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 myself 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 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 meant to be wearing an older Chanel jacket rather than a new one. 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.