The Legacy of Rivalry

When I first met my husband, he told he he'd just moved to Colorado after college, so I asked him where he'd gone. His response, with a dismissive hand-wave,, was, "Oh, some little university in New Jersey." And then I, of course, made it all about me, as I a wont to do, and busted into some nervous, jumbled, I-really-want-to-find-common-ground-with-you so-that-I-can-have-your-babies-someday diatribe about how I grew up in Delaware and isn't the East Coast the greatest and don't you miss the fall foliage and I could see New Jersey from my house and I just realized that I am qualified to be the head of the Tea Party.

It wasn't until I had to learn the hard way (yeah, just go ahead and read into that whatever you will) where that little school in New Jersey was.

(Hairbrush simply for scale)

He doesn't like to talk about where he went to school. He says it sets unreasonable expectations and makes him sound pretentious. I, personally, avoid all college conversational entirely, ever since the day I was sitting on the stoop with the guy who was later to become the kids' godfather, and he'd asked me where I went to school. I didn't hesitate, even for a second, to give him every last detail about the school I went to, how amazing it was, the revolutionary drafting/architecture program I was so lucky to have been a part of, and how I still wasn't over the fact that I had to move to Colorado before I could finish, and the high school I went to had nothing comparable.

Turns out, when someone says, "Where'd you go to school?" they mean university. And I blame the fact that I never went to one on the fact that I didn't know that and irreparably humiliated myself in front of one of the most brilliant people I've ever met. I mean, he told his mom about that conversation. I have no idea why they're still friends with my uneducated ass.

My point is, Josh and I go to great lengths to avoid the 'university' conversation in almost all facets of our lives. He told me that a "facebook" is an actual book full of actual pictures of your actual classmate's faces that they give you in your freshman year at an Ivy League school two weeks ago. I've been with him for 15 years. We really just don't talk about it, ever.

Though we talk about college with the kids, he's careful to a fault not to create any expectations of 'legacy' in them. I only ever bring that up in the context of legacy status being a goldenesquey sort of ticket for them, if legacy is the path they choose. He's more likely to talk about the amazing swim team UofT had in the 80's than the Ivy League school he busted his goddamn ass to get into.

And I kind of hate it. I mean, so much of what I love about this man is his big, hard brain. He's wikkid smaht, and kind of the yin to my yang. Maybe these kids' mom never went to university, but their daddy went to the #2 university in the nation, so we balance it out, right? No one in my family ever went to college, and I followed that path skillfully. This is one of those times when I just pray to god they take after their father's side, but how are they going to if we never talk about it?

But like any awkward, uncomfortable topic, we just hadn't found a way to properly mock it enough to take the taboo out of it. Yet.

And then one day my boss wrote this blog post about how he went to a little school in Boston and I read the whole thing going, "Oh dear god, this is JOSH." And then Josh read it. And then Josh was all like, "God damn it, why didn't I keep my Fuck Harvard t-shirt?" And then Josh and Jim both realized they had an out, a way to be proud of where they went to school, because they once again had rivals, and there ain't nuthin' shameful about a good school rivalry.

And after about two whole minutes of brotherly commiserating, they jumped straight into an epic pissing match, spanning the past few years, revolving around who can get in the best, most unexpected dig. Jim and I were debating some grammatical thing for work one day on video conference and Josh jumped in all, "Take it easy on him with the pronouns; it's not his fault he went to Harvard." One time, on a work trip, Jim gave me a present for Josh. I gave it to him, he opened it, and inside was one shiny, new, official Harvard pen. They poke and dig at each other all the time about it and I love it because I think it's good for both of them to have someone they don't feel like they have to hide it from, someone who gets exactly what the other one feels about the whole thing, and it lets my boys see their father shit-talk, with the highest regard, in defense of his alma mater.

Because, really, I don't care whether or not they go to Princeton or community college or to the gas station down the road, so long as they can feel pride in the legacy they leave behind. So I have to be proud of mine, and their dad has to be proud of his, no matter how hard that may be for the both of us. And with all this Ivy League shit talk (and paraphernalia) swirling around, maybe if they do go, it'll be more of the norm for them than this big ugly thing they don't know how to balance against the scales of an average life.

But as always, I have underestimated my children. I have forgotten the cardinal rule of parenting, and that is this: The second your children find your weakness, they will exploit it at all cost, with absolutely no regard for their own personal safety and well-being. They will do this because this is how men bond, by poking each other with small, pointy sticks. They will do this because as much our children want to break away from us, they still want to be under our wings. And sometimes, the best way to do that is to sink to their parent's level.

And as totally horrified as Josh was at the sight of that, as much as he protested, "That's only going to fly in this house because Princeton doesn't have a medical school", I saw the glimmer of pride in his eye, that look that says, "Welcome to the inside joke. You have learned well, my son."