TThey’re on York Street. They’re at Alchemy. They’re at Cosi.
And now they’re in your bedroom.
An underground contingent of Yalies are walking the thin line between “acceptable” and “sketchy” behavior by dating “townies.” While this phenomenon is not new, its effect on the Yale dating scene is not yet fully understood and talked about even less. To some, dating a New Haven resident is an unspeakable taboo. To others, townies provide a refreshing solution to the frustrating Yale dating scene.
What’s in a name?
First of all, what is a “towney”? The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word as “a townsman as distinct from a university.” The word “distinct” can be misleading, however, as many associate the typical towney with “distinctive” piercings, “distinct” dance-floor space at Toad’s Place, and “distinctive” dullness. Yet, these stereotypes are as false as the girl who says she lives in Calhoun (more on that later). A towney is simply anyone who lives in the New Haven area — that includes East Haven, West Haven, Hamden, and, in some social circles, Quinnipiac and Southern — and who does not go to Yale.
Given the politically correct, liberal and diverse population of Yale, the uniform labeling and mocking of townies, and the Yale students who date them, is nothing short of appalling. The 1979 classic film, “Breaking Away,” documents the fierce rivalry between Joe College and the Cutters (as townies were called in the film). This rivalry is best summarized by Dennis Quaid’s line, “They’re going to keep calling us cutters. To them it’s just a dirty word.” In the past 20 years, the rivalry seems to have disappeared, leaving behind only a vicious stigma.
“The townies have the back bar,” said one Toad’s-frequenting Yale student. “There’s a clear division between the townies and the Yale kids.”
“I have nothing against townies,” one Yale woman said. “They’re great for buying you drinks at BAR.”
Is it sketchy?
Yalies’ opinions of townies depends on whether the Yalie in question is just hooking up with or seriously dating one. While surprisingly few have been disowned by their suitemates and families for their rendezvous with a towney (and those few could not be reached for comment, as they obviously now live under rocks, in shame, where there are no phones), many have experienced the negative effects of gossip, snobbish disparagement and ridicule for their choice in romantic partners.
“I once brought this girl home,” said a Yale man whose shame forces him to withhold his name. “I was drunk and it turned out she was a towney, much older than I was. My friends won’t let me live it down.”
Another dangerously seductive type of New Haven resident is the “high school girl.” Every weekend, Jail Bait* and her friends (*Name has been changed to protect the underage cherub) don their backless shirts and black pants to hit the New Haven hot spots.
“We usually look for Yale men, but tonight it looks like I’ll be sleeping at Quinnipiac,” Jail Bait said at the “Welcome Back, Quinnipiac!” night at Club Alchemy.
It’s uncertain whether these “Yale men” are content with taking these locals home with them, as Jail Bait and her friends are not inclined to introduce themselves as such.
“We say we’re in Calhoun,” Jail Bait said with a smile. “It’s the only college we know. I’ve slept there a few times, and no one questions it when I meet someone and say, ‘I go to Yale. I’m in Calhoun.'”
Derek Goeriz ’03 would question it.
“They have a different vibe than Yale women do — more fun, laid-back. It’s refreshing.”
Derek, like the majority of the people interviewed for this piece, cites another major difference between Yalies and townies.
They’re much hotter than we are
Whether it’s the lack of homework that affords them more time to spend in the gym or the substitution of beauty sleep for all-nighters, the bottom line is this: Townies are hotter than Yalies. To many Yale students, New Haven residents provide a much-appreciated solution to the frustrating dating scene on campus.
“Physically, guys at Yale aren’t as experienced,” one self-proclaimed “townie aficionado” added. “When they get some, it’s too much all at once. They don’t let things flow and build. Townies are just better.”
Aside from their physical attributes, dating townies provides other, more substantial advantages.
Bridging the gap
While some Yalies erroneously feel that townies are inferior to Yalies intellectually, those who date them say that they are “street-smart” and have “a different take on things.”
“They have real jobs and are living in the ‘real world’ that most of us are too scared to venture out into,” one Yale man said. “I’d been stuck in a Yale rut with girls and then I met my girlfriend and was like, ‘Man, these girls know what they’re doing.'”
“They haven’t read Tolstoy, but they haven’t asked their parents for spending money either,” another Yalie noted.
“He’s got more common sense than I do,” another confessed.
“Not having classes gives them a huge chunk of free time that they can spend on you,” Trish Vandel ’04 said.
Interestingly enough, the condescending stigma against New Haven residents does not seem to extend into the realm of “boyfriend-girlfriend” relationships between townies and Yalies.
“At first, my guy friends made fun of me,” one Yale man said. “But once they saw I liked her a fair amount, they were positive toward [my dating a New Haven resident].”
Vandel agreed, “My friends from boarding school made the most fun [when I dated a guy from New Haven]. They thought I was joking. They’d say, ‘She’s at Yale, you’d think she’d meet and marry some investment banker, but instead she’s dating a car mechanic.’ It was the lowest position they could think of.”
But Vandel says that once her friends got over their “initial momentary shock, they were fine with it.”
On the whole, it seems that most people want their friends to be happy — with either a Yalie or a towney.
It goes both ways
The prejudices some Yale students have against townies are matched by the negative images some townies have of Yalies.
“Some see Yalies as pretentious, snobby and narrow-minded,” Joey Lee ’03 said.
The blanket use of the term “towney” is clear evidence that they may be right. Although the Yale community does not have a rivalry with New Haven residents, the two groups are far from unified, despite various University programs or the intermingling coming out of dating.
“His friends would call me ‘Yale’ instead of ‘Trish,'” Vandel said, “but it was all in good fun.”
“He was weirded out by my having a whole group of friends that he was sure he didn’t have anything in common with,” Vandel said .
While Vandel admitted “it would have been easier had he gone to Yale,” she said his “towney” status had nothing to do with their breakup.
Can we end the stigma?
Countless Yale students take part in various programs throughout the New Haven area in hopes of uniting Yale with the New Haven community at large. Yet, some of these Yalies would not consider dating “sketchy townies.” Such backward notions serve only to impede the greater movement toward the integration of Yale and New Haven. In some small way, those enlightened few, brave enough to venture outside of the Yale bubble by dating townies, provide a sign that we are headed in the right direction.