It has four legs. It is rectangular. It lives in the center of the living room. It never moves and rarely ever gets cleaned. It is made of wood and houses a peculiar, wide variety of items. On Sunday mornings it is so cluttered that you can’t see the surface of it. It has become an autonomous being. At times, this thing can be a danger to its surroundings. What is it?
A Coffee Table.
In a college house, you may expect the bathroom or kitchen to be the dirtiest, scariest part. However, no one wants to face their real demons, the true thing that is an immediate sign of messy, horrific college students. God, aren’t 18-22 year old kids living with no parents just the fucking worst?
For normal adult people, coffee tables serve as both functional and aesthetic items, but in a college house, they have become a symbol of failure. Coffee tables are merely symbolic of the growth and adulthood that is expected of students once they move out of their parents house, but have come to represent that lack of ability to put away dishes and throw away trash. The coffee table resembles everything wrong, but so right about the joys and freedom of being in college. A college coffee table is the most mysterious and misunderstood part of the house.
In my personal experience living with 7 girls, the surface of my coffee table rarely ever sees the light of day. Old dishes from dinner two nights ago, candles, bongs, obnoxiously large hydroflasks, grinders, candy wrappers, lighters, juuls, juul pods, and small animals live rent free on my coffee table. I love the mess of our coffee table, but would I be ashamed to show it to guests? Would I be ashamed for my parents to see it? Absolutely, yes.
But as I stare at my coffee table and reflect, I wonder if society has conditioned young people to believe that we need a coffee table because it is “functional” and serves a purpose to house items of different sorts. We are told we need a coffee table because we are finally adults now. Have you ever seen an adult house without a coffee table? I hope not, that would be so weird! But we aren’t reallyyy adults yet, so I wonder if my roommates and I would be better off without it?
How can something so small and innocent be the bane of our existence? How can something so simple cause so much curiosity and debate about the world and societal standards? After much thought, I have decided we absolutely need a coffee table to rest our damp dogs on after a long day of standing. We need a tiny table to put our old dishes because otherwise it would just go directly on the floor, instead of in the sink. However, I am taking back the meaning of a coffee table.
A coffee table in a college house does not represent the inability to grow up, but the privilege and excitement of having freedom and independence from your parents and the joys in living with your best friends.
I will no longer feel ashamed about the mess of my coffee table, and rather embrace it because I still have one more semester of my college career left for this to be socially acceptable.