SEAN: …No one could possibly understand the depths of you. But you presume to know everything about me because you saw a painting of mine, and you ripped my fucking life apart. You’re an orphan, right? You think I know the first thing about how hard your life has been, how you feel, who you are because I read Oliver Twist? Does that encapsulate you? Personally, I don’t give a shit about all that, because you know what? I can’t learn anything from you I can’t read in some fucking book. Unless you want to talk about you: who you are. Then I’m fascinated. I’m in.
Robin Williams’ lines in the 1998 Miramax motion picture “Good Will Hunting”
On the evening that my boyfriend (now husband) and I graduated from Columbia College, my parents held a reception. There were a few of our family members attending, but most of that pre-dinner party were classmates and their families. There was an open bar and some passed appetizers and sweets, and a cake that said “Congratulations Graduates.” My father took one minute to say a few words of welcome and about twice as many embarrassing words of pride in me and in my friends, and that was that. It was over in about an hour and a half and then, like most of the other families attending, we went our own way to dinner elsewhere.
They might have held the reception at their New York City home, but it would have been crowded and there would have been logistical issues to overcome. They might have held it at a hotel or found a restaurant, but that would have added expense. Instead, the party was at one of the several private clubs in Manhattan that is somewhat imposing and stodgy and I suppose prestigious. It was there because my father and mother are members and a single phone call was sufficient to arrange the whole affair. In short, convenience, no other reason. I was excited and proud they asked to host a celebration not just for me, but also for my friends and their families.
“Unlike some people, my mommy and daddy didn’t pay for everything.”
At that party, a friend introduced me to her mother and her mother’s boyfriend, and that formulaic “Well you did it, congratulations, how does it feel?” conversation ensued for the umpteenth time that day. Except that this time, the “how does it feel?” part was answered by her with “Awful! Unlike some people, my mommy and daddy didn’t pay for the whole thing.” Her folks thought this was amusing and countered with some chuckles over getting to work right away to pay off those student loans. A nearby parent chimed in that it “must be nice not to need to work.” Another one piled on about the venue and asked me if I knew which kid was Richie Rich.
“It must be nice not to need to work.”
“Uh, do you mean me?”
When I was an infant, I did have money placed in trust to pay for my education, as did my siblings and cousins. Because I’ve been told and I’ve read about student debt and its personal and economic consequences, because I have seen those consequences in the lives of people I know, I believe it is “awful.” I don’t think it’s fair, equitable or just that there are people who are oppressed by that enormous anxiety. As a society, we can and should remove a lot of unfair obstacles that people face in getting started in life.
But did those realities make it right to ridicule me at my own graduation party? To diminish my completion of a bachelor degree and the accomplishment of my by-then-deceased grandparents in financing that degree? To assume there’s no work behind those goal posts, or ahead because of them?
It was my party and crying was not what I wanted to do. Look, I know we have our differences. If you want to talk about you and have me truly hear; if you’re open to truly listening to me about me; if we’re going to say who we really are and share the things that have happened that makes us the way we are?
Then I’m fascinated. I’m in.
Photo: Still from Miramax motion picture Good Will Hunting, Matt Damon and Robin Williams in the Boston Public Garden. Dialogue from that scene quoted supra.