Excerpt from “Those Bright College Years”

October 30, 2008 at 6:20 am 2 comments

“Where do you go to school?”

“In the Northeast.”

“Where in the Northeast?”


“Where in Connecticut?”

“New Haven.”

“What college do you go to?”




“Did you say Yale?”




“Wow…you must be smart.  How do you like it there?”


I knew I could cut such a conversation in half by providing the answer outright, but I felt rather embarrassed to reveal my college’s identity.  And there’s something about the slight inflection that automatically occurs at the end of that monosyllabic word that makes it difficult to understand, awkward at best (Harvard” and “Princeton” roll off the tongue much more easily).  I also resented the superficial expectations that came with such a confession and the predictability of the entire dialogue to follow.  Uncomfortable throughout, I feared sounding arrogant or insincerely modest.  An unavoidable sense of pride always lined my end of the interrogation, and I highly resented my inability to avoid that inner half-smile.  After months of half-heartedly responding that my Yale experience was “alright,” I finally decided to tell the truth.

Entry filed under: Excerpt. Tags: .

The McPalin Conundrum The (Out of) Shape of Things

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Andi Kay  |  November 17, 2008 at 7:12 pm

    A Bachelor’s degree later, married and 24 and much too late, I dream of Princeton. DBU sucked. I’ll probably end up at UofH for my Masters though. You should come back to Texas and we should play school together. I want to go back for British Lit… everyone tells me I’m horribly dry and boring, the word “alien” comes to lips often. But I think YOU would understand. My book club is reading Italo Calvino’s Hermit in Paris next. I thought since you liked Orwell’s Paris and London you’d hop in on it with us. Love you.


  • 2. Lauren Davis  |  December 19, 2008 at 3:47 am

    I was reminiscing with my mom today about the literary brilliance you demonstrated at such a young age. Remember the banal writing portion of the TAAS test? I will never forget the time you wrote a story about some animals in the forest. A squirrel narrated the passage, beginning with, “When I wore a younger squirrel’s fur…” instead of the typical “Long, long ago…” any other fourth grader would use. Ingenius!!



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