Meet the Brads
Like products of some secretly funded in-vitro-eugenics-genetically-modified-Mattel-Clairol experiment in human breeding, the Brads stride forth among their peers as near-perfect specimens of the white American male of the early 21st century. They stand as tall and golden as stalks of wheat, with body fat ratios in mere single digits. Walking advertisements for top-shelf orthodontia and early-onset trips to a good dermatologist, they are smooth of cheek and belly, with voices that haven’t quite found the husky, whiskey-soaked timbre of their dads’.
As first sons or only children, Brads in their 20s retain the prettiness of their mothers, a trait alluring to their Ashley counterparts. It will be decades before a Brad’s hairline recedes even a centimeter or his six-pack abs lose their ripply definition. In their 40s Brads will swim and run and bike and crunch with fervor, for they are Brads and Brads are made of muscle.
Truly, there is no more beautiful sight on a bright spring morn than an Ashley and her Brad loping across the quad, shoulder to shoulder, slim hip just barely bumping slim hip. They emit a special glow, these well-bred show ponies, as if a spotlight is always aimed at them from on high and they know just where and how to move to stay within it.
Brads are the “legacies” who populate the frats their fathers and grandfathers pledged. These are the boys who run for Student Senate and glad-hand their way to easy victories. The university provost invites them to special receptions for visiting dignitaries because they will wear their crisp blue blazers and decorate the room like the shiny trophy children they are.
The Brads are beautiful. The Brads are popular. The Brads are plentiful.
If only they weren’t so dumb.
Perhaps it is nature’s way of keeping Brads from emerging as some sort of all-powerful, unconquerable super-race able to bend the rest of us to their mighty will. Beyond their astonishing good looks and ability to pick just the right shade of Polo shirt to set off their and their girlfriends’ tans, there’s just not a lot of there there with these lads.
They’re not Forrest Gump, mind you. Beneath the glossy surface, Brads are brilliant at being conniving little creeps. Think Eddie Haskell by way of Abercrombie & Fitch. They do too many shots of Patron Silver on weeknights and they expect to get their cocaine free because they are, after all, Brads. They frequent strip clubs, using fake IDs to get past the bouncer. They gamble on sports and turn in fake theft claims to their parents’ insurance for plasma TVs and satellite radios that were never stolen – using the money to pay off their debts to the bookie named Flaco who handles the action on frat house row. Porn, racist jokes and “he’s such a fag” put-downs amuse them no end. They knock up their pretty girlfriends and get Daddy to “take care of it” with a check for the abortion (and a few grand extra as hush money). They crack up the Boxter and talk mom into a new one because “it wasn’t my fault.” They ski in Aspen over winter break, scuba in the islands for a week in spring. As a summer “job,” they might lifeguard at the country club or hang out in daddy’s firm hitting on the junior interns from Vanderbilt and Tulane.
They aren’t book smart but they are good studies at the art of manipulation. Oozing charm with teachers, they often get away with coming in late or skipping too many classes. Brads convince smart, ugly girls to do their homework for them. Or they cadge papers by culling through the fraternity’s files, that repository of exams and research papers frat guys have circulated among their own for, lo, these many years.
Brads take short cuts. They assume the rules don’t apply to them.
A colleague tells of the time she assigned her students to interview professors in other departments. Each story was to be a brief profile of bio material, plus accompanying anecdotes told in the prof’s own words. As she graded the results, she was astonished to read a paper turned in by one exceptionally slick Brad. It was an interview with Professor McX, a regionally famous art historian known for recovering and restoring several paintings that had been thought lost or destroyed in a museum fire. The Brad’s story was well written, full of detail and loaded with colorful quotes by Professor McX. It deserved an A, except for one little detail.
My colleague called Brad aside after class. “Excellent paper,” she told him. “Tell me, how did you get an interview with Professor McX?”
“Uh, um, well,” Brad stammered. “I, uh, asked around and, uh, well, uh….”
“I was just curious about that,” my colleague continued. “No one has talked to Professor McX in a long time.”
“Really?” said Brad, feeling the ax about to fall on his long smooth neck.
“Professor McX died in 1989.”
Smell that? Mmmm, the lovely aroma of a Brad’s goose being cooked.
I have taught many a Brad. Flunked a few, too. There were even a couple for whom I had hope. On the rare occasion, a Brad or an Ashley will shake off the stereotype and become a real scholar. But dadgum it, all too often they follow a predictable script – coast through college with unremarkable grades, hope to graduate in six years, go to work for daddy’s corporation or mommy’s PR firm, marry well (“Brad, do you take Ashley?”) and spend Sundays brunching with other B’s and A’s.
One of my favorite Brads, one who might yet evolve (he shows promising signs, like moving out of the frat house), confronted his own innate Brad-ness early this semester. On an editing quiz, I listed a dozen names that appear frequently in news headlines. The task was to circle the names that were spelled correctly. One of those was Condoleezza Rice.
Brad stared at the quiz for a long moment, then brought it up to my desk. He leaned down and pointed to “Condoleezza.”
“Yes?” I said.
“I’m not from the South,” Brad whispered, looking worried. “I’ve never eaten this kind of rice, so I’m not sure how it’s spelled.”
Jambalaya. Condoleezza. Me, oh, my, oh.