In college, I lived in the dorm widely known to be the place where all the pretentious artsy clove-cigarette-smoking fags lived. We enjoyed this reputation and did our best to live up to it. Other dorms had Italian Tables and German Tables at mealtimes for those who wanted to practice speaking those languages; we had, in addition, a wildly popular French Accent Table. One year the theme for our winter formal was the Masque of the Red Death; the next year it was the Seven Deadly Sins. That sort of thing.
The year before I got there, the dorm T-shirts said “[Name of dorm]: We’re all gay and we’re coming to get you.” I live to this day with the regret of having been fool enough not to do everything within my power to obtain one of these.
But my junior year, I attended the dorm committee meeting at which they were going to decide what to put on the new T-shirts. A front runner quickly emerged: “[Name of dorm]: You are who you pretend to be.” Someone suggested that it would really be much snobbier (and therefore better) if the shirts said “We are who we pretend to be.”
I sat listening for a while and then offered what seemed to me to be the obvious choice: “[Name of dorm]: We are who you pretend to be.”
This was greeted with great acclaim and accepted unanimously. Then whoever took the order to the T-shirt place told them to italicize “are” and “pretend” and ruined the whole damn thing.
I still have the shirt, but I can never wear it without a certain bittersweet awareness of the absolute impossibility of perfection.