Cold Beer, Hot Lights, My Sweet Romantic Teenage Nights
I did not go to law school. That's why college was so much fun.
I don’t know about you, but I am finding it hard to act normal when a part of the world that is very close to me in spirit if not geographically is at war. I started crying in a Macy’s yesterday, which is not normal for me, but I think everyone assumed that I was just overcome by the beauty of the very large Christmas tree. It was pretty impressive.
Yet I have promised to try to bring some levity to the world through the blog, and while we may not agree on some big issues of our time, I think we can all agree that we have enough suffering on a daily basis that I don’t need to add to it here. Therefore, for all of you who are not Star Wars fans but have suffered for weeks on end with Star Wars references that you don’t get, will never get, and do not want to get, I bring you our first Billy Joel entry.
To new subscribers… before recent events that brought many of us together, the preexisting subscribers participated, some by force or at least heavy coercion, in a vote on whether they wanted me to write about Star Wars or Billy Joel lyrics. The consensus was: both. And while rarely in life can you have it both ways, here you can have both Star Wars and Billy Joel lyrics!
So here we go. This entry is largely about college memories, so feel free to skip it if that topic bores you to tears. There are enough tears in the world and I will write about other things soon.
Our first Billy Joel selection is brought to us from one of my college friends, and is a line from “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant.”
In 1992 I started my freshman year at Yale.
It was not my first time away from home: I went to boarding school at Interlochen Arts Academy, a high pressure environment that made Yale look like a day at Six Flags.
However, my Yale experience could have been very stressful if I had attempted to do what many of my friends did: go to law school.
In those times, there was a legend, and I don’t know if it was true, that if you wanted to go to the “best” law school, you had to make straight A’s.
Here I must tread lightly. One of my favorite subscribers went to Yale Law. Another went to Harvard Law. Yet another went to the University of Pennsylvania law school. And our mutual close friend went to Columbia Law. Certainly I mean no offense to any of you who went to any other law schools. My goodness how many lawyers do we have here? Social workers and therapists, could you please stand up and be counted before we are overrun by the legal profession? My kingdom for a biochemist!
I will not say which law school was said to be the best in those days in the circles in which I ran, only that it was rumored that you absolutely would not get in if ever, ever, ever you got anything less than an A in anything.
Is it true? Now we must know. Is it true? I know some of you know. And I bet they made you swear not to tell.
I’ll never know, and my guess is that somewhere in the history of the law school that may or may not be the best someone with less than an A on their transcript was admitted and even graduated. But I didn’t know that back in those days, and I was determined that if I was going to go to law school it had to be the best so…
When I got a C in calculus the first semester of my freshman year, I promptly decided to abandon all thought of law school and do something else. And thus the fun began.
I had fun in college. I took classes that I knew I wouldn’t make A’s in because I wasn’t worried about getting into law school or grad school. I didn’t bother running drafts of my papers by my TAs so that I could take all their corrections, turn in the revised draft and be guaranteed of an A (yeah, we all knew that trick.) I spent hours at the Yale Art Gallery and the Museum of British Art. I went on an expedition to decide which place had the best French fries in New Haven, and visited many a coffee shop many a time.
I’m going back to New Haven for the first time since 2006 (ten year reunion that was) on Friday for an event for Elis for Rachael https://www.elisforrachael.org/, the amazing organization that has pressed for and won by legal settlement major reforms in the way Yale treats students with mental health issues. I am also… take a moment to calm yourself before you receive this shocking news… going to the Game. Not just the tailgates. For the first time in my life, I am going to the actual Yale Harvard game. Football, right? That’s the sport they’re playing? This will be the second football game I have ever attended in my entire life. I would not be surprised if there were not a third. To say that I do not follow sports could be an understatement.
That being said, thanks to the generosity of my friend who is driving me hither and thither as we go about our Elis for Rachael business and buying me a ticket, I am going to the Game.
As I prepare to return to the scene where the only crime was a sit in of which I am very proud (and they dropped the charges after we did our 25 hours of community service painting the New Haven Courthouse), I will throw around a few memories of my actually fun college years.
Made fun, to start, by the rumor that you can not get into that law school if you ever got anything less than an A.
The Yale Political Union. I’ve written about this a lot because I miss it a lot. I miss the days when you could disagree vehemently about things that mattered not at all, and still end up good friends or even married at the end of the day. These days I fear that friendships will be torn apart by disagreements over things that matter very much, and I miss flirting politely and making up alternate lyrics to songs and having fun.
Becoming a computer geek. Thanks to the fiasco whose name I will not mention for the same reasons that ancient Greeks did not mention the name of the god of the dead, I took a lot of computer science courses, became a Computing Assistant then a UNIX trainer, whatever that meant back in the day, and I had tons of fun. In retrospect, I am so glad to have been a part of the world of computer people right at the beginning of the Internet age. It would be worth a small memoir to collect stories from those of us who had a front row seat as the people who would become leaders in the tech industry grew up.
The Safety Dance. In the 90’s when we thought dancing badly to 80’s music was somehow ironic and cool? One year I happened to be dating my college boyfriend AK, who was actually a dancer, and we went to the Safety Dance together. I remember him performing a truly authentic and high quality break dance routine in the middle of everything, receiving much applause, and getting up, out of breath, saying to me, “The things… I do… to impress you.”
Mory’s. Ah the level of thought that went into those toasts. Back in the days before Vaguebooking, when you could spend all semester trying to figure out how to deliver the exact perfect backhanded compliment, indecipherable love poem, and honor your YPU ancestors all in one seemingly coherent toast.
Yorkside. I just miss Yorkside. I hear it is almost exactly the same but the bathrooms have improved. They could hardly get worse.
Really nice boys. I suppose they were young men then but close enough. I had the greatest boyfriends, almost all of whom are still friends, all of whom turned out to be good husbands and fathers and went on to have excellent careers and I take tons of credit for all of it. You’re welcome. But while I’m busy taking credit that I don’t deserve for their success, I’d like to point out that all of these fine young men contributed to me growing up to be a woman who, in spite of all sorts of unpleasantness that need not detain us, has fantastic friendships, working relationships and others with men of all sorts, has never become bitter or man-hating, and has even figured out how to patch up the souls of various men who were hurting quite a bit. I learned to take risks, get hurt, get over it, believe in love, believe in friendship, and stand by my friends even if/maybe because it didn’t work out to be forever. I am literally a footnote in one of their memoirs and honored to be so. While I am glad I didn’t get married young - I never would have turned out to be me - I’m glad I have so many wonderful friends.
My best friend and roommate SF, now SS, and my other best friend whose name we are not allowed to mention. I have not had very many female friends, but these women are worth more than a legion of girlfriends.
SLAC, the Student Labor Action Coalition, but that is a story for another day, and one in which I will somehow manage not to mention anyone who has spent good money to avoid ending up in a story.
Those days feel very innocent now. It would be a trite statement were it not for the times in which we find ourselves. I hope those of you who were there found a minute of entertainment in the memories, and that those of you who weren’t either are enjoying fond memories of your own college years, contemplating all the great people you never married, or just stopped reading as soon as you were warned that this was going to be about college.
I promise I will write about things that are of more general interest in the near future. Like Star Wars.
Change Anything with April Wilson Smith, MPH is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
This bonded pair of kittens met at the Project MEOW cat shelter. They are a little sleepy in this picture because they had their dinner, then seconds, and I think thirds. We feed them and love them up to get them ready for fosters and then homes. Many go to the suburbs to live lives of luxury, far from the mean streets of West Philly. We are almost always are able to place bonded pairs in homes together. “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” (Matthew 19:6)