Nor does it facilitate much in the way of rebellion, another problem. Think about it. Truly deviant behavior is out if you've been sufficiently Cambridge-ized. You can't shoot heroin, you can't steal cars, you can't — can't — risk expulsion. And because your parents are good Cambridge liberals (i.e., permissive), moderately deviant behavior — small doses of sex and drugs and rock and roll — is too acceptable to be satisfying.

So you rebel in stupid, inefficient ways. You try to become a townie. You know that non-Cantabrigians look at you a little askance, that you're considered over-privileged, that your wimp potential is high. So you start smoking tough brands of cigarettes, Marlboros and Old Golds. You wear gobs of mascara. You shave your legs with a vengeance — two, maybe three times a day — and you only date guys with names like Vito.

Later, when you've gone to college and found yourself ensconced with yet another group of upper-middle-class white kids, you forsake the junior year abroad and go someplace unlikely instead — say, Phoenix. You discover many things — tequila, Mexican food, the middle class — but Cambridge is still in your blood and ultimately you move back.

And at some point, shortly after college, the Cambridge experience ends. It's a profound, fearful moment.

It usually happens when you decide not to go to graduate school, when you realize everything you've become competent at — namely, studying — is behind you. It requires learning to cope with all sorts of trauma — dealing with the non-academic world, communicating with different kinds and classes of people, separating the parts of your Cambridge past you want to keep from those you wish to debunk. It teaches you more than you ever learned in prep school. It is the one thing you can do that will truly unnerve your mother. And it is probably the only way out of your hometown.

It is called cocktail waitressing.

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