We are America’s smartest city, so says the Daily Beast. Precisely, this is a “university hub, including two of the nation’s elite schools (Duke and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill), and those schools led to one of the nation’s great technology incubators (Research Triangle). On top of that, Raleigh, as the state’s capital, attracts engaged political minds, as well.”
In this not-so-scientastic study, the fifty-five largest metropolitan areas across this grey nation were assessed on the basis of education and intellectual climate, with factors like the number of non-fiction books read, the percentage of the population with iPhones, and rates of political engagement as gauged by Obama bumper stickers. It’s no surprise that we topped the list, what with being the home of two of the nation’s elite schools and all. I personally feel pretty good about failing out of an elite university, although the only reason I applied to the School of Information and Library Science at UNC was because the students in that program were always at the bar. It’s definitely better than being kicked out of the University of Phoenix, the first institute of higher learning to sever our relationship.
Here’s the thing about living in the smartest trifecta in the country: when you only buy the Times so the neighbors are impressed with your recycling and are constantly nodding through conversations about the progress of someone’s PhD, Minutes Sixty-Seven through Sixty-Nice in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, but are really wondering if the bartender is gay, you feel decidedly medium. You’ve always considered yourself smarter than average, if only because you got your driver’s license on the first try, but you’re now realizing that you only got into AP Biology because your mom was the principal.
Still, I always wonder if these people really are smart. Their language is so dense that they could be full of shit and I’d have no idea. Use terms like, “ontology” and “meta” and I’ll assume you deserve as MacArthur Genius Grant, and so, when you live here, your ego suffers. The result of this is that you both consider everyone else an asshole and become one yourself. Carrboro is across the tracks (literally) from the University of North Carolina, and, while a large percentage of the population of Carrboro either attended UNC or moved here after grad school at Columbia to work at UNC, there is a decidedly town versus gown thing going on here. No, I don’t live in Chapel Hill, I live in Carrboro. I am an asshole about it. When I was in school, I constantly felt judged. I am obviously a proponent of bumping fussies, I have a dyke mullet and tattoos, and my backpack looks like what people in the ’70s thought the future was going to look like, which is actually very hip in parts of the country as well as Northern Europe, but makes people think I’m wearing a jet pack and flying between classrooms. Being on campus makes me feel like I’m at the nerdy table in the cafeteria again, and so I glare at everyone who tries to make eye contact with me. Fuck you. Fuck you and your ‘Carolina Girls Best in the World’ shorts.
It’s not just on campus either. I feel the same way when I’m anywhere in Chapel Hill. People think I’m stuck up because I am. I sit around with my friends and judge. “Look at that skinny bitch. Someone needs to eat a burger.” “Funny how that boy holding hands with his girlfriend has gay face. I wonder how many fingers fit in his ass.” Why invite this negativity into my life? Because I have class anxiety. When I worked at Whole Foods, I felt like everyone assumed I was some bottom-feeding townie, which I am, but one with a college degree from an accredited university, damn it.
Carrboro people don’t really have vacation homes, but we do have adorable mill houses on half-acre lots. We are an educated people, an upper-middle class people, a people with baby bjorns and co-op memberships and hipster dads, but we are not Chapel Hill people. We may root for the same basketball team and attend the same universities, but we are not Chapel Hill people. We may be a part of the smartest area in the country, but we are across the tracks. We are assholes, but we aren’t those assholes.