Sex and the Ivy

Thoughts on Affirmative Action

Filed under: News, Politics, Race — Elle September 30, 2007 @ 2:59 pm

I don’t know if there is a happy medium between meritocracy and diversity, but I hope that this is indicative of its possibility. I’m a pretty staunch proponent of affirmative action, especially when it comes to race (and to a lesser extent socioeconomic status, which is great for low-income kids but not fantastic in terms of racial diversity). Surprisingly, my opinion on the subject is more controversial than my support of mandatory HPV vaccination or same-sex marriage, and I find myself having to justify this viewpoint all the time, even at Harvard and even to my liberal-minded friends. As an Asian American, it seems particularly contradictory for me to take on this view since it’s against my self-interest. So here’s an explanation:

When I started high school, my mother had a plan in mind. That plan involved straight As, perfect SAT scores, and eventual admission to UC Berkeley. Surprisingly, I managed to deliver on the latter without either of the former. But while scores of second-generation Chinese teenagers would’ve killed for my position, I would’ve killed my mother if she forced me to go there. Berkeley’s population, with 42% of students identifying as Asian, was too similar to my alma mater where the student body was 48% Asian. I already lived in a city with the highest proportion of Asian residents in the country. The prospect of spending college in the same minority-majority illusion of my first 18 years was hardly appealing.

Besides, while the children of my mother’s friends were mostly science or engineering majors (stereotypical but reality), I aspired to freelance for New York magazine, toyed with the idea of a sex column, and dreamed of attending journalism school. I wanted to write for the American public — and the public was white, black, and brown, in addition to yellow. And so Northwestern was in, Berkeley was out.

But I never made it to either. Though I initially gave Cal a chance, our love affair (some would call it an arranged marriage) ended abruptly when my 14-year-old self first saw the campus during a February downpour and decided that flipping burgers at In-N-Out would be preferable to the gray prison before me. Four years later, I’d be at another prison — not Northwestern but one that was brick-fortified and ivy-covered. Harvard, however, was redeemed by an inmate population as colorful in personality as it was in skin tone. Best of all, my mother couldn’t argue. I got a plane ticket out of California; she got the pride that came with Crimson parentage.

Nowadays, there are a lot of things I miss about the San Gabriel Valley, where signs came in both English and Chinese (not that I could read the latter) and dim sum was just a short drive or walk away. Boston couldn’t be more different from home. Besides Sunday morning conversations with my mother, I hear Cantonese maybe twice a year here — each time because I’ve made a rare venture into Chinatown. With only one other undergrad hailing from Monterey Park, California — a good friend of mine, thankfully — I find myself in the new position of a minority. But I don’t mind. At Harvard, just about everyone is a minority in some respect.

As much as I complain about how unhappy Harvard makes me sometimes, I question if I’d be more satisfied at a place like Cal. Berkeley is a fantastic academic institution — one I’d recommend to just about anyone, but it’s not the place I’d go to meet people different from myself and it’s not somewhere I’d like to see my little sister at, if only because I think she needs to escape the same high school bubble I was caught in. Admittedly, Harvard is in the enviable position of having an abundance of applicants who are both diverse and equally qualified. Not every school is quite so fortunate, but that’s not an excuse as to why diversity should be lacking, especially since the initiatives at UCLA seem to bring about very tangible results.

Maybe I underestimate how much I would’ve ventured away from the familiar had I gone to Berkeley. Still, for all the autonomy I may have over who I become acquainted with, I doubt that my groups of friends there would be as diverse as they are at Harvard. And though I don’t value my relationship with JB because he’s gay any more than I love CK because she’s black, race — like everything else — still matters. I am positive that my relationships with people of different colors, sexual orientations, religions, etc. shape and influence my world view for the better and that I will be better off when I graduate for having known and loved people who are not mostly white, Asian, or Californian. Perhaps I would’ve met some of them (or their equivalents) anyway, but I know that at Berkeley, it would’ve been much harder to forge a bond with a tongue-ringed five-foot wonder with a Southern drawl and skin several shades darker than my own. And wouldn’t that have been a shame?


Filed under: Uncategorized — Elle @ 3:32 am

Sephora refuses to take my new AmEx, I am utterly disappointed in an on/off fling’s flakiness, and the consensus among the blockmates is that dating at Harvard really blows … if it even exists at all.

The upside to all of this down? New York next weekend. Series of self-portraits to come + musings on putting up with inconsiderate people.

Plasma for the Taking

Filed under: Uncategorized — Elle September 27, 2007 @ 3:18 pm

I’m really frustrated because I haven’t donated blood in almost a year. As a freshman, I donated four times in ten months, pretty much the maximum. But ever since getting pierced (ear cartilage) last November, I stopped being able to go. The wait time is supposed to be a year but soon after that, I got tattooed (left pelvis) in January and pierced again (navel, right nipple) this August. I have a long time to go before I can donate again.

I was complaining to JB about this while in class yesterday morning. His response? “Well, I can’t donate ever.” I suppose that puts things in perspective. At some point, enough time following my tattoo/piercings will have passed for my blood to be deemed safe. But homosexuality isn’t really something that fades with time. Ignorance does, though. Here’s to hoping.

In other news, this weekend is going to be ridiculous. I will either be getting a lot of action or none at all. I will either be getting totally fucked up or not at all. We’ll see which extreme it is.

Four Unrelated Things

Filed under: 365 Days Portrait, Dating/Relationships, Men — Elle September 26, 2007 @ 1:23 am

I want to date a creative. Well, actually, I don’t want to date anyone. But I want to get to know/make out with/fall for a creative type. It’s been such a long time since I’ve been with a musician and I don’t think I’ve ever been with a writer. That’d be incredibly interesting to try.

Kyle and I kissed for the first time a few days ago. I am finishing a piece about it. It will not go on the blog.

I’ve been recycling men who I have already been with. The parade of old flames continues through this weekend. Lately, I have no desire to meet anyone new. But I am actually kind of dreading the prospect of seeing the several exes in town. I have an irrational fear that I will run into one while with another. But with three four five of them in Boston at once, this might not be so irrational.

I am going to take one self-portrait a day for a year as part of the 365 Days project. Deleted my Flickr account though, so photos will go on here. Today’s is a window reflection of me in bed with Eeyore. You can see Linnaean Street right below me. I kind of want to take a picture at the exact same time everyday to capture whatever moment I’m caught in. I wonder how feasible that would be.

Totally Random Disclosure

Filed under: Blogging — Elle September 24, 2007 @ 1:57 pm

Sometimes when I’m writing something dirty (like in my semi-frequent forays into erotica), I get embarrassed about it so I type the sentence really fast and look away from the screen immediately, as if that means I won’t get caught.

Ridiculous, I know.

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