I don’t really go to Yale. I go to a school up north. On the East Coast. Like an hour forty from New York. I’ll concede Connecticut if you ask me three or four times and narrow it down to New Haven if you are persistent. But its name, Yale, won’t come out unless you ask, “You’re that guy who goes to Harvard, right?”
I’ve turned circumlocution into an art form, and I deliver diffuseness with the facility of everyday parlance. I bury Yale’s name in reticence, and something tells me that I’m not alone: 463 people liked the Yale meme that featured the words, “Where do you go to college? Connecticut,” superimposed on that DiCaprio-with-a-squint scene from Inception. Another 259 people liked, “It is with a mere façade of humility that I respondeth to thy query by revealing vaguely the geographic locus of mine alma mater.” “One does not simply go to school ‘in Connecticut’” scored 142 upvotes.
It began the summer before freshman year. I was at Target, shopping for school supplies (composition notebooks and condoms, both of which went unused for a whole semester), when the girl at the register asked me where I was going to school in the fall. Yale, I made to say, but reconsidered. It felt like over-sharing. She was just making conversation, I thought. Why should I burden our pleasantries with the truth? It would just make things awkward.
“Connecticut,” I said casually, but she pressed: “What’s in Connecticut?” In those days I hadn’t quite mastered the ways of circumlocution, so I responded with “New Haven,” which was awkward. “Well, what’s in New Haven?” she insisted and, backed into a corner, I had no choice but to mumble the school’s name, which she misheard as “Yeah,” forcing me to blurt out, too loudly, “Yale.”
So you’re that guy, I could hear her thinking. You’re the guy who goes to Yale and thinks he’s special. You’re the guy who thinks he’s above everyone else just because his diploma will bear a glorified four-letter word. She didn’t say that, of course — she said, “Oh, cool!” and handed me my bags — but I know she was thinking it.
Over the years, my coyness has evolved into a well-rehearsed performance, put on for the benefit of waiters, store attendants and strangers on airplanes. The initial moments of a conversation are like a minefield, and any misstep might detonate the Yale bomb. But if I manage to navigate my way through the first five minutes, I can talk for hours without being asked whether I go to UConn, Trinity or Southern Connecticut.
I’ve been told that my tendency towards circumlocution is silly, but I always defend my right to convolute. As a word, Yale isn’t great. Its monosyllable is awkward in conversation, too full of itself. It rolls off the tongue with the weight of a boulder and leaves in its wake an awkward, silent vacuum. On the few occasions where I’m forced to divulge my true provenance, I couch its name in other words. “I go to Yale” sounds much better than simply, straightforwardly, “Yale.”
But I also don’t want to be that guy. I don’t want to be the smug Yale student, whose sense of self-importance is only match to that of other Yale students. It’s no accident that the Condescending Wonka is one of four memes that Yalies use correctly: “Oh, you didn’t get any sleep last night? That’s so impressive.” “Oh, you take tea at the Lizzy? You must be so cultured.” “Oh, you taught English to underprivileged children overseas? You must be such a good person.”
The irony, of course, is that I am that guy. I don’t take tea at the Lizzie, and I haven’t taught English to underprivileged children overseas, but my aversion to Yale’s name betrays an infatuation with its connotation. The fact that I’ve upvoted the memes above says as much about their subjects as it does about myself: Out of my own self-importance, I look down upon the self-importance of others.
Maybe it’s time to stop. Next time someone asks, I’ll just say that I go to Yale.
Teo Soares is a junior in Silliman College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.