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Junior Ellen Friesen poses with her favorite mug. Ellen Friesen | Courtesy

Mugs are a lot like babies. They make messes at inop­portune moments, they can be attractive only to the owner, they start to smell if you don’t wash them, and you have to handle them with care. Even though a water bottle might be sig­nif­i­cantly easier to tote around, some brave Hillsdale stu­dents defy the odds and define their style with ceramic mugs.

Mugs make a dis­tinctive visual statement.

“Car­rying a mug instead of a paper to-go cup is like wearing clothes of your choice to class instead of a man­dated uniform,” junior Ellen Freisen said. “[It] detracts from the con­ve­nience of your morning routine, but more than makes up for it in potential orig­i­nality.”

Junior Katarina Bradford agreed.

“There is nothing like sipping dark, German Dallmyr coffee in a cup from Germany while delighting in German class,” she said. “It’s all about the aes­thetic.”

Some people carry the same mug con­sis­tently, but for others this can be a struggle. Senior Ryan Asher has been through quite a few since the beginning of junior year. The green com­puter pro­gramming mug, a ’70s relic, met its demise in the solitude of a Dow Science bathroom, an incident its bemused owner deemed “humil­i­ating.” More impressive was the untimely end of his second mug.

“I used a mug that had famous first lines of novels on it. That was a big hit on campus, given intel­lectual interests at Hillsdale,” Asher said. “I dropped that one in the colonnade in the middle of a class exchange, right outside the library. It shat­tered into a million pieces; there were lots of ‘oohs and aahs’ from stu­dents on the way to class. That was much more ful­filling than breaking a mug all alone in the Dow Science bathroom.”  

It might be worth asking Asher how his current mug, embla­zoned with the Col­orado state flag, is faring.

For Bradford, using the right mug is imper­ative to proper appre­ci­ation of the drink held within.

“I am very par­ticular about my mugs having thin rims — it retains the flavor of the bev­erage better.”  

Dis­daining teacups, Freisen gen­erally prefers black or green tea, “but coffee always makes an appearance when I start writing term papers.”

Her current mug of choice?

“I got a squirrel mug this Christmas that says ‘bright-eyed and bushy-tailed,’ which isn’t quite as inspiring as the beat­i­tudes, but the squirrel is hon­estly a lot cuter than Blessed Pier Giorgio, so I might throw that into the rotation.”

Mugs are remarkable way to catch a tiny glimpse into someone’s soul. Does the person carry their mug around daily or only every so often? Now look at the designs. Con­sider the shape and size. Pick up on the hues and intricacy of the pattern. Take note of pic­tures and quo­ta­tions ringing the outside.

“I like to switch up the mugs depending on what I am drinking and what mood I am in,” Bradford said. “I have to admit that some­times my daily mug choice depends on the outfit that I am wearing… yes, I might coor­dinate my mug to my outfit. It is one of the many factors that goes into choosing my daily mug.”

Watch for her favorite one, porcelain painted with straw­berries, and ask her about its German ancestry.

Bradford also has tragic, mug-shat­tering tales, courtesy of long cross-country flights, so this leaves senior Dani Ruedisueli standing with a nearly perfect record of intact mugs — but only nearly perfect.

“During my freshman year I had my mug hooked onto my backpack,” Ruedisueli said. “As I was walking up from Mac­Intyre I slipped on the icy crosswalk in the middle of the road. I fell on my side and my bag slammed the ground. My cup sur­vived, but it now has a decent sized chip on the bottom edge.”

Ruedisueli com­mented on the weird stares people give her reli­gious-themed mug, but what matters more to her is the sense of hominess so small an object can bring to the hectic days of college.

Car­rying a mug demands thought­fulness and care­fulness. This doesn’t mean everyone who carries a mug will be careful and thoughtful, but it shows they care about and enjoy what they are drinking. They have taken the time to plan out their day (pro tip: coffee is a dollar or less at AJs and Jitters if you BYOM).

Asher takes pride in his dex­terity while holding a mug: “I’ve learned how to walk quickly to class with a full mug of coffee, holding books in one hand, and I can still open doors. I’m proud of that accom­plishment. The little things add up.”

Trans­porting a full mug requires self-awareness, and like Freisen said earlier, it gives one a chance to make a statement. But even more than orig­i­nality or uniqueness, a mug it is a silent, wel­coming invi­tation to con­ver­sation, and those holding them have an interest in the  people and the world around them.

“My Penguin Christmas mug received much attention in Dr. Stephens’ Ancient Phi­losophy class last semester,” Bradford said. “When I started bringing Benny to class last December, he received a lot of com­pli­ments. He’s a keeper.”