On Hobnobbing with High School Students, a Faction

Field Notes

Day 2 at Yale.

Faction: The result of conflation of fact and fiction. A (95% factual, if slightly embellished) account of this afternoon’s observations conveyed in vignettes. Each paragraph is self-contained, although they can be read as one narrative, one scene from one hot clear day.

Taking classes to boost their chances of getting into top-tier colleges, and cavorting with their coeval and socioeconomic peers from this and other countries, I find them in many ways to be more… “mature” is not the right word, but worldly. Still at the stage when one is obligated to impress everybody one meets, many are eager to share their skills, to loftily articulate their projects’ mission statements, and to talk glibly about social problems that they believe can be solved, if not through experience and hard work then through the sheer force of their wide-eyed enthusiasm. Many earnestly believe that they will change the world, and I do not doubt that some may do so. 

Optimistic and full of energy they feed off of each other’s effervescence. They circle up and talk conspiratorially, glancing furtively at each other in the manner unique to teenagers.  Leaders among them make suggestions to be met with obedient nods; one particularly athletic male makes a foul joke met by guffaws by his friends and looks of harsh consternation from the rest as his faux pas perturbed the surface of their shallow pool of adult civility. “How very high school,” the glares of girls convey. 

There exists a great amount of tension between the young men and women. The girls, sixteen and seventeen, frustrated with the immaturity of guys their age bat eyelashes dangerously at visibly college-aged men. (I am not one of them, for when clean-shaven I look no older than seventeen. On a good day.) Rendered inarticulate by hormones and the delicate countenance of some of the particularly intelligent girls, most young men stare, agog, and resort to the tactic used by all men when attempting to endear themselves to women, to make them laugh. Eyes roll: hopes dashed.

A boy lazes under a tree, round glasses at the tip of his nose, and is reading book one of  À la recherche du temps perdu, in French, and thinks to himself that this is what College must be like. A romantic if there ever was one.  He looks like an underfed Cambridge rentboy in those skinny cut-off brown corduroys.


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