My Worse April Fool's

The need to fool others is something that has allowed the most cunning to survive, while the fooled starved to death. Most people who play pranks on others, however, are not doing so out of a necessity for food, but rather a necessity to kill boredom. Boredom and starvation are similar conditions. The voracious influence of American culture has cannibalized the global stage, making April Fool's into almost a global holiday. 

Throughout my travels, I have encountered countless people who've proclaimed wild things in an attempt to fool me. They managed to not only confuse me, but also surprise me. I love pranks! Scaring people is something that entertains me as much as the average Japanese salaryman. I don't think I could come to hate someone who jumps out of a bush, suddenly appears from a dark corner, or jumps down on me from a tree. Hell, I probably would laugh at myself if I ended up in the same situation as the Japanese fellow in this sniper prank:

However, I've learned that some pranks don't always go well when different cultures are involved. The Japanese sniper prank would probably result in many lawsuits and serious social fallout for whoever would be so bold as to orchestrate it in mass-shooting-happy America.What is seen as a funny, forgivable prank in one culture, can be a cruel, mean act in another.

It was April 2006, and I was off to Danbury, Connecticut with the rest of my Portuguese class. Danbury is a Brazilian colony in the heart of Connecticut and, as such, our professor took us there to enjoy non-vegan things that I couldn't eat. Careless as I am, I didn't bother to pack a lunch or to close my dorm room door in Lawrence. I was also too careless to remember that it was April Fool's, something that in the Bronx for me never translated into anything beyond something said in school.

When I returned from Danbury, I walked into my room and sat at my computer, barely realizing what had happened. Two of the girls on the 3rd floor had decided to swap my wardrobe with one of my suitemates. This means that not only did they walk into my bedroom, but they also opened my closet and removed every single item, opened every single drawer, and upturned every corner. They also did the same to my poor Vietnamese suitemate. 

To the girls on the 3rd floor it was a hilarious prank: the Vietnamese's flamboyant wardrobe had been swapped for the Dominican's monotonous, repetitive black, leaving them both perplexed. I didn't find it funny, however. I saw their intrusion into my closet as a criminal act of trespass, and the overturning and emptying of my closet as a puerile act that laid bare my poverty for all of Yale to laugh at. 

My closet freshman year consisted of 20 black t-shirts, 5 black cargo pants, one flight jacket (everyone from the Bronx has had one) and Foot Locker underwear. I paid a total of 150 dollars for every item in my closet, with money I received from a scholarship for disadvantaged minorities. 

After getting my closet back in order, I simply stopped talking to the two girls from the 3rd floor and never again acknowledged their presence; at least not until nearly three years later. It was February 2009, and I was at Feb Club -- a month-long drinking marathon for Yale seniors -- when we ended up in the same drunken circle. 

Eventually the topic of whether we knew each other because we were in the same residential college came up.
"We played a prank on you freshman year and you never spoke to us again. It was hard, 'cause I thought we were such good friends," said the Mexican one of the two. I could tell she was sincere. 

I never expected her to consider me a good friend, and at the time I didn't have the capacity to articulate why I couldn't handle a conversation with her. I realized that it was difficult for me to see anyone at Yale as a "good friend" even if they saw me as such. In my eyes, the only friend I needed was absolute, unwavering pride, and it had taken me from the Bronx to Yale; pride had not failed me, but friends almost always had. It's only now, after being so many years away from the Bronx, that I've come to understand the world from the perspective of someone who's never had to worry on a daily basis about getting stabbed on their way to and from school, or of arriving home to a beating.

In the Bronx I learned that you couldn't forgive a "serious transgression." To do so while also being the teacher's pet would be tantamount to asking for life-long victimization. It's been difficult to get out of that absolutist mentality, and it has often resulted in me discarding people that cared about me in cold, unforgiving ways that truly hurt them deeply. If there's one thing I learned at Yale, it was that emotional expression, or lack thereof, can be the biggest social barrier.