It never fails. At some point in any standard we’ve-just-met conversation in my first months as a Yale frosh, I mention that I have an identical twin sister.
“Oh, where does she go?” the obliging listener replies.
It’s not my fault, really. But in the week leading up to Game-time, it’s become more and more precarious to admit to a Cambridge connection, especially when that connection shares your genetic makeup.
Personally, I’m sick of it. I’ve already had enough grief in the few months before coming here. In the world outside New Haven, being an Eli may get you a summer internship, but being a Johnny will get you pseudo-religious reverence.
I remember when the laptop salesman at Comp USA asked us what schools we were attending. He acknowledged my “Uh, Yale?” with a friendly “Oh, that’s a good school.” Then, when my sister beamed a smile and uttered a winning “Harvard,” he ran to get his manager.
“She’s going to Harvard!” he exclaimed, and they both kneeled down on the waxed floor and bowed to her.
This is true. I swear it. This is what the past six months have been like.
Even fifth graders are against me. When my little sister tells her friends what colleges the two of us are going to, they don’t even have the tact to pretend they’ve ever heard of Yale. But Harvard is “a really, really good school!” Chalk it up to Elle Woods. It still hurts.
My parents, at least, are thrilled on both counts. They, of course, had never told us where to apply, but my father spent all last fall alternating between the Whiffenpoof song and Princeton’s “Hold that Tiger,” and suggesting that we stay in the geographical boundary of D.C. to (ahem) Cambridge.
Thank goodness for my grandmother. She’s Polish and knows as much about the Ivy League as I know about making kreplach. Her one piece of advice: stay in New York. I could even commute from home. Fortunately, she wasn’t the one paying.
I remember my sister moving me in here with her cheeky Harvard sweatshirt, which she stubbornly kept on even in 70 degree weather. I scoured Broadway in vain for a “Harvard Sucks” tee but eventually had to settle for a tame Yale insignia when I moved her in the following week. Just wait ’til Saturday, though. I have managed to procure two such shirts for the occasion.
And yet, alongside my fervent Yale pride, I occasionally lie awake in bed at night contemplating my charming view of the New Haven Green and wondering what my life would be like if I were attending that other institution. True, I would be in a city that doesn’t just look good in the dark, but I would also probably be living, as she is, in a dorm called Hurlbut.
It stands to consider how two people with the same chromosomes could choose such divergent fates. What makes my sister a Cantab and me a Bulldog? I never really thought about it until the point when, agonizing over whether to take DS, I asked her for advice.
“Take it, obviously.”
“Why?” I queried.
“Well, among other things, think how great it will be to tell people that you are taking it. Think of the prestige.”
And while I now continually pine for New York (read: civilization), it is true that I was always more wont to sit in my room, waiting for her to drag me out to take advantage of our vibrant hometown. After all, she was always on top of what shows were playing, what exhibitions were showing, and what our friends were doing. Ironically enough, she now has to do the same thing with her languid friends in Boston.
She has spent her first few months comping (i.e. rushing) various campus publications, while I have been spazzing about everything I want to do and doing nothing. I do take initiative — eventually, but she always knew what she wanted and went for it. On the other hand, I didn’t dedicate two years of my life to assembling scenery for school plays only to finally decide that I didn’t like painting.
In the end, despite my continual referring to her home as “Farvard”, I’ll be glad when we can get back to other activities, like bashing Princeton together. Then again, even that may not work out. For, although she is only eleven, my little sister has already begun to think about where she’ll be applying in seven years. Her first choice? “Hold that Tiger!”
Lord help us all.
Marta Herschkopf is a freshman in Calhoun College.