Another in-class writing activity.
The University of Arizona in Tucson has long been known as a breeding ground for the most excessively flamboyant frat boy and sorority girls stereotypical behaviors. “The kids who couldn’t get into the California system enroll here,” a fellow graduate student told me. This was true: nearly every young female student was a Nicole Richie impersonator.
Part of keeping up this image was at once looking disinterested in classes and busy with talking on the cell phone. In fact, many female students honed the art of fake cell phone conversations. As a longtime holdout from the world of cell phones, this was a new world.
“Wow, like, I can’t believe she would say that,” was a popular fake remark to hear.
“God, I can’t believe that slut,” was another. What kind of effort did it take to create this fake dialogue?
Often, a Nicole Richie wannabe would merely hold her cell phone, usually a Motorola Razr, to her ear, and not talk until meeting someone she wanted to avoid. All of a sudden, an involved conversation would ensue.
"Yeah, and then he said, 'I think we should start seeing other people.'"
Now, many of these conversations were real, but I have it on the authority of the students that many conversations were entirely fabricated. I call it the California Effect. The Red Hot Chili Peppers have suggested a different term: Californication.
The word “fornication” in Californication functions to connote illicit behavior in the overall California style. This may be pushing it, but surely a strong degree of misleading behavior—or the controlled use of illusion—defines the California style. The strongest example of this was the fake cell phone conversation, typically undertaken by a first-year or sophomore female “U of A” student.
“How are you, Matt? Are you going to the Sigma Chi party Friday?” I heard one female student ask a frat boy in a fake throaty, even smoky, voice. This was another California-fake, representing some kind of weird marker of sexuality. Coming from Iowa, it was all disconcerting. Some even combined the fake voice and the fake cell phone conversation.
So, if you’re hopping around Minneapolis and you hear a cell phone conversation that’s just a bit too formulaic, consider that the conversation may be a faux-conversation. Or, perfect your faux-conversation skills for when an undesirable person wishes to interrupt you.