Monologue #16 (2015)

“Sorry, I’ve got a ton of work.”

Some variation on this refrain is frequently heard at Davidson. We work hard, we play hard, and nobody gets hurt as long as we respect each other’s boundaries when it comes to allocating time for one or the other.

“Sorry, I’ve got a ton of work.”

At Davidson, this is the excuse-to-end-all-excuses, the nuclear deterrent form of ‘no,’ the sine qua non of Davidson studenthood. It’s ubiquitous, and its ubiquity makes it safe.

“Sorry, I’ve got a ton of work.”

It’s almost a comforting thing to say at this point. When I say it, I’m not the kid who can’t afford to go out for dinner, or to the movies, or to the bar, or to any place that costs money, really. I’m just another Davidson student. I’m hiding my parents’ income behind a mask, but they can’t know that; it’s a mask that’s indistinguishable from the face everyone here wears.

“Sorry, I’ve got a ton of work.”

That’s not all there is to the mask, of course. I augment it with how I dress, the parts of home life I choose to talk about, stuff like that. But it’s a big part of it, a convenient excuse to avoid spending money I don’t have.

“Sorry, I’ve got a ton of work.”

I don’t say it as much as I used to. Part of that is due to my dad being employed again after a year and a half looking for a job. Part of it is due to part-time jobs I picked up, which have enabled me to have a bit of extra cash to spend. But I think part of it is also that people just realized I was always saying no when they asked if I wanted to go out and gradually stopped asking as a result. I try not to think about that too much, which is surprisingly easy to do. You can even forget that you’re not part of their class. For a while, at least, and then you see some statistic like “55% of Davidson students don’t qualify for need-based aid,” and you think, “Holy shit, I’ll never be part of their class. So this is what being a minority feels like.”

“Sorry, I’ve got a ton of work.”

I dated a girl for a while whose family was pretty well off – not by Davidson standards, but they were pretty well off from my vantage point down here in the lower middle class. She knew what I could and couldn’t afford, and would sometimes offer to pay if we went out for dinner. I know she meant well, but damn, if that’s not the most emasculating thing to hear a woman say, I don’t know what is. And sometimes I’d let go of my ego and my ridiculously heteronormative masculine pretensions and let her pay. But other times:

“Sorry, I’ve got a ton of work.”

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