December 19, 2004

Tales out of school, redux

My college classmate, according to the British-- and even U.S. -- newspapers, has managed to get the government official to resign from office. Within 48 hours of the resignation, she was out of the hospital, where she'd been for "stress." I would like to think that in her heart of hearts she is a U.S. Democrat, wanting to pressure the British Prime Minster into looking bad (he, like her ex-lover, is politically conservative to the nth degree), but I think that may be too much to ask. I find it difficult to credit one of the most opportunistic people I know with the idea that s/he acted for, what is to my mind, the public good.

In any event, it was a fun soap opera to watch from this side of the pond, hard as it is to grasp that it's not just in New York that I know the inmates are running the media asylum, as well as the political one. I suppose I could have been one of them -- certainly according to how my prep school taught me -- but I lack that driving ambition. I'm not sure I'm missing anything without it, except the urge to be governor or dictate from the top of a newspaper or magazine masthead.

What amazes me about my prep school (a private school named for the founder of free public education in Massachusetts, as I remember every time they ask me -- ha! -- for money), is this year's "holiday card." It features a recipe for muffins. This, from an institution that barely had a shop class, and certainly nothing resembling home ec. Why do they think we'll be baking now? When I attended, I was in the second class that had girls admitted to its previous all-male bastion.

It was the 1970s, and I will admit, I didn't care that none of the teachers had seen an adolescent girl since they were that age. When asked why I didn't attend a particular class, the line, "Sir, I had cramps," made the strongest of them drop the question, as I stepped over their bodies in the corridor. If my 16-year-old feminist mind considered using what I had to embarrass "men" who would so easily fall, I think it was well worth it. In those days, the school wouldn't have had sensitivity sessions or equal-opportunity/equal respect workshops, or even sent a memo, "the girls are coming! the girls are coming! Be prepared."

The school wasn't. To this day, if they want to get money from me -- and tis the season for annual nonprofit beg-a-thons -- they would have to offer me something more than a muffin receipe. Say, let me use the facilities like the gym and library, or spend time at their nature lab in rural Connecticut. My college is happy to do so, as long as you get an alumna/i ID card. And its campus, while farther from my house, has far greater resources.

The prep school asks, not what can we do for you to make you want to donate as an alumna, but as an alumna, what can you do for us? Actually, they consider me an "alumnus," which would only be true if I had had a sex-change operation along the way. One thing I did learn there was proper Latin endings for female and mail, singular and plural. My mother paid full tuition for my brother and me, and he didn't even attend half of his classes in ninth grade. So I'd say we're paid in full, and if anything, they should have been responsible enough to keep track of their wandering students like my brother.


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