to stop being a teacher.) My second thought was, "Which one of my 119 students this semester was Julia and which was Jackie?" Trying to place faces with names has always been difficult for me, but I knew I would recognize them when I saw them. My third thought had to do with my "looking like a cowboy" when I teach, and whether this was good or bad.

I wrote back to Julia.

"I'm flattered, honored, and somewhat intimidated. The latter because I don't drink and not sure how well I would fit in at a college party without inhibiting the fun or looking and feeling like a chaperone.

And I would be an Indian or a Cowboy?

Where and when is this party?

And if you and Jackie are roommates, how come she did so much better on the quiz than you did?  :-("

There was no response from this email until about 8 PM on Saturday, telling me that the party would start at 11 PM and giving me the address.  I decided to go. It was one of those WTF moments that we all have from time-to-time. Besides, I had not attended a college party for many years. Well, there was that toga party two years ago, but being held at a restaurant/bar removed it from the category of a serious college party.

I arrived at the address in a rainstorm. (Technically I didn't arrive in a rainstorm, I arrvied in my truck -- but it was raining outside.) I was dressed in my finest working cowboy outfit, which consisted of boots, spurs, chaps, vest, scarf, hat and Australian oil-skin duster. The ironic thing is that these items of clothing are things I really wear in the summers when I'm in Colorado riding horses. As it turned out, I was over-dressed for this party. About half of the 100+ attendees who were packed into this home had made no attempt to look like either cowboys or Indians. Many of the women had dressed as Indian maidens and some had done excellent jobs at doing so. Of course if any real Native Americans had been there, they would have been horrified at the costumes. Or perhaps they would have overlooked them in admiration of the women themselves.

One tall blond tennis player was dressed as a cowgirl and holding a horse head on a stick --the kind that kids use for pretend riding. I was tempted to ask her if I could pet her pony, but had to remind myself that I was a professor. Another blond tennis player, Monika, who I have known for three years, and who is one of my advisees, had sewn her Native American Costume and done an excellent job. She was wearing a headband that said "Chief Bald Beaver" and her girlfriend was wearing one that said "Chief Spread Eagle."Larry, a football player, was wearing shorts with a thong back that exposed 99% of his rather large hairy butt. Another was wearing a Gulf gasoline station shirt and a turban on his head, so the interpretations of Indian costumes were more creative than I had expected.

In the two hours that I was at this party there was a generous amount of beer consumed -- which was to be expected. Only one person threw up that I was aware of, which, by some definitions, made it a dull party. I drank a diet coke, talked to lots of people, and had a good time considering that everyone there had not been born when I started teaching at the college. I tried to imagine my colleagues at this party and couldn't. I tried to imagine these party folks at my house and couldn't. Well, that's not entirely true. There were a number of them I could imagine at my house, but only one at a time.

Now that it is over and I'm back in the warm, quiet comfort of my own home, I am both thankful and regretful that I'm not a college student anymore. I miss the open, uninhibited, playful exchanges that just don't happen between us older adults. Age seems to bring an increasing amout of conservatism in our lives that hangs over us like wet blankets. There was a level of care-free excitement that I miss in my social life, and I wish for more of it. On the other hand, having 100 people getting drunk in my house is not high on my list of fun things. Thanks, Julia and Jackie, for inviting me. I should have the two of you over here sometime. Maybe after you graduate would be best.