Customs
general
Initiations

Stanford Tradition

The informant is a caucasian female in her 50s. She was born in Southern California to an upper middle class family. The informant was raised presbyterian, but now professes to follow no religion. She attended Stanford University and then settled back in Los Angeles. She works part-time as a high school drama teacher. The informant is married with one child.

The informant learned about this tradition from her mother, who also attended Stanford University. As a freshman, the informant decided to act out the tradition. She asked a senior, whom she had never met before, if he would participate in the ritual with her. She dressed up in romantically ripped clothes, wore ribbons in her hair, and gathered a group of her friends to join her, witness the ritual, and take pictures. She planned to send a picture to her mother as a joke. While she did get the picture taken, she never actually kissed the senior while under the arch, because she was too nervous to do so in public. This, however, resulted in her meeting her future husband. The two married within a year of this event and have been together for over 30 years.

Text:

There is a Stanford tradition that a woman going to the school can become an official “Stanford” woman by being kissed by a Stanford boy in his senior year under the Memorial Arch, in front of the Memorial Church, under the fool moon, at midnight. The woman can participate in the ritual at any point in her academic career but the man must be a senior.

Analysis: This story has become a legend in the informant’s family. The tradition itself is interesting, as it was passed down through a generation, but the informant’s individual experience has become the most important as it is the story of how she met her husband. Her performance of this story is interesting as it changes every time she tells it, depending on the audience and situation. When she started telling this story to her young daughter, she downplayed the sexual aspect and focused on the tradition and chance meeting of her husband. To friends the informant focuses on the ridiculousness of her ripped and beribboned garb and her audacity at asking an an older, complete stranger to kiss her in front of an audience. The informant is an active bearer, constantly telling stories. She is generally called upon to entertain at gatherings with her stories. Probably a contributory factor of her success as a bearer of lore is her ability to adapt stories to audiences and situations. Her variations on stories also mean that her audience can hear the same story more than once without becoming bored and that she can retell the same story with animation, as it is actually a slightly different story with each telling.

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