Rosemary tries to never think about Fern again. She leaves home for college, where she subconsciously avoids all courses that have anything to do with primates—a task which is more difficult than it might seem. She also decides never to talk about her family. Her first roommate is a girl named Larkin Rhodes who is so obsessed with The X-Files that she insists everyone call her Scully. After meeting Rosemary, Scully immediately begins to talk about her family, explaining that she is the oldest of three sisters and that her “whole family is nuts.”
In college, Rosemary’s tendency toward repression and denial takes on an even more severe intensity, as evidenced by the fact that she tries to not even think about Fern and avoids any mention of primates in her academic work. Scully’s comment about her family being “nuts” is amusing; although it is possible that Scully’s family truly is strange, at this stage it seems hard to beat the Cookes in terms of abnormality.
Other freshmen congregate in Rosemary and Scully’s room to share stories about their own crazy families. Some complain that their parents are overly strict, others that theirs are stingy. One girl tells the story of how her older sister claimed that their father was molesting her, only to retract it and say that she’d been making the whole thing up. The girl concludes the story by making the hand sign for whatever. After everyone has told their stories, one girl asks Rosemary if her parents are weird too. Rosemary replies that they aren’t, but quickly regrets this, realizing she has missed out on a bonding opportunity. Rosemary remains briefly hopeful that she hasn’t ruined her chance at friendship, but realizes she has when the group—including Scully—go skiing and don’t invite her.
This passage illustrates the perverse and ironic way that people deal with abnormality, and particularly how this changes as young people grow older. In grade school, Rosemary is mercilessly ostracized because of the strangeness of her family. Yet in college, her fellow freshmen bond over their strange families; to deny that one’s family is strange is even something of a faux pas. This complex evolution of social dynamics is something Rosemary could not have hoped to learn without having friends—although of course it ironically now prevents her from making any.
Rosemary notes that the average chimp friendship lasts seven years, and that she and Scully only live together for 9 months. During that time they never have a serious argument, but after it is over they go their separate ways and never speak again. In her second year, Rosemary lives with a “nice, quiet guy” called Todd Donnelly who is half-Irish and half-Japanese. One night, Todd and Rosemary watch a film called The Man in the Iron Mask, which is about a pair of twins, one of whom becomes King of France and the other of whom is locked in prison and forced to wear a mask to conceal his identity. Rosemary has a panic attack, and then begins to cry. She doesn’t tell the truth about why the film affects her, instead going to her room and forcing herself to go to sleep.
Rosemary may be able to avoid all mention of primates, but she cannot escape more subtle reminders of Fern’s existence. The film affects Rosemary because she feels guilty about the fact that she got to stay with her family while her “twin” Fern was given away; she senses that this decision was arbitrary and unjust. Rosemary is right in the sense that her parents decided to love Fern like a daughter and then gave her up. At the same time, it is clearly absurd for Rosemary to blame herself for her and Fern’s differing fates. Fern is not her parents’ biological offspring; moreover, Rosemary was only a child at the time and had no say in the matter.