When I edited my high school yearbook in 1987, I was occasionally struck by the thought that folks would be looking at this annual record for the rest of their lives. That was a fairly self-congratulatory thought for the editor of the high school yearbook to have, but this week’s news about Brett Kavanaugh has proven my high school self right.
Last night, the New York Times ran a story about Brett Kavanaugh’s personal page in his high school yearbook from Georgetown Prep, a Jesuit school for boys located in the DC suburb of Bethesda, Maryland. It’s a real doozy. I didn’t go to Georgetown Prep, I went to a public high school in Chicago’s south suburbs, but, yep, I sure as a scrunchie recognize the type that Brett Kavanaugh appears to have been in those years.
Georgetown Prep gave their students the freedom to author their own yearbook pages, which, as it turns out, provide more than a few clues as to that student’s character, personality, and self-image as they entered the realm of adulthood. Kavanaugh was, it seems, a bro amongst bros.
For those who lack context, a Catholic boys high school is a very particular culture. Sports are king in this environment, even at a Jesuit (known for their scholarship and intellect) institution. I met a mom last year who did not enroll her kindergarten age son in the local Catholic school that her older daughter attends because he was more of an artist than an athlete and even at the tender age of 5, she knew he would be an outcast there.
Let that sink in for a moment.
So we know that Kavanaugh was the captain of the basketball team and played football for four years. Got it. He was in the inner circle, if you will. Looks like there are also lots of inside jokes he references, too, because what is high school but a four year parade of inside jokes that you either get or not get?
Looks like BK got ’em. He was part of the “bowling alley assault” and treasurer of the Keg City Club — “100 kegs or bust,” yo. We are learning from former classmates that Kavanaugh drank heavily in high school and college. His freshman roommate at Yale gave an interview yesterday and characterized him as “aggressive and belligerent” when “very” drunk, which was, apparently, often.
Most troubling, though, are the references to a social peer, Renate, who attended a neighboring girls Catholic high school. Renate is Renate Schroeder Dolphin, who was mentioned, per the NYT article, 14 times in the Georgetown Prep 1983 yearbook. Kavanaugh refers to himself as a “Renate Alumnius,” as did a dozen other of his classmates. The inference is clear, despite what BK says today about his virginal teen years. Having been unaware of the yearbook comments about her high school self until just recently, in a statement provided to the New York Times, Ms. Dolphin comments:
“I don’t know what ‘Renate Alumnus’ actually means. I can’t begin to comprehend what goes through the minds of 17-year-old boys who write such things, but the insinuation is horrible, hurtful and simply untrue. I pray their daughters are never treated this way. I will have no further comment.”
Why 13 separate boys were allowed to reference Renate conquests on their personal pages is beyond me. Well, actually, it’s not. It’s understandable, woeful as it may be. It has been part of the tolerated culture for far too long.
A teacher employed by Georgetown Prep saw these references, approved of them, and went on with their day. Done and done. Except, it’s not done, and 35 years later the woman referenced as the collective conquest amongst the 1983 varsity football team of Georgetown Prep, immortalized in its yearbook that, yes, is now part of Brett Kavanaugh’s permanent record, is feeling the impact.
Kavanaugh’s lawyer, Alexandra Walsh, released a statement yesterday about this yearbook page and the references to Renate specifically, “The language from Judge Kavanaugh’s high school yearbook refers to the fact that he and Ms. Dolphin attended that one high school event together and nothing else.”
That’s gaslighting right there, done by a woman in service to a powerful man working hard to distance himself from his own actions, and it is despicable. Any reasonable person would look through that yearbook and see the numerous references to Renate Schroeder and come away with the assumption that she had dated the Georgetown Prep football team. For a good time, call Renate. It’s clear as day and read as it was intended to be read.
Finally, note the references to boofing, the Devil’s triangle, and celebrating the FFFFFFFourth of July. Urban Dictionary is a good source for seeing what this particular future SCOTUS nominee was up to in high school.
Do bros ever stop being bros? I don’t know. I think it is possible. I think there is a case to be made for youthful indiscretion and all that, but sexual assault is not a youthful indiscretion. It is a criminal act. And a toxic, alcohol fueled, misogynistic youth is not a rite of passage that all boys go through. Most of the bros I knew in high school and college, if Facebook is any indication, are still very much bros. I avoided them in the 80s and I still avoid them. And, full disclosure, I am pretty much the same person I was in high school. Still awkward, still shy, still political, still a wee bit sanctimonious.
If boys will be boys, seems like bros will be bros. None of that belongs on the Supreme Court.