Ivy League Assembly Line

7 05 2007

Something about this NY Times article made me sad. Maybe the train of thought I was riding the whole morning, past noon, has something to do with it. It’s just another article on school and education and what we think they mean to us or what we expect education at an Ivy League school would bring us. Back home when I was applying to schools myself and hoped to get into any decent college/university in the States, my friends (or not-so friends as it turned out – but that’s a different post) used to gripe over not getting into Ivy League schools – with full scholarship. Here I was hoping to get out of the sea of misery and these ‘friends’ hoped a helicopter, not a ship, would rescue them from the mid ocean. I’m exaggerating a bit, perhaps. After all, none of them probably thought his/her life would become a downward spiral if (s)he never left homeland. They never had to worry about food, clothing, and shelter either – so decision making was a little easier. Most of them had excellent grades at school, far better than mine. Whereas I’d be happy to see a mirage, they’d want bottled water or death.

I remember their faces, my class mate’s that is, when I told them I was leaving for New York. It was as if I’d told them they have one more week to live. I had bought my plane tickets by then and they never knew I had been applying to schools overseas. I don’t think they expected me to really. To them I was someone who sat at the back of the classroom and wrote short poems and stories they could read and make encouraging comments all the while laughing inside. They’ll deny it today. Like I fucking care. In the meantime, a lot of others have subtly made it known to my mom that Brooklyn College is not an Ivy League school and, therefore, not something to be proud of. They’ll deny it too.

So I never went to an Ivy League school. But it seems that every other Bengali I know (who talks with my mom about their children) went to Harvard, Yale, Stanford or MIT. I stopped reminding some, after a while, that MIT is not even in the Ivy League. It seems no one goes to a community or state school. Why would they admit to that? After all it would be hard to find a girl to marry back home if you told them you went to state college ranked moderately difficult to enter in the Peterson’s Guide. Trust me, they have a copy in every room – not really, but they would if they could. But the liars have one thing to their advantage – the bride’s parents won’t be asking to see a diploma from Brown or Princeton because that would just be rude. Well – if you’re asking – what about women? My friends – the groom’s parents could give a shit about a woman’s education if she’s not fair skinned carrying a tight body. I’ve overheard some parents talk about a would-be bride’s body and how she could give them healthy grand-children.

Sadly, well-educated parents still have that narrow minded selection process for their sons as well but almost never for their daughters. I know of many women who’ve gone to very good schools and have lined up a bright career opportunity only to have their parents moan about why it’s important for a South Asian girl to be married before people start, you know, talking. All you have to do if you’re a guy, on the other hand, is go back home and announce your degree in computers from MIT and you will score some young virgin – being a virgin is a must and it doesn’t matter if the guy’s a whore monger with a tab at Las Vegas’s Bunny Ranch – hey I watch HBO too. By the way, how do people get away with just saying, “I have a degree in computers”? What does having a degree in computers even mean?

I have a Masters degree from Brooklyn College. I would say I’m a fairly good looking South Asian – with a tan. My market value for arranged marriage looks pretty good if I take into account inflation and age. Graying hair at 31 should concern no one. Unfortunately, my MS wasn’t in ‘computers’, my laminated and photocopied diploma doesn’t say Columbia or Rice and, to top it off, what the heck is a degree in TV/R? Strike out! If you must know, arranged marriage talks initiate with ‘resumes’ being presented from both parties. Both candidate’s achievements are assessed as are his/her family history – typically with several pictures of the would-be bride in the envelope – and if family should wish, the groom’s as well. Every member of both parties will chime in with their opinions about why the two parties should or shouldn’t proceed. The talks go on as if it’s not a marriage but a merger of two major corporations.

For example, if your great-grandfather was a farmer – not good. If your father is/was a farmer or works a government job – get the fuck outta here. If your family does not seem connected to any influential figure or family – not so good. If you’re the son of a single parent – eh, how well could he have been brought up. If you’re the daughter of a single parent – you must be hooking on the side to keep the family afloat. If you have not gone back home with an American citizenship – who gives a shit about your degree? If you’ve gone back with a citizenship – who gives a shit if you don’t have a degree? If you’re a guy who is dark skinned – beauty is skin deep. If you’re a girl who is anything but fair skinned – you’re not helping at all.

This whole game…yes I said game…is, quite frankly, sickening to me. I’m not saying all arranged marriages are processed that way. Most of them are. There is nothing wrong with arranged marriages if both parties are open to it. It’s a permanent blind date. It’s just that you’d have to kill me first to make me go through an ‘arrangement’ of that sort. It’d be less painful. I won’t go into another popular format – telephone marriages – because I need to hold on to material for another post.

Then again, all of that if I do get married. Fuck that, I can barely make a living for myself. I’m not saying I have to provide for my wife and all, but, shit, don’t I have to be happy with my situation first? “I don’t care if you’re making less than me now, baby, I don’t care,” dear wifey will say until you pursuing your dreams gets in the way of paying the rent.

Oh yeah, the NY Times article. Think about it. Are you really going to learn more if you go to Harvard? Would you become a better person if Stanford accepts your application? Does Columbia assemble the best journalists in the nation? Will going to Yale drama school shape you into a Meryl Streep? Not unless you’re Meryl Streep as a freshman. Will going to Juilliard (not Ivy League, I know) make a Segovia out of you? He was self-taught. Some of you parents make it your life’s mission to put your kids into a big school. You keep reminding them how hard you work so they can have a better education. You keep telling them, “I couldn’t go to Harvard, so I want you to go and complete my dream.” If she doesn’t want to go to fucking Harvard, leave her the fuck alone. Just because she doesn’t want to doesn’t mean she can’t.

So I have issues that seem to want to mingle in one single post. So fuckin’ what.

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22 05 2007
Correction: Ivy League Assembly Line post « EMONOME

[…] Ivy League Assembly Line post 22 05 2007 In this recent rant/post I mentioned Stanford as if it was part of the Ivy League schools. My bad. And there’s no excuse for it […]

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