I have a thing for guys who went to Harvard. Not just Harvard, but other elite institutions of education too. I do not go on dates often, but I find myself sometimes more willing to give a guy a chance if he went to a prestigious school, like an Oberlin or Yale or William & Mary. I know this taste stems from my internalized classism and the faulty association between educational pedigree and traits like intelligence and work ethic. Yet, I still find myself in the process of unlearning and deconstructing my questionable taste in men.
The three men from Harvard I crushed on, in chronological order: the first, a hotline counselor at a rape crisis center who touted phrases like “restorative social justice” on his online profiles; the second, a med student whose research focused on therapies for postpartum depression; the third, a labor organizer who cares a lot about his mom. When I crushed on these guys – crushes that lasted in between one week to four months – I idealized the heck out of them. Cute Asian men who care about caring and social justice-related topics? Sign me up so I can write about each of them on my blog after I stop talking to them lol bye.
The first Harvard guy I crushed on had not come out to his family, so every time we tried to chat off messenger, he made up some odd excuse not to (e.g., my brother might overhear us) which lol what are we going to do have phone sex, pretty sure we were just gonna chat about books. The second Harvard guy I crushed on asked me, at the end of our first and last date, if, in light of my therapy training, we could take turns giving each other direct feedback about our strengths and weaknesses as people, which felt like a rather odd and direct exploitation of emotional labor. The third Harvard guy I crushed on sent me, unsolicited and without my consent, a reddit thread where he asked for advice about whether he should stay in his dysfunctional multi-year relationship or flee to live with his secondary partner in China.
I share all of this not to roast these men, rather, I share this to show that we may not want to idealize people based on where they go to school, what they do for a living, how they describe themselves online, etc. I know I have a tendency to fall for guys who appear invested in compassion and social justice. Yet, as I get older, I find myself more cynical, or perhaps wiser. Just because someone says they care about ending systems of oppression does not mean they have dealt with their internalized homophobia, or racism, or sexism. Just because someone does research at the National Institute of Mental Health does not mean they have worked through their own mental health issues. Just because someone has published essays about the xenophobia their immigrant family has faced, does not mean they know how to treat people in interpersonal relationships.
In her iconic novel Pachinko, Min Jin Lee writes, about power and goodness and morality, “You want to see a very bad man? Make an ordinary man successful beyond his imagination. Let’s see how good he is when he can do whatever he wants.” This quote resonates with me because as I get older, I care less about people’s awards, publications, and how they describe themselves on social media. I care about how they treat people with less power than them, those who may not have a chance to speak up. I care about how they treat people when no one else is looking, when they will not receive a prize or a publication for their behavior.
I must continue examining my own biases about class and educational pedigree when it comes to dating and other interactions. As someone who cares a lot about caring for others, I know I have to check myself in how I communicate, in particular to those with less power than me (e.g., students, therapy clients). I feel grateful for each of these Harvard boys and wish them all the best. Similar to what Ariana Grande sings in “thank u, next,” I have to say thank you to all the boys I crushed on from Harvard – for teaching me what I like and do not like and what I want, next.
What are your feelings and reactions to this post? What are your experiences with internalized bias about certain things, related to dating or otherwise? I also have to once again give a huge thank you to my closest friends, who taught me and teach me what genuine compassion and social justice within relationships looks like. And to Ariana Grande, whose songs “in my head” and “thank u, next” have helped heal me so much in the face of my recent romantic adversity. See you all next post.