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This week we peek into the mind of Amber, a Classics major at Parnell State University. Amber has some homework to do for her course on human sexuality…


A first-century bust of Marcus Tullius Cicero (affectionately known as Tully) from a villa on the Appian Way in Rome. Vatican Museum.

  1. Amber Gets Serious

In ancient Rome, a man who bombed at getting girls into bed was called an exclusus amator: a shut-out lover. I’m here to tell you how you can become this loser’s exact opposite: the man who gets in every time. Skeptical? Try these tips and watch the girls open up to you. On this tour through the hidden recesses of the female psyche, I shall be your intrepid guide. Call me Inclusus Amator.

— Amator’s Art of Seduction: Bagging the Parnell Girl.

Amber Bartlett laid down her sociology textbook and rubbed her eyes. It had been a long week, and she badly needed a break from the punishing schedule of work and study that she’d set for herself. Amber’s high school years in Haddonfield had been a carefree time, except for her growing awareness that her parents’ marriage was crumbling. Giving little thought to her own future, and ignoring her mother’s periodic attempts to address the topic, she’d partied regularly with a group of fun-loving friends, and found it easy to maintain a B average with minimal attention to schoolwork. She was a voracious reader, but preferred Middle Earth, Pemberley, and Dune to the tediously dull landscapes of her textbooks.

Then, when she was a senior, reality set in. Universities had become highly selective, and she didn’t have the GPA to get into an Ivy, nor even one of the prestigious private colleges, like Bowdoin, that her more industrious friends had aimed for. She realized that she had no goals, no plans, and no enduring interests, other than a fascination with Latin, which had been her best subject in high school. The economy was still tanking, and she’d heard endless scary stories about unpaid internships that led nowhere, and young people with Master’s degrees moving back home to live with their parents. It was time to get serious.

Amber wasn’t interested in teaching Latin, the most obvious career option, but she was attracted to rhetoric and law. She had good comprehension and writing skills, the fruit of her mother’s habit of reading to her from infancy, and her own practice of keeping a journal, which she obsessively rewrote, trying to make it sound less like the musings of an average Jersey teenager, and more like the private diary of someone clever and sophisticated, like J. K. Rowling.

Fortunately for Amber, her mother was now a professor of history at Parnell State University, which offered its employees and their dependents the fringe benefit of free tuition. At Parnell, she would have another chance to prove herself. College was at once more difficult and more satisfying than high school, and to her surprise, she found that she loved the academic work. In her freshman year, she made the Dean’s list, and decided on a double major in Latin and Political Science. Delighted with her progress, her parents promised that they would help pay for law school if she was accepted at Penn.

Amber clicked through a series of websites, looking for one that might fit her latest assignment in Professor Kavanagh’s sociology course, which dealt with sexual and courtship behavior in modern America. Each student was to find a site related to romantic relationships or sexuality, and analyze it according to a list of criteria. Even porn sites were not off limits, though Prof. Kavanagh emphasized that points would be taken off if students failed to fully consider the significance of such sites from the perspectives of economic impact, dynamics of gender and power, social justice, and cultural attitudes toward the internet, citing appropriate research to support their arguments. Perhaps Match.com? No, the class had more than fifty students, and others would surely choose this site. She needed something more distinctive, to set her apart from the crowd.

Amber was determined not to blow it this time. Still, every two or three weeks, she felt a balloon of tension inflating within her, and the only way to burst it, and return to her former equilibrium, was to spend an evening out with friends, do a few shots, and if all went well, hook up with a cute guy. In order not to be interrupted while studying, she’d turned her phone off. Now she powered it up, and immediately saw a new text from one of her friends, Tommy Walczak.


She wrote back. wrud 2nite?

wduthk? tullys. Tully’s was a bar near campus, beloved of underclassmen because the bartenders there were nearsighted when it came to fake ID’s. On the other hand, anyone who drank enough to stagger, vomit or pick a fight was unceremoniously shown the door, and not served thereafter. Tully’s didn’t want to draw the attention of the police, and it was a haven for those who preferred to imbibe thoroughly, but discreetly. Amber’s friends, who were mostly Classics majors, had adopted Tully’s as their hangout for sentimental reasons as well, Tully being the nickname of the Roman orator Marcus Tullius Cicero.

She texted Tommy: okcu, 7. She would allow herself an evening of freedom. Tommy had been hinting to her for months now that he’d like to hook up. Perhaps, if there was nobody else who turned her on, Tommy would finally get lucky tonight. Meanwhile, she had to find just the right website for her project.

Copyright 2015 by Linnet Moss

Notes: Tully’s seems to be a popular name for bars and taverns in the Anglophone world. Looking online, I note examples in Syracuse NY, St. Louis, Harford County Maryland, San Francisco, and so forth. You can also find a Tully’s in Carndonagh, Donegal and another in County Carlow, Ireland. My inspiration came from Tully’s II on good old Monona Drive in Madison, Wisconsin.

I had fun researching the texting habits of young people, which are entirely alien to me as a person who prefers email (or even hand-written letters!) and still tries to use punctuation and correct spelling. Hopelessly dated, I know… but sometimes I wonder whether the relaxation of such conventions in texting has contributed to my students’ inability to spell? In case you found the conversation indecipherable, here is a translation:

Tommy: What’s up?
Amber: What are you doing tonight?
Tommy: What do you think? Tully’s.
Amber: OK, see you at seven.