This is sort of hard to admit, but in high school I was always plagued by a deep, dark doubt. I am letting you in on this because I bet at least some of you did too. Nobody wants to admit it, and it’s almost like treason to even think it. But still, until even last week it haunted me —
I ask myself this:
If I had applied, would I have gotten into Princeton?
Like all good little children I applied early to Yale. Sure, I wonder about Harvard. But Harvard, essentially, is Yale without fun or fashion sense. The schools are largely interchangeable. But Princeton? Princeton is a dark horse. Nobody knows what it’s going to do.
So this weekend I went to party at Princeton for the first time. I packed my boyfriend, duffel bag and some Milanos into a car and headed down on Thursday. Arriving at the room of a prep school friend’s at about 10, we were ready to go out by 11. We walked to Ivy, my friend’s eating club, and one of the most prestigious on campus. Giving us little golden passes, our friend led us into the club and a swirl of Princetonians living it up.
Did I say before that Princeton was a dark horse? Let me revise that: the only thing dark about Princeton is the mahogany wood the servants have to clean.
The room I entered was the whitest one I’ve seen since the George Michael video for “Faith.” Like, seriously, whiter than that room where Mike TV gets shrunk in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Whiter than the skin on Dick Levin’s ass in winter. Like, no amount of RAID could ever kill off this amount of WASPs.
I reached to grab my boyfriend’s hand to squeeze it, so that I wouldn’t laugh. My Princeton host caught me just in time.
“You can’t touch here,” she said.
“What?” I asked.
“You can’t be gay at Ivy.”
“Really? What happens to gay people at Princeton?” I asked.
“They give haircuts at Fantastic Sam’s, I think,” she said.
“There are no gay people on campus?”
“I don’t know. But not in Ivy. Now get your hands away! And for God’s sake, don’t talk about Margaret Cho or Chastity Bono or anything. You’ll give it away.”
Thank God she warned me, because I’m notorious for always talking about Chastity Bono.
We entered this crowd of people, stunned. There had been a tennis party earlier in the evening, so of course most of the girls were wearing tennis skirts and sweaters over their polo shirts. Not a single person was wearing a shirt without a collar.
Previously, I had underestimated the amount of Lacoste left in the world. Ever wonder where the little alligators went? I can tell you — Princeton kidnapped every single one of them and they are now living in captivity at the eating clubs. People who weren’t wearing Lacoste (poor kids) were wearing Polo Ralph Lauren. Shame on those who weren’t wearing an embroidered logo over the left nipple! I think they were forced to to pump the kegs.
The party was like any regular Yale party, except without hard liquor, dancing, minorities, or jeans. It lasted until 2 a.m., when the “staff” came in to “clean things up.” I never saw the “staff,” but I think it’s a clever euphemism for what we call the “police” coming to “arrest us.”
Trying to make fun of this place is almost useless. One can only try to reproduce it; it’s like how on SNL they don’t even have to change “Iron Chef” to spoof it. The thing is perfect comedy as it is.
The next day we ate in Ivy, and it was just like a Yale dining hall. The attendants were super-friendly, and they had nice flatware and calamari salad.
Did I say “just like Yale?” I meant, “just the opposite of Yale.” The place was quiet, the food was good, and when I left, I didn’t smell like the dining hall for the rest of the day. Every week they even have Friday Fried Day to help you nurse your hangover. It was a refreshing surprise, and Princeton bought back some of the points it had lost the night before.
We went about our way for the day — looking around at the campus and shopping in town. Princeton has great shops and a campus that looks like Yale, except that the architecture welcomes you in, rather than trying to keep you out with high walls, gates, and moats. I ended the day torn. Sure, the people were more uniform than the Marine Corps, but it seemed like such a nice place to go to school. I look good in Nantucket Red. Were my regrets about applying actually justified?
Then I went to Penn this week to perform at a sketch comedy gala with the 5th Humour. There were lots of groups from other schools, including Princeton’s Triangle Club. After shaming everyone with our unparalleled antics, my group was forced to join everyone on stage for the end of the show and sing the Penn fight song. (If you’ve ever seen it, it ends in a series of gestures that can only be described as a stunning hybrid of the Nazi salute and the Black Panther fist.)
On the way to the stage, all of the Penn performers turned to the Princeton troupe and chuckled viciously.
“How does it feel to have to sing our fight song?!” they mocked. “You never thought you’d have to sing for your biggest rival, did you?”
The Triangle Club suppressed giggles and went on stage with the rest of us. Afterward, backstage, they ran up to the 5th Humour, laughing hysterically.
“Did you see the way the Penn guys were making fun of us?” they shrieked. “They actually believe that we think they’re our rivals.”
We didn’t see the apparently obvious humor in this, so they went on to explain:
“Penn thinks that we’re their rival, but everyone knows Princeton and Yale are the big rivals!”
In that moment I remembered a very important fact, one whose significance I never truly understood before. Of course I should have applied early to Yale.
After all, Harvard may suck —
But Princeton really, really doesn’t matter.
Chris Rovzar begs to differ. He still thinks Saddam would be worse than Thomas Friedman.