Friday, November 28, 2008

There IS, indeed, a permanent record - by Sybil Adelman Sage

"This will go on your permanent record," public school teachers used to warn us, hoping to encourage effort and ward off cheating by suggesting that our fifth grade math test scores would be indelibly attached to our resume. The fact is this wasn't entirely bogus.

Wedding announcements in The New York Times include college graduation honors - or absence thereof. This is the case even for couples in their 70's and regardless of what they've accomplished in the many decades since flinging their college graduation caps into the air. "The bride graduated from Brandeis magna cum laude," suggests she's settling if the octogenarian at her side didn't get a "magna" on his diploma. The paper stops short of saying, "She will be keeping her own name because his class rank was below hers."

Our marriage wasn't in the paper. My fear was someone at NYU would find it interesting that my husband and I are both alumni, take a look at our transcripts and discover I'd graduated without having taken the required botany course. My diploma, still rolled up in its original mailing tube, feels subject to recall. Almost as terrifying is the prospect of my Hebrew school attendance record being revealed, just one of the reasons I never ran for public office.

Even at retirement age, I remain cowed by my permanent record.

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