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From: monicayantkinney@gmail.com
To: david.f.kinney@gmail.com

FYI, babe: Check the family calendar. Owen needs poster board and help researching the emperor penguin for a kindergarten project. (Kindergarten!) And Jane has her usual wall-to-wall musical week — choir practice Monday, piano Tuesday, plus the big Annie audition Saturday.

Also, ND Mag emailed. They want us to write a piece together about “The Notre Dame Man and the Notre Dame Woman.”

Yea/nay?

From: david.f.kinney@gmail.com
To: monicayantkinney@gmail.com

Sounds anthropological. Could be a break from real work. But the jury is out on whether Domers are more interesting than penguins.

From: monicayantkinney@gmail.com
To: david.f.kinney@gmail.com

We could start with our stories as Notre Dame Man/Woman. The fact that we met at The Observer when you walked in with your first story as a freshman and I, the seasoned sophomore Thursday night news editor, read it aloud in a mocking tone. We’d have to tell them that I was your boss, and I’d have to admit I was occasionally a tyrant. Didn’t I once dock everyone’s pay over a bunch of spelling errors? Our staff only made $10 or $15 a week and worked crazy long shifts. What was I thinking?

From: david.f.kinney@gmail.com
To: monicayantkinney@gmail.com

Jane tells me you’re still the boss. Does she mean that you are the queen of the boardroom-sized dry erase board hanging in our kitchen that tells us where we’re all going every day? If so, no offense taken.

We took The Observer sooo seriously. There was nothing remotely fun about my four-part series on faculty governance. (Though my friends were thrilled when I trumpeted their crackpot theory blaming home football losses in the early 1990s on the decision to temporarily replace “primitive end zone chalkings” at Notre Dame Stadium with a garish logo celebrating ND’s 150th anniversary.)

Remember your last hurrah as editor before you handed me the baton? You published one of the most outrageous April Fool’s Day issues ever, then conveniently neglected to tell me not to mail that edition to parents and alumni subscribers. Answering angry letters from alums and enduring stern rebukes from administrators = fun first week!

From: monicayantkinney@gmail.com
To: david.f.kinney@gmail.com

No comment. I was halfway to graduation by then. Blame Rolando for posing in his underwear on the steps of the Main Building to “illustrate” his farewell Inside Column. Blame the Notre Dame Man.

From: david.f.kinney@gmail.com
To: monicayantkinney@gmail.com

Don’t know anything about Notre Dame Men’s undergarments. But it does seem to be the case that even non-Domers can guess our alma mater by our attire.

It happened to me when I interviewed for a job at The Philadelphia Inquirer. One of the editors, upon discovering I was a Domer, said “I should have known.” Apparently I looked and dressed just like every other Notre Dame Man she’d ever met: navy blazer, light blue button-down, khakis.

From: monicayantkinney@gmail.com
To: david.f.kinney@gmail.com

She was right about one thing: Your tribe is not exactly known for its fashion forwardness, with the possible exception of Thom Browne, the designer, and Jim Nelson, the editor of GQ.

From: david.f.kinney@gmail.com
To: monicayantkinney@gmail.com

Is Thom Browne the guy you told me about who makes those skinny suits with the highwaters?

And here I thought you loved my college uniform: the old-man-raking-the-leaves windbreaker, the stained sweatshirt, the Atlanta Braves cap that stunk of dirt and spilled beer. On the other hand, as long as you’re casting aspersions, I’m not sure what Jane and Owen would make of your aerodynamic college-era hair, oversized sweaters, wool Bermuda shorts, color-coordinated tights and penny loafers.

Photo courtesy Monica Yant Kinney and David Kinney

From: monicayantkinney@gmail.com
To: david.f.kinney@gmail.com

You know, you are correctly describing that picture of us from St. Patrick’s Day 1992. I’ve got it in a frame in my office. The kids think it’s hilarious. Owen still doesn’t believe I’m the girl with the triangular curly mane. And you might have been a sophomore, but you look about 12.

I saved those humungous sweaters for Jane. They will most certainly be vintage, and thus back in style, when she graduates high school in 2022. I have no idea whether she’d want to be a Notre Dame Woman, but by then campus could be teeming with female legacies. Wouldn’t it be awesome if an entire female quad could say, “You know, when our moms went here back in 1992…”

From: david.f.kinney@gmail.com
To: monicayantkinney@gmail.com

That is a cool thing about the Notre Dame Man. The stories go back to 1842, and a handful of the living alums graduated in the 1930s. I like seeing three generations of Domers cruising campus on football weekends. The really old alums can tell you about how students were known to greet a celebrated campus figure by cheering, “Who’s a man! He’s a man! He’s a Notre Dame Man!” — followed by chanting Leahy or Sully or whatever he called himself.

From: monicayantkinney@gmail.com
To: david.f.kinney@gmail.com

That sounds positively insufferable. Exhibit A for why coeducation should have arrived on campus long before 1972. I’m sorry, but I cannot imagine a similar group of Notre Dame Women engaging in such bombastic rituals.

From: david.f.kinney@gmail.com
To: monicayantkinney@gmail.com

True enough, it didn’t age well. It was probably a charming enough tradition at the time.

Can we agree about a few stereotypes for the Notre Dame Man? We’re smart, if not quite Ivy League intellectuals. We’re Catholic. We’re curious. Loyal. Family-focused. We trend politically conservative and, as you’ve previously noted, sartorially cautious. Khakis go with all of the colors we bleed — blue, gold, green. Page through my 1994 yearbook and there really are tons of O’something-or-others.

From: monicayantkinney@gmail.com
To: david.f.kinney@gmail.com

Sounds about right. Profiling the Notre Dame Woman might be the tougher half of this assignment. There are fewer of us, for one thing. Half the student body is female these days, so in time we’ll catch up to the men numerically. But given that Notre Dame is still run by priests and identified internationally for football, there’s really no getting around the fact that the Y-chromosome continues to dominate the institutional mystique. I’ve met old-timers who insist I must have graduated from Saint Mary’s. It’s like they think the only people who actually go to Notre Dame are those who play football.

From: david.f.kinney@gmail.com
To: monicayantkinney@gmail.com

The football thing defines the Notre Dame Man of all ages. We’ve got a minor academic inferiority thing — face facts, we’re not Harvard Men — but we’ve got an unrivaled gridiron superiority complex.

From: monicayantkinney@gmail.com
To: david.f.kinney@gmail.com

Still? 1988 was a looooong time ago.

From: david.f.kinney@gmail.com
To: monicayantkinney@gmail.com

Hey, we owe our identity to the team’s (historic) success on the field, whether we suit up in the golden helmets or just pull on The Shirt and scream ourselves hoarse in the stands.

No matter what our record is in any given year, we’re 100 percent certain that no team can top our traditions, no campus is as lovely in the fall. There are people (I’m not one of them) who believe our squirrels are better than other schools’ squirrels.

We chant: “We are . . . ND!”

We mean: WE’RE NOTRE DAME AND YOU’RE NOT.

From: monicayantkinney@gmail.com
To: david.f.kinney@gmail.com

So you’re implying you’re No. 1 for eternity because we were No. 1 a few times in history?

From: david.f.kinney@gmail.com
To: monicayantkinney@gmail.com

Exactly. We come by our self-confidence honestly.

Ask the average American to name a Notre Dame Man. The list will include: Lou Holtz, Regis Philbin, Digger Phelps, the Joes (Montana and Theismann), The Gipper, Rudy.

From: monicayantkinney@gmail.com
To: david.f.kinney@gmail.com

As a former TV critic, I’d be remiss for not reminding you that Josiah “Jed” Bartlet, the principled president on TV’s The West Wing, was a prime-time fictional Notre Dame Man.

From: david.f.kinney@gmail.com
To: monicayantkinney@gmail.com

Great show. But so sanctimonious. Way too much preaching while speed-walking around the White House.

The way I see it, the ultimate Notre Dame Man is not a president but a priest. I mean an actual priest: Father Ted, champion of social justice and probably the most influential person to grace the Grotto since Father Sorin. If the Harvard Man believes he was put here to rule the world, the best of the Notre Dame Men may think he was here to save it. Cynical as I can be, I’m not embarrassed to say I sometimes choke up when those “What would you fight for?” commercials come on during football season: Notre Dame Men and Notre Dame Women trying to carry on Father Ted’s legacy around the globe by studying tuberculosis, standing up to child abuse, building houses for the impoverished. It’s great, great stuff.

From: monicayantkinney@gmail.com
To: david.f.kinney@gmail.com

Now I’m going to get all weepy. Remember when I helped out with that book, Thanking Father Ted: 35 Years of Notre Dame C-education? I interviewed one of the first female rectors, of Walsh Hall. She recalled how, in the midst of that chaotic initial move-in, scads of Notre Dame Men walked around in amazement saying, “My daughter’s going to Notre Dame, and I lived in this dorm!” Father Ted made that pride possible.

Three decades after those women paved the way, I got to thank him myself: “Dear Father Ted: I was the first woman in my family to go college. What a gift that I got to do it at Notre Dame, a place that teaches men AND women to think with their heads and their hearts …”

From: david.f.kinney@gmail.com
To: monicayantkinney@gmail.com

So you’re saying we’re an evolved species?

From: monicayantkinney@gmail.com
To: david.f.kinney@gmail.com

I’m just not as convinced that the stereotypes apply to Notre Dame Women, or even all Notre Dame Men. When I showed up in 1989, I was a novelty: An only child. A Presbyterian. I’d never seen a Notre Dame football game, and I don’t think I’d ever been to Mass.

From: david.f.kinney@gmail.com
To: monicayantkinney@gmail.com

As you know, my mom sent me off thinking that the youngest of her seven kids might just become a priest.

From: monicayantkinney@gmail.com
To: david.f.kinney@gmail.com

I don’t think I knew any future nuns, but one of my first-year roommates spoke Chinese and carried a lacrosse stick. The other was unwavering in her plans to become a doctor, no matter how many gallons of Diet Coke it took her to get through Orgo.

The following year, I lived with a studious, thoughtful Texan and a focused, equally bright rower who left for crew practice before dawn each day just as I plopped into bed after a long night working at The Observer.

We all did such different things, then and now. One became a dermatologist, one made partner at a major law firm, one is a respected administrator at an Ivy League university. Some have children, some don’t. One married a Notre Dame Man. Admittedly, it’s an unscientific sample — two cramped rooms in one ivy-covered dorm — but it shows the challenge of attempting to paint all Notre Dame Women with one brushstroke.

From: david.f.kinney@gmail.com
To: monicayantkinney@gmail.com

Of course. We’re not as homogenous as it seems. I met all of my closest friends in the very first week in South Bend, when I was assigned my room on the fourth floor of Morrissey’s wing above the chapel. It was like joining a fraternity (or a cult?), minus the hazing. One of my buddies was a wrestler from Washington state who spent his first two years sweating in a rubber suit. His roommate was an engineering major. A couple of these guys came from well-to-do families in the South, not the typical Chicago suburbs.

We did everything as a group. We played a lot of basketball and obsessed over the football team to the point that we knew the roster so well we invented a drinking game called “Notre Dame Numbers.” We were pretty happy about ourselves, full of unbridled confidence like all the Notre Dame Men I know. We drank too much Hamm’s and ate too many burgers at CJ’s and probably spent too many Tuesday nights down at the Commons ($2.50 pitchers!). Our dorm rooms kind of smelled, which scared away the coeds.

My circle of friends included a guy who would fish for carp in a trailer-park pond before class. One time he gutted a particularly large specimen in my sink.

From: monicayantkinney@gmail.com
To: david.f.kinney@gmail.com

There are so many reasons I did not date you in college.

From: david.f.kinney@gmail.com
To: monicayantkinney@gmail.com

I could go on. I’m not proud of any of this. I’m not sure any of it made us stereotypical Notre Dame Men. But facts are facts.

From: monicayantkinney@gmail.com
To: david.f.kinney@gmail.com

Didn’t one of your friends once pour beer on me at Bridget’s? Or was that you?

From: david.f.kinney@gmail.com
To: monicayantkinney@gmail.com

My turn to plead the Fifth.

We weren’t idiots 24/7. We also went to class and studied reasonably hard. One of my friends walked on to the football team. Another had ROTC responsibilities. One boxed in Bengal Bouts. I had the newspaper gig. Most of us volunteered at Saint Hedwig’s and went to Sunday night Mass in Morrissey’s chapel, where we had to sit cross-legged in close-quarters on the floor.

It says something about the culture of Notre Dame that I don’t remember having a single conversation with those guys about how much money we wanted to make after college. A couple of my friends spent a year after graduation doing service work, for little or no pay. I never found out if they made more money than I did in my first years as a journalist. It would’ve been a close call.

From: monicayantkinney@gmail.com
To: david.f.kinney@gmail.com

In my major, American Studies, any spike in our dismal salary average could be credited to a football player signing with the NFL.

From: david.f.kinney@gmail.com
To: monicayantkinney@gmail.com

Didn’t you once have a class with Rocket when he came back to finish his degree after turning pro?

From: monicayantkinney@gmail.com
To: david.f.kinney@gmail.com

It met for three hours once a week. The guy had millions, but he occasionally bummed change to get a snack in the vending machine.

From: david.f.kinney@gmail.com
To: monicayantkinney@gmail.com

My friends and I grew out of our obnoxiousness and graduated (with honors!) and made it to respectable careers. We’ve got an athletic director, a lawyer, an engineer, a CFO and an IT whiz. As I like to tell people who remind me of my college hijinks: I’ve grown so much since then!

From: monicayantkinney@gmail.com
To: david.f.kinney@gmail.com

Nationally, women now surpass men in terms of earning college degrees. We all gather on the starting line together at orientation, and wear the same caps and gowns at commencement. But then life intervenes. Some of my closest friends have the same big-time jobs as your friends do (lawyer, CFO). But I know many other female grads who aren’t working, by choice.

From: david.f.kinney@gmail.com
To: monicayantkinney@gmail.com

Is that just a Notre Dame phenomenon?

From: monicayantkinney@gmail.com
To: david.f.kinney@gmail.com

Not exactly, but given the University’s institutional focus on faith and family, I’d wager that we have higher rates of female alums who are at home full time with children. The Notre Dame Women I know and adore are supportive and respectful of each other. These choices are excruciating.

From: david.f.kinney@gmail.com
To: monicayantkinney@gmail.com

You’re not talking about that time you dyed your hair platinum blonde. That was traumatic for all of us.

From: monicayantkinney@gmail.com
To: david.f.kinney@gmail.com

Har, har. I’m talking about genuine discomfort. I have a hunch that Notre Dame Women may endure more awkward conversations at our reunions than Notre Dame Men do whenever anyone asks, “So, what do you do?”

From: david.f.kinney@gmail.com
To: monicayantkinney@gmail.com

You still had a great time at your 20th last summer.

From: monicayantkinney@gmail.com
To: david.f.kinney@gmail.com

That’s because my friends and I talked more about our children than our careers.

You and I are definitely outliers on how Notre Dame Men and Notre Dame Women raise Notre Dame Kids. I had those long maternity leaves, but you got to be the stay-at-home dad for nearly two years.

Photo by Barbara Johnston

From: david.f.kinney@gmail.com
To: monicayantkinney@gmail.com

You’re still conflicted over the fact that Jane’s first complete sentence was, “Daddy says Mommy’s at work.”

From: monicayantkinney@gmail.com
To: david.f.kinney@gmail.com

She was obviously advanced for her age, but think about it: We know lots of Notre Dame Women who don’t work outside the house, but have you ever known a Notre Dame Man who didn’t have a job?

From: david.f.kinney@gmail.com
To: monicayantkinney@gmail.com

Well, no. But there had to be others. Most of my friends were surprised when I quit my reporting job, and my parents didn’t understand. I do think having gone to a place like Notre Dame, where values and family are so central, made it easier for me to make that decision.

From: monicayantkinney@gmail.com
To: david.f.kinney@gmail.com

You stepped boldly out of the newsroom in 2004, but I bet more Notre Dame Men would make that decision today. The student body is surely more diverse. There are twice as many African-American, Asian and Hispanic kids on campus as were in our classes.

From: david.f.kinney@gmail.com
To: monicayantkinney@gmail.com

Yep, and today’s students seem to have a wider range of political views and social acceptance, based on what I read every week when The Observer arrives in our mailbox.

From: monicayantkinney@gmail.com
To: david.f.kinney@gmail.com

That’s just inevitable. Look at Jane and Owen: They have friends with two dads, friends with one mom. They know a girl whose mom talks about the NFL on ESPN and a boy whose dad teaches social work.

From: david.f.kinney@gmail.com
To: monicayantkinney@gmail.com

So when they go to Notre Dame — Classes of 2026 and 2030 — it will be interesting to see if those clichéd stereotypes still apply.

From: monicayantkinney@gmail.com
To: david.f.kinney@gmail.com

If they go to Notre Dame. They’re not carbon copies of us. Who knows what they’ll want to do when the time comes.

But they’re bright and big-hearted and considerate and curious. They could become Domers.

From: david.f.kinney@gmail.com
To: monicayantkinney@gmail.com

We’d certainly have some stellar parting advice, not that they’d listen. Mine? “Stay out of the Linebacker.”

Yours?

From: monicayantkinney@gmail.com
To: david.f.kinney@gmail.com

I’d tell them “Brave the crowds and hit the dance floor. Just make sure you wear your Linebacker shoes.” These are, of course, sticky, filthy, dedicated footwear that spend every other day of the week out in the hall by your dorm-room door. Mine were white Tretorns rendered muck gray by the time I finally staged a ceremonial burial hours before graduation. I’m sure I have a picture somewhere around here.…


Monica Yant Kinney ’93 and David Kinney ’94 met at The Observer, where each served as editor-in-chief. Monica was a longtime metro columnist at The Philadelphia Inquirer and now works for the University of Pennsylvania. David is writing a book about the recently unearthed diary of a high-ranking Nazi. He is the author of two other books, The Dylanologists: Adventures in the Land of Bob and The Big One: An Island, an Obsession, and the Furious Pursuit of a Great Fish. After all these years, this is their first co-byline.


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