The Unbearable Lightness of Ivy

Although I talk more frequently about my rabid attachment to my time as a Tar Heel bred at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I also spent seven years studying and working at Yale, becoming attached to its places, its students, its particular tangle of anxieties and antiquarian tradition.  It is a place that prides itself on its intensity and its eccentricity, two potentially irritating qualities that I find myself utterly devoted to.

And this video, a musical recruitment video utterly lacking in self-censoring shame about its purposes, is the very distillation of both of those qualities:

I don't want to say much more about it here, because I want the first shock of its oddity to hit each and every one of you in a state of pristine innocence.  But it manages to be rather appalling and utterly seductive at the same time.  I don't know how it does it.

I have never been able to understand why people (read "sports fans without ties to the school or the state") hate UNC so avidly.  Duke, yes, but UNC?  We are everything that embodies benevolent progressive achievement, I would say to myself smugly.  But there is an anxious arrogance woven into the fabric of achievement, a smug self-satisfaction that outsiders will inevitably perceive even if insiders aren't aware of projecting it. And the insider's fervent adoration for a place and time unavailable to the outsider only makes that impression of smugness so much worse.

Watching this video from the liminal perspective of a former graduate student of Yale (not a "true" Yalie, for the most vivid rituals of Yaleness are the preserve of undergraduates alone, but one who lived in and loved these spaces and these people for longer than any other school I have ever been tied to), I suddenly became aware of the twinned (matching, in fact) feelings of both outsider resentment and insider longing.

Surely these are caricatures of the real Yale experience, my outsider-self cried, encouraged by the campy context.  Nope, my insider-self replied nostalgically.  That was just a place where people were unafraid of how their enthusiasms, achievements, and pride in both made them look to outsiders.  A place of incredible arrogance, brutal competition, and intense, joyous intellectual purity.  I miss it terribly.

Especially the pizza.