I must reiterate. I know and knew that my feelings about my son’s graduation were unnecessary. I knew that I shouldn’t care that these women had more money than I do, that they looked fancier, that they participated in a world I couldn’t join. I should have been able to hold my chin high, and march into that environment without a qualm. For whatever reason (and I do have my theories), I couldn’t.
For now just grant me that I was determined to attend my son’s graduation free from social anxieties. What to do? I couldn’t exactly walk around with a copy of the Declaration of Independence hanging from my neck, ancestors’ names marked with yellow highlighter. I suppose I could have purchased a whole new set of clothes. I could have sold some stock – the market was still high. Or I could have worn my gold cuff bracelet ornamented with an old mine diamond brooch from the family. But then I would have been openly competing. And worse than losing in trophy mom polo is letting on that you are in fact trying to win. In the end, this is pretty much what I wore.
Why? I am not surprised that you ask. It’s all about the social signaling. Now I could lie, and say it’s because the clothes were comfortable and appropriate, but you would all know it was untrue. I wore these clothes because I felt that they said, and I quote with some embarrassment, “I have money too, and what’s more I am still in decent shape despite my age. I am cool enough to wear jeans and sensible enough to wear flat shoes so that I will not sink into the grass.”
I confess my motivation. High WASP or no High WASP, Fashion is still a game of identities. And as a High WASP I was honor bound to look like I wasn’t trying. Like I wore an older Chanel jacket rather than a new one – on purpose. No one had to know I had no other. To win my secret battle, without betraying the High WASP code of conduct, I could say, “Look how au courant I am. My tunic is longer than my jacket.” But I had to say it in such a way that I could deny the statement even as I made it.
I am not proud. But humans signal each other. It is one of our most salient characteristics. Better I should make an effort to comprehend the need than to suppress the activity. Or so I tell myself.