Why a Band Tee Made Me Transfer

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I can spot a band T-shirt like a leopard can spot a wounded gazelle on the Serengeti. It’s my thing. Yours may be ear piercings, lacrosse sticks, flower crowns, man-buns, tattoos or whatever makes you do a double take at that special someone. Of course I have preferences for certain bands, but really it’s the aesthetic of it. When someone wears a band tee, it shows that they love music so much it bleeds into what they wear. How cool is that?

Lucky for me, a college campus is probably the place where one could find the highest concentration of band tees. When I was first applying to college, I figured that most colleges would all have common denominators: red Solo cups, mini fridges, rented textbooks, orientation ice breakers, Frisbee and obscure clubs that you discover through a friend of a friend that discusses Proust at 3 a.m. on Tuesday nights (okay, maybe that last one isn’t relatable)—and I assumed that band tees would be one of them. In any case, I ended up applying early decision to the University of Denver. Getting to campus on that beautiful Colorado September day, arms loaded down with Bed, Bath and Beyond bags, trying not to lose my mom in the crowd, I realized that I hadn’t seen a single band tee. Not even a Beatles or Nirvana one. I hastily chalked this up to the mayhem of move-in day.

After orientation flew by, I was starting to panic. Only once did I see a Led Zeppelin tee, and that was in a crowd, a shooting star burning bright and gone in an instant. I was starting to think I had made the wrong decision about my school even though I had already made some great friends, my classes were excellent and my roommate was quiet and tidy—the perfect combination. But there was something missing. How could I go through college without getting my groove on?

And then, like an angel descending from the heavens, coming to save me from my misery, a boy in a Mountain Goats tee came biking towards me one afternoon as I strolled across campus. In a moment of pure elation, I threw my hand up for a high-five and shouted, “Mountain Goats!” so loudly that the poor guy nearly fell off his bike. He stopped and returned the high-five, smiling just as goofily as I was. I rode that high for weeks afterwards.

A whole month went by before I saw Mountain Goats Guy again. When I did, he was walking out of my dorm with a mutual friend, and for the second time, at an unnecessary decibel, I shouted “Mountain Goats!” in his face. He was taken aback but recognized me as the girl that almost made him crash, and I found out that he had similarly been referring to me as Mountain Goats Girl to his friends. It was meant to be. So of course, we went out on a date, and then one date turned into five, and the next thing I knew I had a boyfriend.

The unfortunate thing was—and here’s the kicker—I had never actually listened to the Mountain Goats. I knew of them because a friend from high school was obsessed, but I honestly could not even name one of their songs. And here’s a tip: never lie about your interests to a significant other because it will always blow up in your face. As it turned out, just because this guy wore a Mountain Goats tee, it did not mean we were compatible, and soon I was single again. It wasn’t a bad ending, but a new beginning.

Through that breakup I began to reconsider my life choices between long showers in communal bathrooms, 3 a.m. Proust club meetings, and thumbing through vinyls at the nearest record store. And then something struck me. I wasn’t upset because I had lost Mountain Goats Guy—we still remain good friends—I was upset because I thought this was my only chance to be with someone who wears band tees. But was it really about the band on the shirt, or the person wearing it? I came to realize that this one Mountain Goats shirt represented a culture of music and the arts that I was craving.

I ended up transferring to Wesleyan, a liberal arts school in New England, fueled by the creative angst of writers, readers, artists, thinkers and activists, while still having plenty of athletics, nightlife and variety. And even better there are enough band tees that I can now narrow my search to bands I actually know and love. It is the perfect school, but I still cherish my time spent at UD, and I’ll always be indebted to Mountain Goats Guy for helping me to understand the type of people I wanted to be surrounded by.

Rachel is a junior at Wesleyan University double majoring in English and History. One day she might be on the New York Times Bestseller List or at least the author of one of those books that Oprah talks about.

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