Yalies are a species. Phenotypically scruffier than our Harvard peers, we transcend their bourgeois, AA Platinum aspirations. Yale alums prefer cultural capital to capital, shirking the corporate ladder for artistically inclined, socially conscious, poorly paid employ.
We also dress weirdly and travel in packs.
The New York Observer documented this phenomenon in an article this week, “The Yaliens Among Us.” Picked up by Gawker and Ivygate, the article tickled the blogosphere, as well as the inboxes of Yalies across the tri-state area. As a graduating senior about to embark on my own Metro North migration, it was particularly disconcerting to see my kind anthropologized in print.
I had the same dissociative freak-out after reading Tuesday’s report in the News on the Yale Women’s Center. The article tracked the changing tenor of the WC from confrontational, radical, polarizing, and covered in vagina paintings to friendly, collaborative, diverse, and not covered in vagina paintings.
Sigh, I thought. Two years ago I was one of those confrontational, radical, polarizing, vagina-painting WC directors. Of course I painted my vagina! I’m a “super quirky and crazy,” “self-consciously idiosyncratic” Yalien with a “deep streak of rebelliousness!” Who cares if no employer will hire me because of my columns? I’ll be poor and weird with funny stories, capable of succeeding on my own terms!!!
As always, there were errors in both of these articles. I did not paint my vagina to “welcome visitors” to the WC. I did it because I had seen my vagina approximately five times in my life and thought it would be an excellent exercise in self-knowledge and an excellent homage to Takashi Murakami. So I took a couple Photobooth snaps and exploded my genitalia into neon geometry.
And the Yalien article was a little out of whack, because its Cantab author, Leon Neyfakh, did most of his research through the contacts of his Observer colleague and former scene editor, Molly Fischer ’09; I’d say that, in reality, approximately one third of seniors are about to pursue consulting, I-banking, law school, med school or other Establishment professions.
But scene doesn’t hang out with them. scene is destined for poverty, themed dinner parties, and maybe posthumous fame in some Wesleyan girl’s senior essay.
Neyfakh investigates a Yale party in Brooklyn and observes that “TigerBeat posters of Justin Bieber hung ironically on the walls,” as if this exemplified the Yale spirit.
Ironically? Why does Justin Bieber have to hang ironically? Why can’t he just hang awesomely?
Nell Klugman ’12 peed all over Bieber’s angelic face in scene last week, claiming his “helmet-like coif,” “lip-glossed grin” and lyrical themes of love and loss were ill-befitting his pre-pubescence. But he’s actually a self-made sensation wise beyond his years. He taught himself to play four instruments. He’s from Canada. And “Baby” is the best pop song of 2010.
Yes, most of the song consists of wordless wailing. But those are the sounds of inarticulate heartbroken youth! Yes, he uses black vernacular. But teens are insecure and want to be cool like black people! Yes, Justin Bieber is an oversized baby. But oversized babies brim with infectious energy and intensity of feeling. I want Bieber’s face unironically on my wall to remind me daily of my own potential.
He’s my inner oversized baby.
Klugman is a sophomore, and just feeling the disillusioning affects of age. When I was a sophomore, everyone under 18 was stupid and grating: “Uuuuuuh, look at the teens loitering on that corner,” I’d say. “They’re smothered in make-up and zit cream and over-productive gland juices and being all unsure of themselves and gross.”
But now I love teens.
“Why are you here alone at our pre-frosh party?” asked a friend of mine in the BDs.
“To mingle with the pre-frosh!!!” I said.
At the BD pre-frosh party, I tried to talk to some future Yalies who I will never actually know. But then one pre-frosh boy interrupted me.
“Wanna massage?” he asked.
“Okay!” I said. He began to massage me.
“So what other schools are you considering?” he asked.
“Oh, none. I’m a senior. In college. This college. Yale.” I replied.
Then the dynamic got weird and I left.
But even after that uncomfortable (physically, emotionally, spiritually) experience, I still feel fondly towards Bieber’s age group with their twinkling earnestness, fertile minds and uncrushed egos.
This is perhaps a healthy sign as I stand on the precipice between youth and adulthood, Yale and reality, a highly structured daily life with inherent purpose and a wasteland of meaningless future-time.
As I read about my vagina-painting WC past and Yalien future, I wonder what my time at Yale would look like in print. Fortunately, I happened to have documented myself biweekly in these pages for the last two and a half years.
But what have I documented? “Girls are victims,” my man friend said, in answer to this question. “Because all guys want is to get their rocks off.”
I ignored the oddness of the phrase “rocks off,” because my friend is foreign-born.
“The problem isn’t that guys want to get their rocks off,” I said. “It’s that a lot of girls don’t get their rocks off.”
But alas, I am not in control of my memory at Yale and, like my vagina painting, it will probably be incinerated, but all I can do is find the strength to carry me forth. And so I look to Justin Bieber — his naïve exuberance, exquisite smile and ability to dance — and I feel empowered to embrace the future.
Most of you probably read this article just because you’ve Google Alert-ed “Justin Bieber.” But for those who read this, and anything else I’ve written, because you actually thought it might be interesting … just shout whenever, I’ll be there, baby, baby, baby, ooh, now I’m all gone, gone, gone, gone.