Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Bitter, Party of One (or Two, depending)

For about twenty-four years, I've nursed a bitter hatred for both a city and a university. As I toured around Washington, D.C., last week, I encountered repeated reminders of this. We were headed through Georgetown on the tour bus when I started seeing a proliferation of the university's car stickers. I was seriously considering honing my spitting ability from atop the bus, and I posted something to Hopkins's sister's Facebook wall about it. She inquired if I meant to get out to Baltimore while I was in DC, and I replied that if she heard that Memorial Residence One had burned to the ground, she'd know that I'd made it to campus.

Yes, it's ridiculous and juvenile to lay the blame where I have, but that's where it's staying until I am advised otherwise by Hopkins or, conversely, I change my mind. Simple enough. While the former may someday occur, the latter will be either subsequent to it or when hell freezes over, whichever comes first.

I won't fly into or through Baltimore. I will not speak the university's name, and I was loath to even type it in bibliographies in grad school, so strong was my hatred then (they have a fine university press that publishes a lot of history of women's property rights, so I was compelled by my research to read those things even though I'd rather not). My library director's sister retired from that august institution after many years as a researcher on its faculty; the director travels to Baltimore to visit from time to time. I don't know that she's ever noticed that I won't say the name of the city in conversation, or that I try to change the subject when the university is mentioned.

This was especially difficult, again, in graduate school, since my secondary field is Early Modern Europe, specifically British history. Lord Baltimore figures somewhat prominently, and I am also of Catholic Marylander descent myself. I can't escape from it. It's the most ludicrous intellectual convolution you could ever witness, but my mother's Scottish Catholic Marylander family is known for its intractability...and its notorious ability to hold a grudge.

A few years ago, a colleague whom I admired and respected contracted pancreatic cancer. Because our college president's son was a medical resident at the university, her husband had gone there for cancer treatment, and she recommended that our colleague also go. Go she did, where she underwent the Whipple procedure and the removal of her diseased pancreas. It bought her a few extra months that she might otherwise not have had...and I will add here that I have the utmost respect for that university's medical school, which is the finest in the world. I just have no love for the undergraduate program.

It's just easier to blame the school and the place, because to me they are both formless and abstract. The damage inflicted by that ill-fated year is real, concrete, and unfortunately, lasting. I understand that it's finally beginning to diminish, at long last, so perhaps I can soon abate my loathing of Baltimore and bluejays and the university associated with both.

No comments: