Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Word-association: Princeton

Popped collars. Tanned, blond, long-limbed young women, and young men with III or IV after their names. Lacrosse. Binge-drinking good-ol'-boys. When I moved here in September, to accompany my husband who's doing a postdoc euphemistically near the university, I'd imagined there'd be a preppy presence on the campus. I even remember that the university's... reputation had something to do with why, at my Ivy-obsessed but not-very-white-bread high school, HYP as good as didn't include the "P." I don't think terribly many kids applied, and of those who went, at least two were legacies. 

Granted, the only bit of the campus I spend time at is the library, but if there's any demographic with a sizable presence, it's studious-nerdy-seeming young black women. After that, studious-nerdy-seeming young white women. After that, dandy-ish male grad students. So I'm wondering, is this just who spends time at the library? Are there all kinds of decadent WASPy happenings, hidden from view? Do the notorious eating clubs connect by tunnel to classroom buildings, dining halls, gyms, and emerging from the underground campus is discouraged? The what-you'd-expects are not at the library, or the coffee shop, or on Nassau Street, so either Princeton has changed (in, might I say, the right direction); its real essence is hidden from view; or I wear special Lacoste-obscuring goggles when I leave the house. 


Nicholas said...

My office was very far down on Prospect Ave, which meant walking past the eating clubs to do anything on campus, or to go from the office to Nassau Street on the weekends, so I can assure you: that's where the preppy WASPy dudes all hang out. They do tend to only materialize at lunch and weekend evenings, though.

Flavia said...

I'd vote for this being a significantly outdated stereotype--though a tenacious one, and one that I admit still rattles around in the back of my own brain.

To the extent that H & Y have shed this stereotype (which they haven't among most of the general population), I'd wager that it's largely to do with location: H is in "Boston" and Y is "the ghetto," both of which, as purely imagined places, are harder to see as isolated enclaves of the overprivileged.

Whereas P is, in fact, located in just such an enclave. That has nothing to do with its students, or only a little to do with its students, but: easy to roll them into one.

PG said...

Hmm, I didn't consider applying to Princeton either. I'm trying to remember why and can't really recall. I think it had something to do with its seeming more like a college than a university due to the lack of graduate professional schools. And I did take courses taught by both medical and law professors while an undergrad, so that wasn't completely bollocks. Though of course my alma mater calls up precisely the same image as you noted in your first paragraph, and Tiny Fey's chapter about it in Bossypants just reiterated the point.