Rules for the Ivy League

So you got into an Ivy League school? Congratulations!

You’ll want to fit in, so to get you up to speed, here is a list of things you are not allowed to say during your time in school:

– I feel that my years of experience living as a woman or minority qualify me to discuss women and minority issues with at least as much authority as a white male.

– This student activity happens to be a feeder for many prestigious jobs after graduation, and all of the people in the club happen to be men. Don’t you think that’s a little strange?

– If everyone knows that this Computer Science class requires 50 hours a week of homework, then why can’t they break it into two semesters with only 25 hours a week of homework?

– Since I do not have 2 wealthy parents — including one who stays at home full time — as my support system, I was wondering if you might have any sort of institutional supports for students?

– It’s my second year. Shouldn’t I at least meet my academic advisor?

..and finally, never under any circumstances speak the following words:

– I don’t know.

I need help.

The Good Ol’ Days When Women Could Dote On Their Children (and other Fairy Tales)

Nowadays, it is often strongly implied that women who go to work and leave their children for 8 whole hours a day are quite possibly scarring the children for life, just because the mothers want to “work,” “get educated,” or “eat.” The thinking goes that while some women work outside of the home by necessity, and a few strange oddballs do it by extreme conviction, the majority of working mothers are heedlessly depriving their children. Deep down (we are told) we all know that life was so much better in The Olden Days, when mothers had absolutely nothing to do but sit and gaze lovingly at their adorable offspring.

So, I would like to point something out. The average woman these days has 2 children, plus electricity, heat, and running water.

No matter what she does, her kids are coming out way, way ahead.

100 years ago, most women were pregnant or with a babe in arms – if they managed to survive childbirth — for Twenty. Years. Straight. Families of 10 or even 15 kids were not uncommon. This is because there was no birth control except abstinence…and abstinence, as it turns out, does not seem to work very well.

“Ah,” you say, “But even though the mothers had 10 children, they were at least home all day with the kids, right?”

Well, sort of.

The women were up with the sun to tend the chickens and milk the cows. Then they had to stoke the fire and tend the stove and cook for 12 people, then clean up and do the whole thing again for lunch and dinner. In the copious free time they had left over, there were chores like Washing 12 People’s Clothes By Hand in Boiling Water, Blacking the Stove With Caustic (non-child-friendly!) Chemicals, Churning Butter, Bringing the Eggs to Market, Nursing the Baby, Taking Care of Children with Life-Threatening Diseases, Sewing Muslin Together to Make Sheets, Knitting Sweaters for the Entire Family, Carding Wool, Canning, Quilting, Darning, and so on and so forth.

Because it was literally impossible for the average farmwife to do the allotted 100 hours of weekly housework while also supervising 10 kids, childcare consisted of putting your toddler into the care of your 8-year-old, crossing your fingers, and hoping for the best.

If you think that a modern woman with a job – plus a dishwasher, plus a washing machine, plus electricity and running water, plus a microwave and frozen foods, plus a refrigerator, plus a way to heat the house without having to chop wood first, plus vaccines that keep her children from coming down with horrible diseases, plus an automobile…

…If you think a woman with all these conveniences, taking care of only two children, is giving less individual time, care and attention to her children than a woman in the olden days…then you are out of your fucking mind.

Just sayin’.

I’m Yo-Yo Ma

Sometimes people ask me what Harvard was like. I struggle to explain the sheer superciliousness of the student body. Here’s an example:

We had a cellist in our class, Matt Haimovitz. Prodigy, recordings with Deutsche Gramophone, the whole bit. Were we proud? Oh no. The orchestra geeks made up a little song about him, to the tune of the Shostakovich cello concerto:

“I’m Yo-Yo Ma…”

That’s what it’s like. It’s a school where you’re a freshman in the top of the world in your field, and people jeer and mock you for not being number one in the world in your field.

Just wanted to share.

(Here’s what the cello concerto sounds like, so you too can sing along like the second-rate musicians in the Bach Society Orchestra making fun of a world-class musician.)