Attention, all you who decry the decline of American culture—where did the concept of MTV Spring Break come from? What seedy gyri or sulci of our brains make us think that a full week of developing skin cancer, developing liver failure, egging girls on to remove their already minimal clothing, disrespecting local people, and indiscriminately engaging in sexual acts with strangers is okay?
Well, regardless of the sociological or anthropological roots of my choice, and whatever my parents were thinking when they approved my trip, it looked like I was headed to Punta Cana, baby! Spring Break 2011! Seven girls, two rooms, one week to remember. We were going to get tan, get boys, get drunk (legal drinking age of 18!), even make some new friends, absolutely not in that order, and take lots of photos to prove we had one of those Epic Spring Breaks.
Those things all happened, but consequently, we lost our innocence, and not in the sense you may be thinking. No, we lost the wonder and envy of having an Epic Spring Break, of surfing through others’ photo albums, of guiltily watching MTV. Now we know what dangers are lurking beneath the surface of these breaks, and we are lucky to have made it back. May this be your warning.
Nobody is surprised that spring break is an orgiastic affair. In teeming masses arranged by schools, spring break fleshes out a new dimension to the phrase, “There are always more fish in the sea.”
What I did not expect, however, was the cannibalism.
And worse, we are sheep that lead ourselves to the slaughter. In the weeks preceding this magical spring break, we are soft, pale, and aching to be gobbled up after a winter of inactivity. In preparation for the break, many of us prefer to tone our bodies to earn a higher grade, perhaps upgrading from a Choice+ to a Prime -, while others (myself included), content themselves with the non-ideal grade we can owe to our breeders.
We pack lightly, since we only need our smallest, most transparent pieces of clothing. Our hotel is a Disney-esque resort that would make Hansel and Gretel’s witch caterwaul in delight, with its all-inclusive French fries and pre-packaged pina coladas designed to fatten us up for her or anyone’s oven. But would-be chefs need not worry about lack of human-sized ovens or pots. We take care of all the careful roasting ourselves by conspicuously avoiding the shade, especially in the early afternoon, turning ourselves over when one side is done cooking.
We lie on the beach swigging cheap rum and smoothing sunscreen over each other’s backs. We are pickling our innards, basting ourselves in creamy SPF—or better, coconut-scented tanning oils—and then frying ourselves into a snack for the hungry predators at the bars and clubs. The lucky among us are so ethnic or just genetically blessed that we turn a crispy well-done. Many, despite constant roasting and baking, only manage a bright pink, the perfect medium-rare for some carnivores, but perhaps too tender for immediate consumption. Some types even take malaria pills to spice up the flavor. Others, those clever ones who realize what savage preparation is taking place, elect to preserve their fairness and their internal organs, reading Ian McEwan peacefully under a palm tree sipping coconut juice and ignoring the wild rituals being performed on the beach. I envy them.
When the sun sets, regardless of the phase of the moon, every college student, honeymooning couple, and even old European tourist turns into a randy cannibal. The biggest hotspot in the Punta Cana scene is a mystic place called Imagine, a three-dancefloor club located in a cave. There are bats on the ceilings marveling at the writhing acrobatics of the cannibals below and having epileptic seizures from the lights. They are paralyzed, unable to use their sonar systems due to the overwhelming power of the mashup. There is no better arena for us, we who are about to die saluting the DJ, to metamorphose into the gluttons ourselves and tackle the smorgasbord.
In the morning, bodies and brains ravaged by the excesses of the all-you-can-eat, we awaken wrapped either in our own white tablecloths (why are those put on our beds, anyway?) or the large linen napkins of another spring breaker. If the latter is the case, there is rarely acknowledgement that the other has a last, or even a first, name, much less any other identity besides where he or she is from. Note, on a menu, a fine beef or salmon’s origins are very important, but who even names their cows anymore?
Now, back in the stone refrigerator of Whitman College, I am crispily tan, in great need of a detox, and with a new perspective on the dating scene here at Princeton. However much one may complain about the quality, the cut, and perhaps the price tag on the men and women of this university, at least we have not devolved into a munching and crunching mass. At least, I hope not.