At some time or another every freshman realizes that you can pretty much tell your new classmates anything, and they will probably believe you. You can tell people you grew up in one of those religious cult communities in the Southwest, with polygamy and matching “Little House on the Prairie” dresses. You can tell people you are allergic to everything except for seaweed and small crustaceans. After the first few weeks of college, I could fairly say I had never met so many people who had so few preconceived notions about me since the first grade, back when computers only existed as the vaguely sinister, “Star Trek”-looking machine confined to that corner of the basement you were too scared to go into alone.
So having been told how great it is to have the chance to completely reinvent yourself in college more times than I could count, it was hard for me to realize how exhausting of a process this can actually be. After all, for every small thing about yourself that’s changed since ninth grade that you can finally establish as an intrinsic part of your new identity, there are a thousand things you wish people would just know about you without having to explain them (see above: allergies). And so, the task of rebuilding an identity from scratch seemed more lonely than liberating, until I came to an important realization: I could talk about “Glee” here.
Let me explain. When “Glee” first aired at my high school, it instantly became a phenomenon on the scale of something like the Death Star, or the Protestant Reformation. But for me, it began in a small, casual way: occasional, secondhand “Glee”-watching in social settings. At first my upbringing without show tunes and my gag reflex wouldn’t allow me to make it through an entire episode. Fast forward a few months and, fact: “Glee” was a firmly established part of my rigorous late-night Hulu watching schedule, and, fact: I never mentioned this to anyone.
It’s not that I exactly tried to hide watching “Glee,” it just sort of happened. In high school, I had a reputation as being somehow “alt,” based mostly on my status as editor of the school literary magazine whose membership overlapped uncomfortably with that of the anime club, and not owning things like Rainbow sandals, and, somehow this encompassed not talking about “Glee” either. Since arriving at college, though, I’ve lost my inhibitions, and have found myself more than once engaging in serious discussions about whether Rachel or Kurt is more obnoxious, why nothing in the plot makes any sense, ever, and what is with that blonde guy’s mouth?
The real reason I couldn’t stop watching “Glee” back then was that it was the only TV show still airing that presented a vision of high school I could recognize (from John Hughes movies, and Taylor Swift music videos), and that I wanted to believe still existed out there somewhere, in the South, or the Midwest, or one of those small islands everyone forgets on Sporcle. I wanted to believe in a land where cheerleaders wear their uniforms to class every day, and bullying still takes place the old-school way. Where there’s a lot of cornfields (or something) around, where prom still takes place in the gymnasium and they haven’t discovered grinding yet
If “Glee” was a rather poor reflection of my experience with high school, it’s held amazingly true for college so far. Over the past months I have witnessed friendships blossom between cheerleaders and former mathletes, seen people grow comfortable with their true sexual orientations, and heard girls literally squealing with excitement while rushing to an a cappella concert. And I’ve come to realize that there really is a place where high school cliques break down and lots of attractive people with inferiority complexes come together to sing bad ’80s pop songs. That place is Yale, and I’m starting to kind of like it here.