Today, I spent 20 minutes massaging a boy. I kneaded his shoulders; I pummeled my fists into his back; I slapped his shins. We shared our feelings, and someone cried. Then we chased each other around the room and practiced isolating different lip muscles. Before leaving, he got my number and arranged to meet in a quiet space at 1 a.m. to do “lines.”
No, Mom, I’m not dating anyone, nor am I snorting cocaine. I’m just a Yale theatre studies major, and my typical Monday class is a mixture of kindergarten and Friday nights out. I’ll never forget my first acting class at Yale: “You have one hour to explore the apple with all of your senses except taste; go.” Or my second acting class at Yale: “Sometimes, if you try walking like a chicken, you will find valuable chicken traits to add to your character; go.” Or my third acting class at Yale: “A trope in Commedia del Arte is the giant penis dream. Construct your own giant penis dream lazzi about what would happen if you awoke to a four-foot penis; go.” One of my final exams last Spring involved pranking the Bulldog Days extracurricular bazaar with 12 people in clown noses. Hello, 2012? That was me.
Sure, considering such assignments, theatre studies seems less “legit” than Ethics, Politics and Economics, or Fancy Quantum Number Tricks That Will One Day Be a Michael Crichton Novel, but when was the last time you met a kid who dressed up as an investment banker or consultant for Halloween? I thought so.
This week, however, aspiring I-bankers have had their share of drama. Shortly after I sighted the first econ-major huddled outside A-One, chugging whiskey and muttering to himself, “I should have been a dancer,” I started paying more attention to the New York Times e-mails that have been flooding my inbox for the past several days — the ones with subject lines like “WALL STREET WILL NEVER BE THE SAME AGAIN,” “ALL THAT GLITTERS IS GONE!” and “WELL, WE’RE ALL SCREWED NOW, SO MOVE TO VEGAS.”
I know as much about the causes and effects of the current financial “crisis” as I do about how penguins have sex. (Morgan Freeman never explained that, did he?) After all, I fulfilled my QR requirement playing hangman with fellow humanists in “Statistics as a Way of Knowing,” and have always held that Digitopolis in “The Phantom Tollbooth” is my personal Hell. Nevertheless, I have found a kind of morbid fascination in the atmosphere of doom and gloom. You see, I knew I would be poor after graduation, but I didn’t realize that everyone would be! This is great news!
For the past three years, I have congratulated (not without a little bit of envy and, I admit, some unfair and undeserved self-righteousness) smug classmates who have chosen the path of the Brooks Brothers suit, who have their lives “figured out,” who plan to buy back their paltry souls with what was hitherto a safe path to a penthouse apartment and a fridge full of awfully smelly cheeses. Now some of these people are wondering if those jobs will still be there next year. They are wondering, perhaps, if this whole debacle would make a good musical. And will the Duke’s Men sing in it? And geez, if only they’d taken time away from problem sets to apply for a Sudler, then they’d have the now-valuable experience of begging for money instead of making it!
Do not misunderstand me: I harbor no illusions that as I-bankers fall and the angels of justice sing in the heavens, I (or my idealistic portion of Yale) will rise. Nope, I have come to terms with the hard fact that I will probably spend the next 10 years eating beans in Brooklyn and narrating C-list documentaries called “Just how do penguins have sex?” before finally resigning myself to a life of SAT tutoring. Glamorous, I know. But at least, in spite of the $700-billion federal aid proposal required to keep America from collapsing, JPMorgan has, in its dying throes, loaned Steven Spielberg $700 million to start a new production company in India. There’s no business like show business, right? Come revolution, regression or repression, people will see movies. I mean, is there anyone left who did not see “The Dark Knight”? (And if so, want to go on a date with me? No, seriously.)
My point is simply a variation on two very old themes: poverty loves company, and do what makes you happy because what makes you practical might go bankrupt. So while some of you go and cry about your hypothetical loss of that hypothetical Porsche, I’m going to go practice walking around my apartment like a farm bird and then take dialect lessons from the flower lady. And maybe, if I’m feeling generous, I’ll write y’all a musical called “Unbutton Your Collars, There’s No More Dollars.” And I’ll win a Tony.