If asked how much honesty matters to me in my personal relationships, I will look you right in the face and say, “it matters to me a lot” which is a lie. I rarely want to know what people truly think about me, unless it’s something flattering in which case yes, tell me. The fact is lies are the glue that holds the entire rickety contraption we call society together. They are important, and it is sometimes good to tell them.
The lie I’ve been perpetrating the longest — basically since I moved here from Canada 12 years ago — to varying degrees of success, is that I have any fucking idea at all what is conveyed when Americans tell me what college they or someone else attended. There are simply too many of them for me to ever keep track, and people are constantly releasing new rankings, which are treated as news.
Often, at casual social events, a friend will lean over conspiratorially and say, “he went to Wesleyan, obviously” and I will nod and offer up a wry smile as though I appreciate this joke. Yes, I will imply with the tilt of my head, that makes so much sense to me. My brilliant coworker will write a blog based on the premise that the New School’s mascot couldn’t get into NYU and I will type “hahaha that’s so funny” in Slack, completely dead-eyed the entire time, understanding nothing.
There is a sickness in the heart of many people I otherwise love and find charming, and it compels them to believe that telling me “she has Sarah Lawrence energy” is in any way legible. The only one that transcends cultural differences is Harvard, which the world over is understood to mean someone is an asshole.
I’m sure that college is a very formative time for many Americans, but please understand that I was legally able to drink at 18 so “campus” held very little sway over me as a Canadian university student. It was mainly where the classes were held, not some crucible of my adult personality.
What does it mean that your ex went to Northwestern?? What on earth could any of it possibly mean? I am tired of pretending I know. No longer will I pretend I know where Swarthmore even is, let alone what it says about a person that they went there. I’m done lying, about this at least.