Posts tagged ‘College’

Light and Truth: Exhibit A

May 28, 2012 at 6:47 pm 1 comment

Excerpt from “Safe Mode”

Professor Heart Attack (not to be confused with Professor Heartache) used to always tell me that the future—and the now (then)—was all about information sharing and social networks. He had a bit of an obsession with Mark Zuckerberg (and, incidentally, with me). He used to tell me things like, “If I were Mark’s father, I’d tell him to marry you.”

It just so happened that I was a freshman at Princeton when Mark Zuckerberg was a freshman at Harvard. (No, I don’t know him personally. I know a handful of people who went to Exeter with him, but whatever. It doesn’t matter.) When I joined Facebook my sophomore (or was it junior?) year in college, back when it was called “The Facebook,” I had no idea what a key role it would play in my undoing.

I used to resent that Professor Heart Attack, more than 30 years my senior and (last time I heard) without a cell phone or personal email account, was so ahead of my time. He was seemingly compassionate, extremely intelligent, not at all attractive, cosmopolitan, wealthy, and—it turns out—deeply insecure and duplicitous. It seemed cruelly ironic that he—of all people—appeared to escape the disaster when most of us had our worlds ripped out from under us.

Of course, he hadn’t anticipated the ultimate irony. Neither had I.

October 19, 2011 at 9:37 pm 6 comments

PG-Rated Homoerotica

Stay tuned for “PG-13 Homoerotica.”

Boys just want to have fun!! In one of many great scenes from The Rules of Attraction, Paul (Ian Somerhalder) and Dick (Russell Sams) enjoy a little friskiness on a hotel bed before heading down to dinner with their pill-popping moms. George Michael provides the soundtrack. Enjoy!

July 14, 2011 at 10:49 pm 3 comments

Taking Back the Night: A Feminist’s Response to Yale’s DKE Incident

No means yes! Yes means anal!”  chanted the Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) fraternity pledge class while marching across the Yale campus last week. This egregiously offensive and threatening speech must be punished, and we need to open up a dialogue about the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses in general and by fraternity members in particular.  While I commend Dean Mary Miller and President Richard Levin for making a public statement condemning DKE’s actions, this should just be a first step in a longterm, comprehensive plan for creating a safer social environment in colleges and universities across the country.

Unfortunately, the DKE incident does not surprise me, and I can no longer remain silent about my experience.  In an ongoing attempt to reclaim my agency (which was, to borrow the words of Billy Joel, “something I’d never lose, something somebody stole”), I share my story and take back the night that fundamentally and almost catastrophically changed my life.

The president of a Yale fraternity raped me when I was an undergraduate.  I didn’t tell anyone about it for over a year because I was in denial about what had happened.  Like so many victims of sexual abuse, I blamed myself.  Shortly after the incident, I became bulimic and extremely self-destructive.  I cried myself to sleep almost every night—and, although I was never suicidal, I had a sincere death wish. Seven years later, I have overcome most of the shame and hurt associated with such a devastating loss of agency, but I continue to suffer.  Writing has really facilitated my ongoing quest to reclaim my autonomy and self-confidence. Below is a post I previously wrote about the incident.  I changed names and immaterial details to preserve anonymity:

I strode along the curb of Prospect Street toward Alpha Nu as he ambled—slightly drunkenly—on my right.  I met Tex, a Bulldog linebacker and president of Alpha Nu, at Josh’s track party that night.  The cross-country team had already had its first race of the season the day before, and I still felt a bit high from performing well.  It was the beginning of September, and fall always seemed to arrive early in New Haven.  The temperature must have dropped 20 degrees since the track party had come and gone, and I started to wish I had worn a jacket.

A black Escalade zoomed by, nearly splashing me with a wave of cold, grimy water.

Tex tugged me away from the road.  “Whoa! Let’s switch places. I’m more than twice your size.  No one’s gonna hurt me, and no one’s gonna hurt you while you’re with me.”  He ran his fingers through his dishwater blond hair, sweaty from dancing, and winked.  We held each other’s clammy hands. “That’s kinda sweet,” I thought.

“You’re big and strong and all, but that doesn’t make you invincible.”  I dropped his hand and softly punched his shoulder.  (This was my attempt at coyness.)  I had a weakness for “teddy bear” guys because they seemed so manly and so eager to protect, but I figured it was too early to let on that I might actually be into him.  I hoped to continue the interesting conversation we had begun at Josh’s apartment, and maybe we would kiss and caress for awhile. I hadn’t had many sexual partners, and I just wanted to date people and to generally take things slowly.

“Well, I promise you’re safe with me.  Besides, we’re almost there.  I apologize in advance for the mess.  I didn’t know I’d be meeting such a lovely lady tonight.” Tex put his arm gently around my waist, pulling me closer to him.

But Tex didn’t keep his promise—and, although he apologized for the bite marks in an email the next day, he never said he was sorry for all that transpired later that night.

I wish I could truly take back that September night, but I will never forget what happened.  When I talked about it with some close girlfriends, two of them admitted they had also been raped at Yale.  Both friends chose not to report the events because they didn’t think anyone would believe them.

In light of this, I don’t think hate speech like DKE’s chant should be protected by the First Amendment.  When one form of expression is so abhorrent and so offensive that it chills the expression and threatens the emotional well-being of others, the government should be able to impose liability.  Not only did some of DKE’s members deeply offend many students, but they also voiced support for a culture of sexual violence.  The young men who chanted and/or incited such hateful speech should, at the very least, be suspended.  They have assaulted the vibrant, tolerant marketplace of ideas that should thrive at all institutions of higher education. Through hate speech, these men supported heinous mentality and behavior, casting a pall over the Yale campus and beyond.

I am symbolically taking back the night that had taken so much from me.  Although I’ll never forget what happened, its effects continue to fade into a seemingly distant past.  I hope we all take a moment to consider the individual and societal ramifications of sexual abuse and hate speech and how we can learn from this recent assault on intellectual freedom, social progress, and humanity.

October 21, 2010 at 11:31 pm 3 comments

Excerpt from “Who Wants to Marry a Savant?”

When she sat “Indian-style” in front of me, I realized she wasn’t wearing anything under her orange sun dress.  I also noticed she didn’t shave like I did.  Months later, Gina Q. would tell me to throw away my razor—at least when it came to “down there.”  She didn’t think it was natural, didn’t think I should look like a twelve-year-old.  I resisted at first, but I quickly came to my senses.  “I want you just as you are,” she would sometimes whisper as she unbuttoned my pants.

When I first met Gina Q., she had cotton candy colored dreadlocks, a cute amount of cleavage, and a slight southern accent.  But it wasn’t until I ran into her at a screening of postmodern feminist pornography/erotica that she really made an impression on me.

August 19, 2010 at 9:46 pm Leave a comment

The (Out of) Shape of Things: Part II

Lester Burnham: (running astride fit neighbors) I figured you guys might be able to give me some pointers. I need to shape up. Fast.

Jim Olmeyer: Are you just looking to lose weight, or do you want increased strength and flexibility as well?

Lester: I want to look good naked!

-from American Beauty

When I made the decision to stop “running seriously” three years ago, I realized that I had only been running for one purpose for too long. I asked myself, “If your body were to look the same whether you ran or not, would you still run regularly?” An unequivocal “no” resounded through my disturbed mind. I put my shoes into my closet and laced them up twice a week at most.

I have always conflated my body image into my sexual identity. The unhealthy marriage was consummated in 1995 when I hit puberty. I felt extremely uncomfortable in my own skin. To make a long story short, I made my period go away. The thought of developing breasts and hips absolutely terrified me, so I started exercising and virtually stopped eating. A year later, running saved my life. I felt entitled to eat again, and I gained self-confidence from excelling at something other than schoolwork (Athlete” sounded better than “bookworm.”).

“Bootylicious” topped the charts the summer before my senior year in high school. Its sexy, charismatic message failed to reach me.

Fast forward two years.

Competing in collegiate sports put me in the best physical shape of my life, but I managed to keep subtle “lady lumps” throughout the years of intense training. Never before had I received so much attention from the opposite sex. I felt at once exhilarated and horrified. After three progressively problematic incidents, I started forcing myself to throw up. My experiences and surroundings seemed to convey to me that my body and my desires had provoked predatory behavior: My burgeoning sexuality could and would be used against me. When my breasts and hips refused to disappear, I tried to “act like a man.” I felt more attracted to women than ever before and feigned apathy toward “catching feelings.” I became aggressive, power hungry, and, occasionally, hateful. None of these pretenses worked, of course, and I started to fear the monster I was becoming.

I quit bulimia cold turkey when I left New Haven. My distance runs became fewer and occurred further between. I gained a nominal amount of weight and an immense amount of self-respect. I now run mostly to feel good. Looking good is just a fringe benefit.

 See also “The (Out of) Shape of Things”

September 6, 2009 at 6:32 pm 1 comment

Excerpt from “Those Bright College Years”

I strode along the curb of Prospect Street toward Alpha Nu as he ambled–slightly drunkenly–on my right. A former linebacker for the Bulldogs, Tex was president of his athletic fraternity and frequented the social functions of various sports groups. The cross-country team had already had its first race of the season the day before, and I still felt a bit high from performing well. It was only September, but fall tended to arrive early in New Haven. The temperature seemed to have dropped 20 degrees since the track party fizzled out, and I started to wish I had worn a jacket.

An SUV with basses blaring zoomed by, causing a surprisingly fierce breeze that sent my curly tresses flying. Tex tugged me away from the road: “Whoa! Let’s switch places. I’m more than twice your size. No one’s gonna hurt me. Or you while you’re with me.” He ran his fingers through his dishwater blond hair, sweaty from dancing, and winked. We held each other’s clammy hands. Charming, I thought.

“You’re big and strong and all, but that doesn’t make you invincible.” This was my attempt at coyness. I often fell for “teddy bear” guys because they seemed so manly and so eager to protect, but it was too early to let on that I might actually be into him.

“Well, I promise you’re safe with me. Besides, we’re almost there.”

 Tex didn’t keep his promise, and, although he apologized for the bite marks in an email the next day, he never said he was sorry for what transpired later that night.

August 30, 2009 at 11:00 am Leave a comment

Punctuation

(written in 2005)

Whether that was a question or a statement
Affects whether I answer or respond
So Im adding structure to your ambiguity
Since you have broken the rules of punctuation
For the last time
I wanted to experience all of your etceteras
And I really liked how the apostrophes always followed our name
Or even better
How we were one pronoun or possessive adjective
I got a kick out of your interjections in bed
And your clever appositives in reference to me
But there is always a but
See the only conjunction I can tolerate is and
And you think or can replace and
And so Im ending with a period this time
Not an ellipsis.

July 14, 2009 at 2:42 am Leave a comment

Happy Birthday, Little Brother

Alex's Tree 2     May 11, 2009May 11, 1986 was the most significant Mother’s Day our parents will ever celebrate. I don’t remember you coming home from the hospital, but I do recall sneaking up to see you in your crib. We fought like wild animals until I went off to college, but unconditional forgiveness followed each of our clashes.

In my absence, we started to grow closer, and I wish we had more time to continue on that meaningful trajectory. Our visit to New York was a blast as you bargained in Chinatown and navigated the subway. People started to ask if we were fraternal twins. I took this as a compliment because everyone I know thinks you’re incredibly handsome. We laugh and sometimes even talk the same. The high-pitched hoot distinguished us in theaters, hallways, and classrooms. I’ve hardly laughed like that, though, since you left. I wish I could, if only just to hear your voice.

Yesterday, I saw the live oak tree planted in your memory. Dad can see it from his office, and there’s plenty of space for its roots and branches to flourish. It will outlive me and my children and my grandchildren, and I like the thought of that. I wish you could have lived to see old age. Maybe I will be fortunate enough to do so.

Your birthday always coincided with my return from college for the summer. When I visited home this weekend, I almost expected you to drive up in your red Civic and talk smack with me. Pluto’s not fat anymore, and we have a brand new toilet upstairs. That’s about all that’s changed since January. Seems strange. It still baffles me that time has the audacity to progress as usual in your absence.

There’s a hole in my heart, but I can’t seem to bleed to death. I feel at once devastated and honored to live the rest of my life in your memory. The dichotomies that often govern our existence are overwhelming. Perhaps, over time, you can help me reconcile the contradictions, loose ends, shades of gray, and injustices within this life.

It’s so difficult to articulate my love for you, and I never had the chance to tell you just how proud I was. Am. I guess that’s because all of those feelings of compassion, fondness, and respect we shared went without saying. I know you knew how much I cared. And for that, above all things, I am endlessly grateful.

Happy Birthday, Alex. The intense sorrow following your death can never compare to the endless joy your life created. Today marks your twenty-third year. And in death, as in life, your gifts continue to arrive.

May 11, 2009 at 7:25 pm 9 comments

Excerpt from “Those Bright College Years”

My gregarious Californian roommate, Evelyn*, decided to throw a Jilted Lovers’ Party the weekend after Valentine’s Day.  Not yet into the party scene, I took a backseat role in planning the festivities.  I did, however, suggest we write enticing messages (think alternative conversation hearts) on the heart-shaped helium balloons lining the walls and staircase.  “Fuck Me” and “69” seemed to go over pretty well.

Still high from dancing the night away with Johnny* at the Sadie Hawkins dance, I emailed him an invite to the party.  He responded that he would likely arrive a bit late since his improv comedy group had an after party that same night.  I kept my heavily-lined eyes peeled for him as I danced listlessly in my black faux-leather mini and tiger skin top.  The girls across the hall volunteered their suite for serving mixed drinks, and our common room doubled as the dance floor and hook-up room.

Apparently, word of the party spread like an STD at a brothel because hoards of people arrived to take advantage of the free alcohol.  People impatiently filled the 5-floor entryway, even half an hour after the drinks ran out.  Swarms of disappointed partygoers ended up on the dance floor by default in their failed escape attempt.  I frantically scanned the room for signs of Johnny, but I felt hopeless and overwhelmed by the crowds of students eagerly awaiting inebriation and/or orgasm.

The campus police must have arrived around 12:30 to bust up the party.  They couldn’t care less about the serving of alcohol by minors to other under-aged drinkers.  Someone had supposedly called and complained about the noise level, so the music and, therefore, fun, had to end.  And still no Johnny.  I felt like the girl who bought a new dress and make-up set in eager anticipation of the middle school dance, just to watch her recent purchases gather dust as she assumed the wallflower position throughout the 180 minute session of swaying, giggling, and back-of-the-gym exploration.

My whole body seemed to droop as I dejectedly helped clean up the spilled liquor and red plastic cups. A few of the guests from my residential college announced that they were heading over to a frat house. Having only been to one fraternity party, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to expand my social horizons. Later that night, out of desperation and a low sense of self-worth, I made the first in a series of life-altering mistakes.

*For privacy purposes, some names and minor details have been changed.

March 27, 2009 at 7:22 pm 3 comments

Older Posts Newer Posts


Follow The Lollygabber on WordPress.com

Join 1,635 other followers


%d bloggers like this: