Neither here nor there: my bicoastal identity

I am jealous of my suitemate. A moderate Republican from Ohio, she is an in-demand swing voter from a swing state. I, on the other hand, am just another Democrat from California; whether I vote in Connecticut or absentee, my ballot is a superfluous drop of blue.

I registered absentee in order to participate in last year’s California gubernatorial recall. Here at Yale, I am usually able to repress that “election,” except on trips to Blockbuster when I see that “Jingle All the Way,” a fine film starring my new governor, is on sale for $8.99.

Glancing at my California absentee ballot, I realize I have no idea who many of the candidates are. For “Member of the State Assembly” I can either select Steve Poizer, a “teacher/entrepreneur/father” or Ira Ruskin, a “Councilmember/Film producer.” While Poizer’s ability to juggle the roles of teacher, entrepreneur and father is impressive, I vote the party line and pick Ruskin, the Democrat. Also, I think I received a postcard saying that Ruskin supported the environment; good enough for me — heck, I recycled the postcard. Fortunately, the ballot measures I am supposed to vote on include helpful descriptions, which provide me with a bit more guidance. For example, Measure 1A, “Garantiza que las recaudaciones locales provenientes de los impuestos sobre la propriedad y las ventas permanezcan en los gobiernos locales.” Luckily I am currently enrolled in “Legal Spanish” and I know that “impuestos” means taxes, and we Democrats never met a tax we didn’t like, right?

I try to placate my conscience by referring to a favorite political science book, “An Economic Theory of Democracy” by Anthony Downs. According to Downs’ argument, I am rationally ignorant; it is simply not a good use of my limited time, energy and other resources to obtain my own information about Californian candidates. Instead, I should turn to trusted sources, like my grandmother, a fellow political science major, to filter the information for me. But as much as I enjoy Downs’ theory, I am suspicious that my lack of interest in California politics stems from a deeper problem: I am bicoastal.

I do not quite fit in either Connecticut or California, and I cling to the parts of myself that represent the coast I am not on. At Yale, I crusade against smoking and lament the lack of fresh produce. At home, I flaunt my Polos and, on occasion, wear pearls. Observing my brown hair, brown eyes and intense personality, everyone guesses I am from New York. Observing me don my largest coat Oct. 1, onlookers realize that I hail from a warmer climate.

Indeed, I seem to have twice as much outerwear as my East Coast peers who, conveniently, also have East Coast parents to drive them, and more importantly their belongings, to and from Yale. In fact, I have four winter coats, four fall coats and four early fall coats precisely because of my California roots. I’ve found that buying large amounts of outerwear not only allows me to keep warm, but also helps me to cope with the fact that spring does not come each year until May, when I return to California.

One highlight of being bicoastal is that every vacation feels like a trip to paradise. Leaving New Haven’s 20- to 30-degree Decembers, 55 and rainy feels downright balmy. I also profit from the time difference; with the three-hour lag, my parents and I finally keep the same hours. Most importantly, my bicoastal status gives me the opportunity to experience both East Coast and West Coast culture as an observer, and I am empowered to incorporate and reject aspects of each. I savor the East Coast’s angst and spit out its sorry excuse for sourdough bread. I bask in California’s sunshine but refuse to highlight my hair.

I have a foot on each coast, and it is quite a stretch for my identity. As I think about my future, I am determined to choose a career that gives me the option to live in either place. I fear I will return to California for graduate school and never come back to the east. I fear I will lose the perspective I’ve gained over the last three years: My time at Yale will simply be a four-year blip in a Californian streak.

Fortunately, I think I have figured out a solution: I’m moving to Ohio.



Emily Fenner is a senior in Timothy Dwight College. She is a former Copy Editor for the News.

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