May
1st 2011
Middle-aged golden boys and girls translated

Posted under: fluff, happy endings, students

Flavia wrote a hilarious post about perusing her fiance’s alumni magazine, “Middle-aged golden boys and girls,” in which she reflects on the very weird genre of the Class Notes in which alums are invited to share news of their lives with their classmates.  As we all are finishing our semesters and shaking the dust bunnies off of our doctoral robes in preparation for graduation, we should pause to reflect:  our students of today are the alumni of tomorrow, and it’s important to help initiate them into the art of casual braggadocio and/or desperately squeezing lemons into lemonade that is the hallmark of the Class Notes section of the alumnae/i magazine! 

Here are some (non-fiction!) examples from Flavia’s post:

Some people’s narratives are thoughtful, others are merely informative, and still others are hilarious and self-deprecating. However, to a snarky non-classmate like myself, the most fun are the writers who conform to every stereotype I’ve ever had about people of their age and class (which is to say, basically, my own age and class):

  • “Although I still work in corporate litigation, my real passion is for Iyengar yoga.”
  • “After living in eight countries since graduation, I’ve finally put down roots in Vienna, the most beautiful city in the world.”
  • “I recently stepped out of the rat race, took a 50% pay cut, and moved to Albuquerque. What I lost in prestige I gained in sanity. Try it, you might like it!”
  • “Even though I’m now ‘just a homemaker,’ I sit on the board of both our children’s schools, I’m involved in fundraising for the civic opera and the art museum, and I mentor young women thinking about careers in journalism.”  
  • “How to pick out the high points of the past five eventful years? Summitting Kilimanjaro was definitely a memorable moment, as was being profiled in the Wall Street Journal.”
  • “We recently relocated back to the States, and now live in D.C.–well, the ‘burbs, a decision prompted by a great French immersion program and our desire for our girls to remain bilingual.”
  • “Believe it or not, I’ve really gotten to have it all.”

That list totally cracks me up.  Here’s my translation of the above comments:

  • Although I still work in corporate litigation, I know I have to say something that makes me sound like I’m not just a soulless douchebag sellout.  But even when I’m trying, I still sound like kind of a douche.
  • God I miss the travel I did in my 20s.  I feel trapped in my life now!  I’m suffocating! 
  • I recently was “downsized” out of a pretty good job, so I moved into my parents’ basement in Albuquerque, where I spark up on a regular basis.
  • I’m just a homemaker, but at least my husband is rich.  And no, I haven’t heard that there is no such thing as “careers in journalism” any more.
  • Can there be anyone who knows me even distantly who is yet unaware of my profile in the Wall Street Journal?  I guess I’ll just have to take care of that.
  • We recently relocated back to the States, and now live in D.C.–well, the ‘burbs, and we’re still defensive about that.
  • Believe it or not, I’ve really gotten to have it all, although I sometimes wonder if my definition of “it all” wasn’t ambitious enough.

Add your own translations, or tell us about other unintentionally hilarious contributions to your alumnae/i magazine.

20 Comments »

20 Responses to “Middle-aged golden boys and girls translated

  1. Nicole on 01 May 2011 at 8:28 am #

    Who *hasn’t* been profiled in the Wall Street Journal?

    Though I dunno, I don’t like the idea of intentionally picking on people who are trying to be happy. Why tear down people who are successful or trying to make the best of a possibly bad situation?

    And how do posts like these relate to say Female Science Professor’s post the other day on women’s gentle manners? http://science-professor.blogspot.com/2011/04/gentle-woman.html Maybe we could use more moxy, not less.

  2. Historiann on 01 May 2011 at 8:33 am #

    “Why tear down people who are successful or trying to make the best of a possibly bad situation?”

    Who’s tearing down anyone? I’m not making fun of any individuals–I’m making fun of the extremely odd genre that is the Class Notes. It’s difficult for anyone to write in this genre, happy or not, successful or not.

    And, I don’t follow your point about moxie. Did you find this post insufficiently moxielicious, or is it too much moxie for you?

  3. Flavia on 01 May 2011 at 8:48 am #

    I know I have to say something that makes me sound like I’m not just a soulless douchebag sellout. But even when I’m trying, I still sound like kind of a douche.

    Heh. I think this pretty much covers it!

    And per Nicole: my examples are composites, not exact quotations. And as I think my original post makes clear, I have a fair amount of compassion for this species of trying way too hard. It’s easily mockable, and deserving of some mockery. But it’s not just ridiculous or risible.

  4. Historiann on 01 May 2011 at 8:57 am #

    Sorry for the confusion, Flavia–I thought they were direct quotations. But, yes: I sat down to write a parody Class Notes contribution about my life, and it looked almost just like the ones you compiled above. Happy people sound like assholes, and those who have been dealt setbacks sound like they’re trying too hard.

    It’s really, really difficult to sound earnest and likable in this genre. Trying to sum up your life in a few paragraphs and convey satisfaction about one’s life without sounding smug or deulusional (or delusionally smug) is really difficult.

  5. Flavia on 01 May 2011 at 9:22 am #

    No worries! They’re not direct quotations, but they aren’t really parodies — more like alterations and recombinations to give a faithful effect without (totally or immediately) incriminating the guilty.

  6. Nicole on 01 May 2011 at 9:25 am #

    The translations came across to me as mean-spirited, I did not get that you were pointing that out about the genre rather than at the individual people.

    “Happy people sound like assholes, and those who have been dealt setbacks sound like they’re trying too hard.” makes sense.

    I came away from this post thinking, gee, if I brag about myself in class notes, people are going to think I’m a jerk. If I self-deprecate, people are going to think I’m a loser. I’d best not say anything at all. But the message I got from the post was, better not brag or someone like Historiann is going to think you’re a jerk or a loser. Oh boy, more silencing of people who are happy and/or achieving. I did not get that you were pointing out that there’s something wrong with the class notes format.

    My alumni class-notes are all weddings, births, and job movement announcements. Not actually very interesting to read.

  7. Comrade PhysioProf on 01 May 2011 at 10:21 am #

    More importantly, how do these motherfuckers keep finding me every time I move, and why can’t I get them to stop sending me the goddamn motherfucken stupid alumni magazines that I throw in the fucken trash every month when they arrive?

  8. GayProf on 01 May 2011 at 11:09 am #

    The divide between my undergrad alumni magazine and my graduate alumni magazine would require the starship Enterprise to traverse. In the first, people are happy to note that they found a job (any job) in this economy. In the latter, it is usually God, money, God again, and then children (not usually in that order).

  9. undine on 01 May 2011 at 12:00 pm #

    Your translations are hilarious. Next up: Historiann translates Christmas letters.

  10. Eveningsun on 01 May 2011 at 12:08 pm #

    “Who’s tearing down anyone? I’m not making fun of any individuals–I’m making fun of the extremely odd genre that is the Class Notes.”

    Damn. I thought you WERE tearing people down, and just as I was vicariously partaking in that pleasure you had to go and spoil it.

  11. gretchen on 01 May 2011 at 12:39 pm #

    Nicole wrote:
    “Oh boy, more silencing of people who are happy and/or achieving.”

    Really? That seems a bit extreme. “silencing?” Are we rounding people up for re-education yet?

    Comrade:
    I have the same question—why is it that the only people who can reliably find me through many moves and even a name change are my various alumni associations? Not to mention having no contact with one school or anyone in the region since I left.

    Homeland Security might want to recruit some of these people.

  12. Notorious Ph.D. on 01 May 2011 at 1:06 pm #

    This inspires me to write an entirely fictionalized class note for the next issue of the alumni magazine. Or maybe I’ll just write something like this:

    [Name redacted], ’94, is the author of a successful blog in which she details the minutiae of her academic life. It’s pretty popular, and you’d totally know it if I told you, but I can’t, because I’m pseudonymous. But trust me, it’s really cool. No, I don’t get paid for it, because… um… well… because of the… volunteer spirit! Yes! The volunteer spirit that I learned at [SLAC]! Yeah, that’s why!

  13. nicolec on 01 May 2011 at 1:07 pm #

    I think Facebook can be a bit like this…you’re supposed to sum up your life with a page. At least with Facebook though you can add pictures.
    @undine- agreed- I remember my parents’ friends, who refused to send out a Christmas newsletter, commenting that my parents’ kids must be perfect given how we sounded in our newsletter. See my Mom didn’t mention the times I was a bitchy teenager, or when they caught my brother smoking in the garage, or when my sister came home high as a kite at 17. There were some definite ‘read between the lines’ sections when she didn’t have a lot of wonderful things to add about one of us. It’s all a bit contrived.

  14. quixote on 01 May 2011 at 1:11 pm #

    I’m with Comrade PhysioProf. Send me a memo when you find out how to make them stop.

  15. Indyanna on 01 May 2011 at 1:16 pm #

    On Comrade’s sub-take, I also like the genre of funding appeals from the old grad-grind that profile three current graduate students, one of whom is invariably translating ancient stone markings on a mountainside in Kyrgistan, and which ask me for funds as a way of “giving back” some of what I “got” so they can continue recruiting this level of prodigy and ambition. And I’m like: if I “gave back” some of what I “got” back in that day I’d be sued at a minimum and quite possibly indicted. We never heard of Kyrgistan back then, and it wasn’t just because there was no such place!

    I find the class notes in the old prep school pulp rag more candidly and soulfully interesting; if only perhaps because the writers are four-to-eight years closer to the last roundup, and thus maybe more reflective.

  16. Susan on 01 May 2011 at 5:31 pm #

    When I’ve written for a reunion book, I always try to sound deep. I did that in the yearbook, too: not for me the memories of parties, etc. No, I was the one who had quotes from feminist poets.

    Class notes is worse, because they only want “news”. So living life is pretty much out…

  17. SKM on 01 May 2011 at 5:42 pm #

    “Oh boy, more silencing of people who are happy and/or achieving.”

    I had no idea that silencing of people who are happy and successful in the mainstream was so prevalent. Most of the silencing tactics I encounter are directed at those who are marginalized/struggling/dissatisfied with the status quo. Shows what I know I guess.

  18. Hattie on 04 May 2011 at 9:56 pm #

    Read any of those Christmas letters? If people are happy being jackasses, so be it.

  19. Anon on 05 May 2011 at 9:50 am #

    The trouble with those things, to me, is that if your life is the least bit unconventional, you can’t compete. Because it IS a competition. That’s why I stopped reading those things years ago — they just made me feel horrible about myself because I wasn’t married, didn’t have kids, didn’t have a high status job/husband or a high profile volunteer SAHM career. All of which, BTW, were conscious choices on my part, but there’s no way to present those values in that format.

    And just FYI, the way to get rid of them is to move but not file a change of address. They might find you eventually but you’ll have years of “Join [Seven Sisters School] Archaeology Professor Mary Gumbootas on a trip to Greece this summer! Only $3500 per person double occupancy!” -free happiness while you work your grindingly dull clerical job and write your feminist blog on the side.

  20. Historiann on 05 May 2011 at 10:39 am #

    The trouble with these things is also the fact that they’re self-perpetuating, in that only the people whose lives resemble the stereotype end up writing in, which only perpetuates the belief that this is what *everyone* in your college class is doing except you (you loser!) I’ve found that the people who *don’t* write in their news are frequently more interesting than those who do.

    By the way, loved this: “Join [Seven Sisters School] Archaeology Professor Mary Gumbootas on a trip to Greece this summer! Only $3500 per person double occupancy!” I think we must get the same alumnae mag. The trips are always astonishingly expensive.