Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Southern Esteem

Last night I had dinner with Brock, the Cute Fayetteville Boy. We've been hanging out some, and he's been opening up a lot. He's pretty shy and quiet, but he's super nice and pretty interesting. He came to Mexico, primarily, he told me last night, to try to determine his stance on globalization, and whether or not international business is something he really wants to do. So he's interning in the offices of a factory every day.

He asked me in the midst of our conversation if I'd met any of the kids here from Yale. There's a fairly sizable group of them. I said I'd met one of the girls the other night, but couldn't remember her name. When I asked him why, he said it was because he wanted to see if they were all as smart as they were supposed to be, since none of them were taking any classes, and they were all interning as well all summer.

Which reinforced an interesting thing I've noticed down here. There are kids here from all over the United States, and a couple of other countries, from both private and public schools, Ivy League and state. And the kids that go to the public or state schools seem to have nothing but contempt for the all the Ivy Leaguers. It seems to be a pretty common thread. Everyone badmouths the kids from Yale and Princeton, and I have to say, the rich, Ivy League kids also seem to live up to their reputations to some degree.

I met a kid from Princeton last week and we talked some. Totally openly gay, friendly, whatever. So he invites me to go to the pool with his friends from NYU. Which I do, and everything is fine, until we start talking about where we're from. Well, Princeton Guy is from Texas, but because he goes to fucking Princeton, he thinks he's got it all figured out, and when I told them I was from Arkansas, he totally freaked. He started talking about how shitty Arkansas is, and how everyone from there is an idiot, and on and on. And he wouldn't shut up. So I asked him if he'd ever even been there, or met anyone from there, and he said no. But he was all, "I've been all over the south: Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas is by far the worst." Even though he'd never been there. So one of his NYU friends piped in and was all, "Well, it can't be all bad, if Bill Clinton is from there." Great.

I know I have somewhat of a personal bias against people that went to private, northeast liberal arts colleges, due to personal experience (ahem!), but I've had a hard time determining whether or not it was my own insecurity, or whether I actually had a point. And being down here is making me think less and less that it's just me. But instead of making me angry, which I guess it should have done, or maybe it shouldn't have, my conversation with Princeton just really hurt my feelings. I felt attacked and judged by this person that had met me for a total of less than an hour, and admittedly a little embarassed as well. His friends were just sitting there looking at me, as if what he was saying was the most reasonable, common thing for anyone to say to someone else.

There have also been several discussions down here about North vs. South, some of which have been fairly heated. I didn't realize college kids these days thought so much about this stuff. Jaisen even started a Facebook club last year called, "Southern Esteem: Superiority over Yankee Effontery" up at Carnegie Mellon, and it has, like, a million members.

It all just seems a bit silly to me, and I wonder if maybe a lot of it has to do with the political scene, and all the red state-blue state bullshit that everyone was so big on a couple of years ago. But having said that, I feel it as well. I totally buy into the stereotypes, and the first time I met the Princeton kids, or the Yale kids, I immediately formed an opinion about them, without even talking to them. Even the NYU kids I find incredibly standoffish and sort of quietly pretentious. But that could be their guilt by association, since they're always with Princeton, or maybe it's just my imagination.

Anyway. I don't have any great profound insight into any of this, it's just something that I've noticed, and frankly, has made me feel a little better about my own insecurities. At least I'm not the only one.

After talking about the Yale kids last night, Brock said, "I got into a couple of those schools, but decided not to go. I figured I'd just do too many drugs and would probably never fit it with anyone there. I think most people only go to Ivy League schools to try to make themselves feel really smart, and they're the insecure ones, not us."

I'm not sure if I entirely agree with this, but I think maybe he has a point. Obviously, a diploma from Princeton is going to be more impressive than a diploma from Hendrix, but ultimately, does it really make that much difference? I suppose it probably does, but if you're going to Princeton, or Yale, or Harvard, or wherever, most likely you're already somewhat in the "in" crowd to begin with. Maybe I should try to spend more time with the Yalies and see what they're all about. I might learn a thing or two. Or unlearn a thing or two.

1 comment:

Mandy said...

I dunno... I know someone who has had a lot of doors opened with his MIT degree. I certainly wish my U of A degree said a different school on it.

But shame on those people for ragging on Arkansas. I defy someone to go to NW Arkansas and not see how beautiful the countryside is. Arkansas is home to some of the most powerful corporations in the US (and the world). There is award-winning architecture there, artist colonies, and (of course) the World Championship Duck Calling Contest. Give Arkansas a break, people!