What To Do With Distress, Or, Saturday Morning at 10:45am

Privilege is a tricky concept. I revel in something we might call, “first privilege.” You know, the phenomenon by which we get to be born, to sleep, to love, and wake up every morning until we die? Most days I get out of bed thinking, “Yes! Time to do it again!” No denying sorrow, or fear, or rage, or boredom. But the privilege of consciousness itself is extraordinary.

That said, clearly the Privilege discussed here is more often one of social class, along with the various sparkly artifacts and quirks of a certain class segment.

I’ve understood for a while that discussing privilege is risky business. Recent events have confirmed my feelings. Here’s what happened:

  • Penelope Trunk told me that those to whom she mentions my blog are “universally appalled” by my topic. Penelope likes controversy, I believe, so in her mind that’s a good thing. Less so in mine.
  • Susan Tiner, who writes My Life Unscrambled, and who had hosted me at a dinner last November, posted,

“I recently suggested a blog I admire, AmidPrivilege, to a potential reader and she had a very negative reaction. The reader, a young Jewish woman, explained that the blog struck her as elitist and very “white.” She said it wouldn’t surprise her if the writer were anti-semetic and racist.”

Susan followed up with a second post, extending her analysis. She wanted to,

“…summarize and challenge a bias against WASP elites –  especially those embracing a refined aesthetic — …encountered in conversations with persons of the middle class and persons of privilege who prefer to think of themselves as middle class — over the last several months. I see this bias as a form of reverse snobbery that not only falsely stereotypes a group of people but does not serve the bias holder well in achieving goals of personal financial success.”

  • A young East Indian woman asked me if I would post about how young women of color should dress at work to take advantage of the High WASP dress code. I said yes, gladly, but that I knew it might cause an mild uproar.
  • My son recounted the 2 hours of debate it took him to convince some fellow, liberal, Princetonians that educated African Americans don’t, in fact, have a leg up on white Americans. I take his side.

Clusters of events like this prove that America does not yet understand privilege and its intricacies, our faith in meritocracy not withstanding.

So. When Susan first contacted me, she had not yet edited her to post indicate whether she agreed with the young woman in question or not. I reacted with such distress that Susan and I wound up on the telephone, me in tears.

My particular emotional reaction is worth mentioning inasmuch as it illuminates the complex issues of privilege, class, and self. (Susan and I worked that particular situation out.) Why did I cry? Because I had hurt feelings? Yes, of course. But I’ve been accused of various failings here on the blog, and they’ve never made me cry before. It wasn’t that I worry I’m a racist or an elitist. Well, of course I am elitist, but only in matters of aesthetics.

Why did I cry?

In part because I was shocked. Susan didn’t tell me her post was controversial, and I clicked over unprepared. I was also full of emotion – my father’s dog had just died.

But mostly, I was ashamed. While the reactions and comments of readers convince me it’s valuable to write about privilege, I know it also allows me to show off. Birds display their feathers, kings build cathedrals, little kids bring Christmas presents to school. It’s natural. I, like anyone, feel pleasure somewhere in showing off. That’s embarrassing. Unfortunately, privilege confers no automatic extra moral strength. But some of us who want to show off will feel shame, especially in my culture. That shame is an indicator that we ought to try to behave well. It’s our obligation.

So how to proceed?

  • The religious can follow their religion’s dictates. I don’t have that option.
  • The best among us are motivated by their shame, and maybe some other light I don’t know, to become unambiguously good. I admit I won’t do that. I’m not even going to claim that I can’t, just admit that I won’t.
  • The vast majority muddles along, attempting relative virtue. Some try to justify their choices. For example, eating meat is morally right, divorce is just as good for children as marriage, and so on, trying to talk their way out of shame. I’d rather take a cold clear eye to my choices, shame and all, do the best I can, and live honestly with my efforts.

Here on Privilege I try for good behavior by openly handing over the artifacts and code of conduct of High WASP culture. I try to accept your censure gracefully when it occurs. I hope you do with the artifacts what you will. This would include battering down the last barriers of elitism (armored of course in blue shirts, red ties, and loafers), figuring out what to wear to that anxiety-producing country club dinner, or a simple “Oooh pretty! I needed new pillows.”

But I will, most likely, also get a kick out of showing you my diamonds. Especially since I shoved them into the Don’t Talk About That In Public closet for so many years. All I can do to compensate is confess.

I will always believe that the world is a good place, and humanity a good thing. If our animal selves drive us to achieve privilege, let that privilege in turn drive us to do the best we can. To admit failures, to analyze events dispassionately, to assess our force of will, to apply the resources of privilege to our task.

One more thing. This isn’t all about privilege. The good part about being human is those events that push us across boundaries. I have learned that,

  • The statistics of taking risks mean sometimes bad stuff happens.
  • When you are under emotional stress, guard yourself if you don’t want to break down.
  • If you break down, examine why. Carefully. The first answer you come to may not be right.
  • Shame is only useful if it motivates you to make a change.
  • The great task of life is balancing self-acceptance and the desire to do better.

Have a wonderful weekend.

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  • I thoroughly enjoy your writing, which I just discovered. Please continue secure in the notion that your comments are refreshing and inspiring.

  • Lisa, I have been reading you for some time–full well knowing that using the word ‘privilege’ in a blog title is controversial in itself. But I’m a big believer in looking past the obvious and if you didn’t write good content and have a good heart, I would never have stuck around this long to keep reading. Sometimes if you want to be who you are and do what you want in life, you just have to stick it out past all the people who dismiss you without really getting to know you. I also have my own moments of worrying about where I fit in and whether I do in the blogsphere, but you know–you just gotta trust your style! And that, you have plenty of!

    xoxo Mary Jo

  • Thank you for this post. I am a recent reader of your blog, who recoiled in disgust for a few moments when I was first absorbing the concept of what your are doing here. But after just a few moments more, I realized how fabulous it is for you to be taking an honest and open look at the privileges of your life and sharing them with the rest of us. How refreshing and wonderful that you are willing to push through the expectations that we should all be modest an unflashy, and simply revel in what you enjoy about the circumstances of your life. I will be continuing to subscribe!

  • I think it is abundantly clear to anyone who reads your page that you are not excluding or looking down on anyone. Putting forth one’s own position does not diminish another’s place in this world. You give us valuable content, insight, food for thought, and yes, sometimes a darn pretty pillow. If I distill your posts to their simplest form, most of them come down to either, this is where I come from and the position it leads me to today, or how to dress/behave appropriately given the situation so as to be comfortable and/or show respect for others. Make no apologies. A rising tide, as they say, and you my dear, definitely have raised the tide.

  • I am so sorry to hear about the negative reactions you’re getting. I can’t imagine you as “elitist” in any sense, though. You’re too gracious, too welcoming into your world.

    For me, your blog is a little insider romp through a culture that anthropologists cannot, will not talk about, because it’s too close to home. Certainly not talk about without using words like “hegemony”, and “Marxist dialectic”, words which miss out entirely on subjects like grace, aesthetics, noblesse oblige. Subjects that are accessible to all of us, regardless of the privilege we are or are not born to. Not to mention the charms of pretty pillows. If I learned one thing from your blog, I would far rather learn to be gracious than to dress well for High WASP garden weddings.

    I think people worry too much about the have and have-not aspects of privilege, and miss out on the notion that all of us could stand to have a little more class. As it were.

  • You give voice to those of us who are silent…thank you.

  • Lisa, once again you bring emotion and intellect together to respond bravely and honestly and analytically to issues that deserve response. Pretending privilege doesn’t exist might be superficially more comfortable, but it leaves us all very confused and frustrated with why a system that claims to operate on meritocracy isn’t doing what it claims.
    And, as you are quite clear, privilege is a relative term, and many of us who don’t have it from a class/inheritance perspective enjoy privilege in different ways. Being self-reflexive, I believe, helps us behave more ethically in the world. As you clearly strive to do.
    Anyone who reads more than three of your posts and fails to discern this is not a careful reader — and perhaps should expend some self-reflexivity trying to understand why that might be.
    Having written this onto the screen, I hope you’re now able to go on and enjoy the rest of your weekend, distress free. You deserve! hugs, frances

  • I only recently started reading your blog, after discovering your posts on wedding registries as Souris Marriage, and what I appreciate is your self-awareness and willingness to make fun of yourself at time.

    As a first-generation American, I’ve spent a lot of my life floundering about and worrying about lacking in knowledge of what others deem acceptable and appropriate when it comes to fashion and etiquette. It’s very stressful, so for you to share your knowledge, at least I can now know what I’m working with for a subset of American culture and therefore I can make an informed decision on whether to fulfill or confound those expectations.

    Don’t feel like you have to write a follow up response that this was not a post from you requesting pity or appreciation, either; I think the other readers who’ve commented and I all share that we just want to express our appreciation of what you do and the risk you bear in delving into potentially controversial areas.

  • Lisa, I have enjoyed your blog for several months. I never had the feeling that you were putting down anyone else and their style or values. While I will never achieve “high WASP” or have fabulous jewelry (not to mention that divine Prada dress), I can appreciate the view!

    Keep doing what your doing. Those who may pre-judge your blog just need to read it a couple of times!

  • “Universally appalled”. Give me a break. There are so many topics that could apply to in our crazy world. Your blog is not one of them. You are informative and celebrate life daily. Thank you for that.

  • Your blog is not about exclusion — it is about including your readers in aspects of a culture that has been, historically, not open to much scrutiny by outsiders. When people react that way, it is because they haven’t read your blog, and they are just focusing on the title, “privilege,” and on the idea that they might be excluded from it, and the negative associations with WASP culture that they have had in the rest of their lives.

    Writing about privilege, and about WASP culture is going to be controversial to some people — both those inside and outside of it. But I think that’s what makes this blog intriguing. And I think that is something to be happy about. People who don’t like it are not “your” readers, and you don’t have to please them.

  • Dear Lisa,
    I appreciate that you openly share your thoughts, opinions and life here. Your life is different from mine, and I find enjoyment in it. You cause me to think and to question. I’m still working my way through “Can you wear a simple pearl strand with simple pearl studs” post!
    Carry on, please!
    XO Candy

  • Lisa, so much here to absorb and mull over! I’m going to add some initial comments, and probably come back once I’ve read this post a few times.

    When we met last year, we talked about how privilege and class are such taboo issues in the U.S., though they are very much drivers of our interactions and opportunities. Your blog, to me, takes the part of an anthropologist examining an interesting subculture, one that you happened to have grown up in. It’s never come across as snobbish or superior, only amused and bemused. Sort of a WASP “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” if you will. There’s nothing wrong with having affection for some aspects of your culture and traditions.

    Frankly, I’d much rather deal with people who acknowledge that they were raised in privileged circumstances than those who “were born on third base and think they hit a triple.” The honesty is refreshing. I also believe that acknowledging privilege allows us see others with less judgement and lifts the filter of our own circumstances from view.

    You write with such humor, beauty, grace and humility. And courage. I feel privileged to read your words and to know you.

  • I am so sorry to read about these hurtful comments. I will say, as someone who is fairly radical politically, that your discussion of privilege has never offended me, if that helps at all. I really appreciate the openness with which you discuss these things, especially since what so often gives them power is how they are shrouded in secrecy.

    I wonder if what makes people uncomfortable is that you are not afraid to talk about *enjoying* your privilege. I.E. you can deconstruct the trappings of high WASP dress, and then talk about all the clothing you love that fits your archetype. You have this balance of looking at your background critically, but not hating yourself. I think this is incredibly honest and refreshing–but I think often when people who have grown up in relative privilege talk about it publicly, they are expected to self-flagellate and there’s no place to say, “I know it’s unfair that I learned to speak four languages and travel the world, but I actually also really loved doing those things.”

    So. Yes. Talking about these things publicly is so complicated, and hits on so many sensitive points for all of us. I do think you need to take ownership over the fact that what you are doing here is fairly provocative–but there’s good provocative, that pushes people to think a bit past their biases, and there’s bad provocative, that is just there to shock, and obviously you fit squarely in the former, which is awesome. I have been dealing with this a bit lately with one of my academic projects–my collaborator and I sometimes get terrified at the provocative direction we’ve been taking it in, and we have had some strong reactions, but we are confident that it is a productive, paradigm-shifting kind of provocative, and so it’s called for, and we can back up why we’re doing it the way we’re doing it. So we live with the occasional “HOW DARE YOU?”

    Which is not at all to say “suck it up!” or whatever, because some of those comments are awful and I am sorry you were privy to them–they would have upset me a lot too. But it is to say that you are incredibly introspective about why you talk about what you talk about and how, and I know that you are finding the right balance of subtlety and provocation as you do it. And I have definitely learned that if you write things that aren’t “safe”, no matter how sensitive you are about it, some people will just hate you no matter what. But most intelligent, open-minded people, even those of us who are very, very critical of class issues, will find this a great space in which to engage in thoughtful, critical conversations about these things where we can, indeed, push each other a little bit, in ways that don’t feel hurtful, but rather feel useful.

  • Lisa,
    It pains me so much that people have attacked you for being forthcoming about who you are and the privileges you do have. I spend a lot of time thinking about systems of inequality as a graduate student and I must say this blog, if anything, is what contemporary American culture needs to hear. There needs to be a dialogue about what class really means in this country. The issues related to class are far too often ignored and I think you’ve done an excellent job of being conscientious of your audience. For me personally, you have provided me with much needed insight into a different type of privilege. When you’re presenting something that often goes undiscussed, it can be difficult to navigate to predict how other people will digest it or interpret it. I feel a lot of these negative reactions do deserve more exploration, but I think I’ll save that for a paper or two later this semester.

  • Lisa,

    I have thoroughly enjoyed your site for some time. It is a valuable additions to this world of blogging.

    We have bloggers that include high end interior designers, architects,historians, artists of all genres, crafters, gardeners, cooks, religious, and the mommy brigade. There is room for everyone of all segments of socity from all over the world.

    It is so interesting because I was always told growing up in a family of ten that I could better myself, get an education , and hold my head high.

    Doing just that and dressing nicely people just might think I am more than I am. However it is just me! Trying to pay it forward and be a worthy person.

    Though you may come from another class altogether, we may be more alike than one would think!

    Art by Karena

  • I spent a great deal of time in my 30s struggling to understand my class/race (white)privilege. I passed through stages of guilt, over-compensation to the point that my actions verged on racist in my attempts to not be racist.

    The fact is that we are all born into different circumstances that give us a complex mix of experiences and world view.

    As one raised with class and race privilege, I try to take responsibility to understand the complexities of this and name it for what it is and seek opportunities to challenge it when it impacts others negatively. And to accept that it’s a process, after all.

    In my view, naming privilege for what it is with honorable intention is a radical act in itself because as you say US society, or the West in general still holds this silent as a means to hold on to power.

    Anyways, for what it’s worth I think you present your writing with integrity. HUZZAH!

  • my immediate reaction to susan’s description of the potential reader who described you as a probable racist and anti-semite is, like yours, a question: did that young woman read you?

    as a young new yorker whose social circles are full of the well-schooled and/or well-heeled, i stumble across a number of trustafarians – children of privilege who seem to think that a bit of fashionable self-loathing, going-without-shampoo-and-keeping-mum-about-their-subsidized-by-the-fam-rent pose-striking makes them morally superior to the types who, oh gross, carry recognizable designer bags or have the gall to wear their school sweatshirts. how, in 2011, is harvard still turning out grads who say that they went to school “in boston,” voices lilting at the end like it’s a question?

    thank you, lisa, for appalling me months ago with your description of your new louis vuitton. thank you for doing it in a way that motivated me to interrogate my reaction and learn something about myself. if you’ll pardon my french, thank you for declining to be ashamed in the face of, to borrow chapman’s term, “envious windfuckers.” instructive self-examination is dirty work, and you do it with grace and honesty. do it again, and again, and again.

  • lisa, i think we are living in the midst of a particularly sensitive cultural moment right now, and people’s emotions are pretty raw when it comes to matters of class, status, and the material life. but like many of the commenters who’ve already wrote above, one just needs to read a post or two on your blog to understand that your blog is all about exploring the issues and circumstances in your everyday life and background. and i think there’s a big difference between ‘sharing’ versus ‘showing off’. i think your blog definitively does the former, and i’m glad i found it!

  • You can’t help where you came from. It’s what you do with your life that matters. Keep on doing it Lisa. And if others don’t like it, they can take their blogging somewhere else!

  • i love your blog and your writing. i belong to a visible minority that did not grow up in “privilege” but never for once felt that you were trying to “show off”. thanks for sharing a glimpse of your life with us, it takes much courage to do that.

  • Lisa,

    I don’t even know where to start, but to tell you of my gratitude for your blog. Your writing touches me, inspires me and makes me think about things..for that, I can not thank you enough.

    And in to response today’s post, I admire your willingness to go the full route with this situation. You felt, thought, reflected, evaluated, looked inwards and lucky readers! – you shared it with us. Many of us do not have the courage to move thru this process. Regardless of the what people may think about you, you have reapt the rewards. You know more about yourself than before those opinions were expressed. Well done!

  • Like many others have said, as soon as you read your blog, it’s clear that there’a great deal of intelligence and depth to it. It’s not a lesson in snobbery – if anything, it’s holding up a mirror to that life, and being honest about the good, the bad and the ugly. I appreciate your posts, where you have come from and your outlook on the world. It saddened me to hear that your friend’s comments brought you to tears. But, at least you have been brave enough to put yourself out there and let the discussions take place. Cheers to you, my friend!

  • Oh, my. I have said it before and I’ll say it again: people who aren’t jerky about what they’re saying and how they say it can get away with saying most anything.

    You write with charm and you have gravitas–both of those are sorely lacking in this world, in this time. You could talk about any subject you wished.

  • Dear Lisa, I was looking forward to your thoughts, and here they are, beautifully considered and written. And the comments are wonderful. I especially like what ABDPBT said above. The fault is mine for not being more clear that I was interested in why someone would have such a reaction, not condoning it, and for not realizing that raising the question itself could be interpreted as controversial.

    I hope you will forgive me.

  • So far from inclusive- you look inward and explain outward to a degree that Miss Birnbach wishes she would have been able to. You’re poignant, articulate, have a zest for life and a penchant for heartwarming twists on the every-day. Plus, I find you and the blog comforting in a way that is reassuring, calming and consistent.

    Keep on keeping on. I will always read and love and think you’re just peachy and as far from controversial as pie.



  • As a 52 year old Jewish woman I can say that I adore your blog and do not find your blog anti semetic in any way. I adore it.

  • Lisa, it makes me so sad that this has happened to you. I feel so very fortunate that we met at Lavish. I was a fish out of water, for sure, and you made me feel so comfortable. To be perfectly honest, I looked for your friendly face the next day, so I could spend more time with you.

    These are very uninformed people that have certainly never met you. And even though we only met for a short time, to me first impressions mean a lot and meeting you was lovely.

    Have a wonderful weekend!

  • Wow. Talk about ignorance and bliss – I had no idea this was such an issue. At the risk of sounding insensitive myself, I think some initial reactions by those unfamiliar with your writing is reminiscent of people calling up the TV station and complaining about a new show or movie they had. never. seen. I don’t mean shows that had review and promotional clips released, I mean things where not one nanosecond of video or audio had been viewed.

    Please know that this camper has never found you to be exclusionary or snobbish or any other of a gazillion bad things. I am sorry you have been made to feel shame, for I have yet to discover anything shameful about anything you have done.

    I adore you, and send many good thoughts and hugs your way.

  • Lisa, I wonder if some of the discomfort with the topic of your blog (as described second-hand to people who have not read what you actually have to say) stems from discomfort with discussions about class in general. I think many Americans are really uncomfortable with talking about class — we like to pretend that it doesn’t exist, and that if it does exist, it doesn’t matter. (I include myself in this blanket generalization — I can’t watch the British “Office” for exactly this reason!) All that by way of making the semi-lame point that when people dismiss what you write because of the title or a vague description of the topic and they haven’t read a word you wrote, the negative reaction is absolutely not about you — there are a whole mess of other issues behind that kind of out-of-hand dismissal.

    Roger Ebert is fond of saying that movies are rarely good or bad because of what they’re about; they’re good or bad because of how they go about it. I think the same holds true for blogging. I can imagine a blog about high WASP culture that would fit every stereotype Susan’s reader listed. Privilege is not that blog.

  • Lisa – After reading the comments, I have no words that express better what you do or who you are. I will add this though: If I agreed with a modicum of any of those criticisms, I would not be reading your blog. I appreciate your posts on varied subjects every single time. I have always – even though I am older than you – looked at you as someone who would be one of my girlfriends. Yes, we would be having lunches together, sharing accessories for those special occasions :-), and enjoying life together. I have seen no indication that you are an elitist who feels entitled, And lastly, your reactions to those comments SAYS more about you, your soul, and your heart than anything else. I hope you are feeling the love. xoxo

  • I just found a grammatical error in my comment. Heaven help us. I’m mortified. Please forgive ;-) *SAY not SAYS. :-) xoxo

  • oh dear Lisa…it would appear that being born into a privileged background has brought with it some undeserved and misdirected anger.
    I have been a follower of your blog for over a year and have never ever felt that you were prejudiced or elitist…as you explain frequently your fortune is fading and that you are between jobs.
    I realize that you are able to wear gorgeous family jewels..and use heirloom silver and that your days of prep and education were of the finest institutions..but what comes across here to me is YOU…as an individual regardless of class, breeding or pedigree.
    …your thoughts, insights and day to day experiences….related in an engaging and eloquent way….please do not change the flavour of your writing…

    oh dear…such distress and I can’t even brew a pot of tea and give you a hug…


  • I am sensitive so I empathize with you. Shame; emotional distress – those are complicated things. From a purely outside perspective, though, it might be simplifed to this: you’re a good, decent person. With diamonds. And you have the right to write. Right?

  • Even though I am so far in the other direction of being privileged, I can say with all honesty that I have never felt like you looked down on me, were racist or thought yourself to be elite over me. I have enjoyed you and your posts regardless of the fact that I am not privileged or that some of it does not pertain to my life. You have a beautiful heart Lisa and I am honored to know you. XX

  • I have to admit that my first reaction to “you” was similar as some of those you mention in this blog. But, on reflection, I say GO FOR IT. You know you’re not racist or anti-semetic and you have a clear vision within a narrow niche that is YOU. That is honest but risky. I do the same in my writing, speaking, and on my Radio Show. I speak from the heart whether it’s PC or not. I then know I’m being “real” to myself and modeling the truth for my kids.

  • I am so sorry that some very misguided people made you feel shame. There will always be those who have and those who have not. Jealousy is everywhere. I have followed your blog for a year and I have never seen anything that would remotely suggest what you are being accused of. It is simply silly. If anything you have tried to open up a world that not many have seen or known a lot about. You have taught people how to dress, behave and to know a more beautiful life style. My hat is off to you for a job very well done! As for the naysayers, give them all the attention they deserve which is none.

  • If most people I meet who identify themselves as being from “privilege” were as sensitive, open, frank, and self-aware as you are, the world privilege would become a moniker of distinction, not of elitism.

  • Orrrr, LPC gives a clinic in how the sincerity of structural binary opposition collides with the harsh judgementalism of post-structural binary opposition. And the aftermath. It’s cocktail hour on the West Coast, if you haven’t started to pour the salutary wine yet, may I suggest you get going?

  • Lisa – what everyone wlse who commented before me said. I am not from your ‘Privilged’ background, but have wnough of a foot in that world to need and appreciate your perspective. The ability to trash writing without signing one’s real name brings out the worst in many.

  • Your blog fascinates me BECAUSE I come from a very different ethnic and class background. “Really, some women think it’s bad to wear nail polish?” I thought in awe a few days ago in response to one of your posts. All the women I know love nail polish! I appreciate this window into a world very different from my own.

    Regarding “showing off,” I was just watching the video of Ariel from Off Beat Bride and Meg of APW talking about blogging and weddings: http://apracticalwedding.com/2010/06/obb-book-reading-apw-meetup-the-movie/ At some point Ariel talks about blogging as a form of showing off… she says she is extroverted and likes to talk about herself and get attention. So maybe “showing off” is part of blogging, and not a bad thing.

  • Dear Lisa, I like it that you seek to explain the culture into which you were born and that you do so with insight, humour and warmth. It is interesting and not a little ironic that someone who clearly has not read your blog in any depth feels that you must be racist etc etc because that is what WASPs are. The truth is always more complex. I don’t need to see any false modesty. You are what you are and I like it!

    Self-censoring is probably something that all of us have to do less of. But can I say that sometimes when I am feeling very happy with me, someone can take a pin to burst my little balloon of happiness (particularly if I did not see it coming) and I can be reduced to tears too. I wish it were otherwise. lots of love Linda xxx

  • I appreciated this post, and imagined what emotions must have flowed during its composition. I’ve followed your blog for quite some time now; the intricacies of your topics have been extremely interesting. I’ve felt that exposure to your perspective has stretched my own views, and I am grateful for your willingness to share. Cheers!

  • “Privilege gives us great access to pleasure, without automatically conferring extra moral strength.”

    Sentences like this make me return to your blog, again and again. Ease does not make us good. But then again, being good does not make it easy.

    Thank you for your…complexity.

  • Were the tears for yourself or for the sorry state of our culture? In either case, hugs are due.

    I have been slow to recognize the “privileges” of my own upbringing that was not hi-WASP. I grew up believing that going to college was mandatory rather than compulsory. Most of the women in my family have held graduate degrees since the early 50’s. I did not realize that my own upbringing was privileged until I began to teach at a community college and realized the struggles that first generation college students encounter. Some of their struggles are familial, some cultural, some economic.

    Personally, I believe that most Americans are “privileged,” but we live in a culture that rather emphasizes victimization.

  • Oh Lord! I always marvel at the comments!!! No one is strapped to a computer and forced to read any blog..not every blog is meant for everyone. Don’t let the negative commenters get you down.

    Each group out there could be considered elitist on some level. My needlepoint group only has 10 menbers and we won’t let anyone else join, so we are elitist too.

    I honestly feel these blogs are a true escape for many readers. Some Suzie Q in the middle of nowhere can read about things on your blog that they might never have access to in their own life-your history, your travels and your wisdom.

    You should be proud of all you have accomplished here! xo

  • Dear Lisa,

    I LOVE your blog and read it consistently.
    I view you as my mentor.
    Thank you for the opportunity to learn and better myself both inside and out.
    May you always be happy and healthy.

  • Lisa,
    None of us are responsible for where we come from nor what we were given. We are all responsible for, and accountable for, what we do with it and what we make of our lives. Last I checked, it is not a sin to be white, educated, and economically advantaged. Those that disdain it, or us, are just as guilty of snobbism as those of our kind who disdain them. You claim to be “privileged,” which is far different from “entitled,” and which I believe those you cite in this post confuse you for. Shame on them for dismissing something (your blog) or someone (you) that I suspect they’ve never bothered to read. Reggie

  • Dear Lisa – I always enjoy your blog and as others have pointed out – the life you were born into is the life you were born into – no changing that! You never appear to judge or look down on anyone else and you write with humour, integrity, candour and an enormous amount of skill. Just look at the number of followers you have gained over the time you began your blog – I think that speaks volumes. XX

  • I recently saw statistics presented by an African American Ivy grad regarding what your son was asserting. The math supports his point. Not to belabor the issue but I’ll see if I can’t track down the information.

    Also…a code that we can all live by involves treating everyone decently…with dignity and respect…’till they show us that they aren’t worthy of the courtesy. And then, most decent people would simply disengage before being condescending or snarky. Anyone who’s spent fifteen minutes in your presence would conclude that the code within which you operate is one of kindness and dignity. Regardless of pedigree, category or ethnic assignment.

    It’s probably been this way for a century now but since decorum, refinement, and general courtesy are so fleeting, WASPs or anyone who is slightly askew of the edgy, base and discourteous society within which we currently live, become even bigger targets for attack. People no longer yield to oncoming traffic when making a left hand turn…they just arrogantly block you and preen as they make the left. Given such indications of poor form, we can assume that WASPs and other principled folk, (I’m an outlier my damn self)even amidst their attenuated ranks, will remain targets.

    Gird up Sturdy One.

  • We’ve all been there and wept when someone who doesn’t know us, hasn’t read what we write very carefully comes out and makes a snarky comment and judges us.

    Don’t cry.

    Just keep on blogging.

    If they don’t like what you say, that Lisa, is their problem not yours.

    Now’s the time for, in Liz Taylor’s words (Once a WASP then a Jew) Guts.

    Just keep posting and No More Tears xx

  • well, I am an Orthodox Christian, I grow up in a communist country and I find a lot of things in common with you, not everything but a lot. What I don’t understand is why you think everybody has to understand you and to like you. Thank God we don’t think all in the same way. A world with unanimity…what a bore !
    Keep doing as always and I’ll be more than happy to read your blog. And I thank you for this.

  • What an amount of comments! This really tells, that you are loved in the blog world as well. I agree with Faux Fuchsia, we have all had our share of negativity. The first time is the worst. You will get over this, we all do. Keep up the good work!

  • I work among and for the “privileged”. It isn’t always pretty and it isn’t my life reality. But as a floral designer I find it much easier to relate to those who have had for generations that those who have recently acquired.

    I would find it a delight to work with you. You have a big heart and a sense of humor. And a wicked way with words.

    And you don’t appear to wear anything from Orvis.

    So buck up, we’ve got your Prada clad back!

    xo Jane

  • Maureen – I quite like that phrase, “continue secure in the notion that your comments are refreshing and inspiring.” Thank you very much, and welcome.

    Mary Jo – Looking past the obvious and sticking things out are both very good and useful qualities, I agree. Also a kind heart, which you have in spades. Thank you, for this, and the support over time. Much appreciated.

    Janna – That’s really good information for me to have. I suppose since I’ve lived with the word privilege for so long, it’s meaning for me automatically includes the miraculous, not just the snobby. I really appreciate that you took those few more moments, and I thank you for reading and subscribing.

    Stephanie – “This is where I come from and the position it leads me to today, or how to dress/behave appropriately given the situation so as to be comfortable and/or show respect for others.” What a good summary, especially since I can get kind of tongue-tied myself, when trying to explain what I’m writing about. How wonderful to be able to hear from the most important people what they take away. Thank you very much.

    Aleatha – To be gracious is something I would prize highly. As long as others get the benefit. And I love insider romps from other people. I promise never to use the words Marxist dialectic, largely because I’m not quite sure what they mean and I find imprecise terminology to be the devil’s work. Thank you for your very intelligent comment and your directness.

  • Valentine – Thank you so much. It’s been a joy and a delight to find out that others shared this cultural experience, that it wasn’t just a particular family system.

    KWu – “at least I can now know what I’m working with for a subset of American culture and therefore I can make an informed decision on whether to fulfill or confound those expectations.” Oh that’s exactly what I wanted to do. Especially because this subset made its denizens so painfully aware of social signally, I know exactly how it feels to enter a system that I don’t understand. Thank you very much. How fitting you came here via wedding registries::).

    Carole – If I entertain you, perfect. I love knowing that others like the pictures, and the experience, of the stuff as much as anything. Beautiful things are compelling and I really enjoy sharing them.

    Kerry – I suppose you are right, other things are more appalling. You know how it is, one feels one’s own sins most heavily. I am so happy you find this informative, and I’ll celebrate that:).

    ABDPBT – You are right. I can’t please everyone. I just have such a horror of “behaving badly” that I am certainly too sensitive. I suppose if I can’t handle a little controversy at my age I have a lot of work remaining. I should spend less effort on managing my feelings about those who are not my readers, and more on improving what I do for those who are.

  • Candy – If you enjoy this, and also think, good lord I couldn’t ask for more. Oh, and pearls. Tell me your thoughts! I learn so much from you all. Thank you.

    Deja – “Sort of a WASP “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” if you will.” Bwahahahahaha. I love that. I would say that one of the main reasons I started writing was so that I could feel affection for aspects of my culture, once I sorted out all that oppression and dominance:). Oh, thank you for your kind words about my writing. I feel privileged to read and know you too.

    A. – I know you are radical. I also know you are highly educated and wildly smart. If you have never taken offense, what I’m doing just can’t be that bad. I recognize that expectation of self-flagellation, but since I loved and still love my family, it would be a false affect to assume. You are exactly right, about that, and about my needing to own up to the controversy. That perhaps would be my real sin – to play coy and victimized about what I’m doing. Sucking it up, in other words, after the initial raw feeling, is the right path. Thank you.

    Michelle – Thank you. It’s kind of funny. When I wrote this post the last thing I expected was such an outpouring of support. I think because I was so focused on rational and organized analysis, and on not dissembling in any way. I am so touched that anyone feels on my behalf. When you say, “When you’re presenting something that often goes undiscussed, it can be difficult to navigate to predict how other people will digest it or interpret it,” I nod my head, then I smack it. Of course. Of course I would be surprised sometimes.

    Karena – You are wonderful. If I didn’t think people shared very important things across boundaries I’d give up on society. Your family of ten seems to have shared a lot with my family of six, especially when it comes to education. And dressing nicely:). Thank you very much.

  • Ann – “As one raised with class and race privilege, I try to take responsibility to understand the complexities of this and name it for what it is and seek opportunities to challenge it when it impacts others negatively. And to accept that it’s a process, after all.” Wise you. And if my writing can be considered a radical act I am thrilled and join you in the cheer. Thank you very much.

    Lauren – Exactly. Privilege, if evolution is a force for good, should take us to the point where we have room in our moral closet for many sorts. I could never have been such a trustafarian as I have far to deep a fondness for shampoo. I love Chapman’s term. I love that you were appalled by my Louis Vuitton. Oh and <3 you.

    miss sophie - "i think we are living in the midst of a particularly sensitive cultural moment right now, and people’s emotions are pretty raw when it comes to matters of class, status, and the material life." I believe you are right. I have not been frequenting university circles. I am out of the flow of a lot of current discourse. Thank you very much. I'll share until the cows come home.

    Gablesgirl - Thank you. I am going to work on assuming more of your approach:).

    Bonnie - Oh you have no idea how much better that makes me feel. If you never felt I was showing off. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • To Everyone – THANK YOU! I have to run out, but will respond to all the comments remaining when I return. I cannot tell you how surprised I have been by this support. However I have to find a way to tell you how much it has meant to me. Thank you very much.

  • Lisa, You are just going to have to step back and consider the fact that most of your readers (if they stick around for any length of time at all) are going to realize the depth and subtlety of your posts. In other words, what you have to say here has many different levels.

    Like others who have posted, I am so sorry that you have suffered some pain and worry because there is no need.

    Your blog is immensely enjoyable and has caused me to reflect on a number of topics.

  • Jamie – I am more than grateful for your response. Thank you for noticing the process of this post. You are so right to point out that I had to go a full route. It was a very difficult event to respond to, but I knew it was necessary. So I got very cerebral and observed myself very carefully. I think that’s one of the reasons I am so surprised by these comments and support. I’m happy, of course, because no matter how much one analyzes, the feelings remain, somewhere. Thank you.

    Jen – Thank you. You are so kind. Don’t feel sad for me any more:). This turns out to be have been a better thing than I ever, ever thought. I am just reminding myself now to never forget that people feel for others. The young woman who made the comments didn’t know, most likely, that I would eventually hear them. And your support is just wonderful.

    Stephanie – Ha! I will make sure never to let my non-jerky skills lag. Thank you, oh funny and charming one:).

    Susan – No forgiveness required. What a lesson this was for me. One should always thank one’s teachers.

    QBS – My favorite part of what you say is that you find the blog comforting. Comfort should never be undervalued and to give comfort is a real privilege.

  • Preppy 101 – I think you and I recognize common ground as women of grown children, probably women with a certain approach to parenting and life, a general tendency towards fun and humor as a way to make our way. I would love to spend some lunches together. And yes, I am feeling the love to the point that I have to tell myself that to feel guilty for this outpouring would be to fail to honor the good hearts of those who have commented here. Thank you. (Those aren’t grammatical errors. They are typos:))

    hostess – I’ve been drinking some delicious tea;). I suppose I think the young woman has every right to her anger, just as long as the people who read here understand what I’m after. If you feel I, as a person, come through, what else could I ask for? Thank you.

    Meg – “it might be simplifed to this: you’re a good, decent person. With diamonds. And you have the right to write.” And, simply, thank you very much. We sensitive types have to stick together:).

    Lori – “I have never felt like you looked down on me, were racist or thought yourself to be elite over me.” Thank you. I have tears in my eyes.

    Bruce – Thank you very much for coming by. And I do need to hear, along with the support, the way in which the first reaction to me on Privilege can be so unpleasant. I will not change what I write, as you say, it’s from the heart and certainly from my brain. But I might try to change up the About page, just a bit. A little bit.

  • Jane – Thank you very much. I suppose I believe that I make my own shame, and that therefore it’s up to me to use it for good, not evil. You make me think that for the most part I do OK. I am trying to open up a world, for the good of all parties, and if you’ve followed for a year and feel that’s what is happening, I need to listen to you and just keep trying to do a better job of that. Thank you.

    Loretta – I don’t know what to say. It’s a privilege. Thank you.

    Flo – Bwahahahahaha! OK. Please please please email me and provide the Cliff Notes! Yes. I poured the Sauvignon Blanc. No Cliff Notes required there:). You slay me.

    DocP – I understand and appreciate your perspective enormously. And find you to be very empathetic, always. Thank you.

    Danielle – Very interesting. If showing off is part of blogging, then I have very distinct and interesting company. Witness Ariel, and Meg, for that matter. Thank you for bringing your self and your background to the party. Thank you very much.

  • [Got out of order, sorry]

    Lori – I am so happy you looked for my face! And that my first impression in person doesn’t have the same associations as the blog seems to. I have thought, reading these comments, that they prove one thing over all. When you act, truly, to try to serve others, they often turn around and return the favor. Thank you.

    TPP – I adore you too. I don’t really hold it against the young woman. As we know, shame can be something we bring up ourselves, out of our inner stores. I appreciate the feedback from your finely tuned compass. Thank you.

    Petite Chablis – “I think many Americans are really uncomfortable with talking about class — we like to pretend that it doesn’t exist, and that if it does exist, it doesn’t matter.” Yes. Clearly this is the case. And we all do bring our own issues to most analyses, no matter whether we try or not for impartiality. Thanks. Oh, and I can’t watch the American “Office” either:). Too much jerky behavior. Seriously.

  • I’m so sorry that you’ve been rocked by this Lisa.
    I love your writing style and your topics are fascinating and entertaining.

    Who cares what others think, it’s a hideous cliche but you can’t please everyone all the time and what’s important in life is to know yourself and be true to yourself. I can’t even believe I’m trying to give you advice, you are such a sage) I’m sure plenty of people find me odious and they are entitled to that view. I’m sure it’s the racist angle that’s the most hurtful to you, but anyone who thinks that is narrow minded and hasn’t read your blog fully if that’s their opinion.
    And it’s racist of them to think that about a WASP!

  • Linda in Chile – You just made me realize that of course I am only experiencing what many in visible sub-cultures do, bias. And because a few of my outer signals comport with that bias – particularly aesthetics and the tone I use on the blog – the rest is just assumed. My tears were in good service, as it turns out. Thank you so much. And I wish you no pins at all.

    Violet – Cheers to you! I am feeling quite cheery, now, as you can imagine:). To write this, in fact, I took several days of walking around with emotion, and then a few hours where I tried to put it all aside and write as logically as I could. You all have redeemed the feelings for me. I thank you.

    Louise – Thank you for your continued intelligent and specific support. “Ease does not make us good. But then again, being good does not make it easy.”

    Terri – You come from a long tradition of very educated women. A hard-earned privilege indeed. You know, I wonder, at what point does what was once hard-earned become privilege? Hmm. And victimization does no one any good, nor does denial of culpability. It’s all rather tricky, being human, no? Thank you.

    Kristin – Ha! That certainly puts it into perspective. Needlepoint indeed. I would be so honored to provide a needed escape. To anyone, anywhere, from just about anything. Thank you.

  • Hullo Lisa,I found your blog via Metscan.I was very wary when I noted the name ‘Privilege’ a word I abbor.

    I to was brought up in the UK in the so called ‘upper class’ and many times have paid a high price for it!!

    i have no real knowledge of how the American system works thought it was more to do with money (sorry if I am being ignorant) Well aware what WASP stands for.

    Have followed your blog (lurker!!!smile) for a while and enjoyed your honest observations of American life have learnt much..not sure what a ‘sturdy gal’ is?
    Agree with Reggie D’s posting he expressed what I have learnt on my life travels..be yourself,if people have issues with you that is their problem.

  • Russian Chic – You are a darling and I am beyond honored. My sister speaks some Russian but I alas know none. Otherwise I’d say thank you – isn’t it something like Spasiba! ?

    Reggie – “Last I checked, it is not a sin to be white, educated, and economically advantaged.” NO. But as you point out, we do have a responsibility to do good with what we get given:). I need to engrave the words, Privileged does not equal entitled, on a piece of silver somewhere. Enormous smooches and a big thank you.

    Sarah – No changing that indeed. Thank you. I am so grateful for the followers that I mutter to myself often, in the mornings, “You are such a lucky girl…” But really, it’s because I work hard at it as much as anything else. That’s what being “between jobs” will do:).

    ADG – I’d love to see those numbers if you find them. It’s too easy to gloss over the disadvantages that others still face. “…a code that we can all live by involves treating everyone decently…with dignity and respect…’till they show us that they aren’t worthy of the courtesy.” Well sir, well said, and agreed. Thank you.

    FF – Guts. No guts no glory. Onward. I will keep posting but I might still cry now and then. Some of us are Overly Sensitive. Thank you.

  • Laura – It’s a good question, why do I think everybody has to understand me and like me. I’m not sure if it’s cultural, or just my own temperament or psychology. I could certainly use a good dose of “I don’t care what you think!” if only to make me more able to carry on without requesting support. I do plan to carry on doing as always. And if you and I share a lot, given our disparate backgrounds, then the topics are correct. Thank you very much.

    Mette – Yes, I will get over it. But I hope never to get over the happiness and learning I take away from these comments. Thank you.

    Jane – Ha! No Orvis to be found here. I don’t do any hunting, fishing, or wading through streams:). I am bucking up as we speak. Send flowers:). Seriously, thank you. Thank you very much.

    Susan – I suppose what I also need to understand is that all you smart people would be unlikely to continue to read the words of an elitist racist. *smacks head* Steps back. The pain has been a good thing. I thank you for your compassion and your support.

    Tabitha – I welcome advice. One knows what one knows and one doesn’t know what one doesn’t know. Ha! That sounds very oracular, but what I mean is that I do suffer from certain weaknesses of logic, caused of course by emotion, as they almost always are. So everything you say finds a home in my thinking. Thank you.

    Ida – Here’s what I am now wondering. Your comment made this clear to me, suddenly. When did the word Privilege get separated from Gratitude? Don’t you wonder? If you were brought up in the UK in the upper class, I am sure you have experienced what I have, and then some. We’re just parvenues to our English cousins, as you know. In fact I have some English cousins:). Thank you for stepping out and commenting now. See you over on Metscan:).

  • So many people before me have already said what I think — that your blog neither excludes or tries to put down others. You are honest with yourself and with your readers about where you come from. You are critical and welcoming all at the same time.

    Honestly I think the cringe factor stems from our squirmishness to think and talk about class. It’s a difficult topic, but I think you broach it wonderfully.

  • I’m on the same page with everyone else. You can’t control your background, but you can control how you behave.

    You write about what you know. A lot of us find it fascinating. That woman is a hypocrite for judging you before giving you a chance. And that’s pretty much it.

    Oh,and you show us your diamonds (or silver bowls or anything else) any ol’ time you like.

  • Such great comments. Everyone has said what I think already – you are not blindly self-entitled, you are examining the world you were placed in by an accident of birth. Isn’t this what the self-aware and sympathetic are supposed to do? Your detractors are the ones who are acting like discriminatory, pompous you-know-whats. A complete jerk is a complete jerk, regardless of whether the direction of the jerkiness is coming “down” or going “up.” They deserve every kick in the pants they get.

    As one who is technically not a WASP but who grew up in the milieu, I know it’s unseemly to go on here…but at my age I speak my mind. *Penelope Trunk* – I mean, consider the source!! I unsubscribed to her inexplicably celebrated blog precisely because of her unprofessional, crass, trashy, lowest-common-denominator oozings. That woman has no class whatsoever and is the LAST person whose opinion of me I’d be concerned about.

    Long may you wave.

  • I think your blog is a dressed up version of Perez Hilton; An elder form of shallow elitism and judgment, simply replacing celebrities with every faction you look down your nose at.

    Take away EVERYTHING in your life that has perceived monetary value and what are you left to impress people with?

  • Lisa. Wow.

    You know I’ve been reading your blog forever and a day. You also know that while I have family “with money” I, personally, grew up in a blue-collar, working class family in Texas – dirt bikes, pick-up trucks and the NRA were firm fixtures in my childhood. Crocs and capris are my attire of choice, and I don’t wear jewelry, much less pearls.

    And the very idea that anyone should say you or your blog are elitist/racist just boggles my mind. REALLY? Have they read anything you’ve written? Jesus Christ on a pogo stick.

    And I wanna see your diamonds. I don’t wear ’em, my engagement ring/wedding band excepted, but I love looking at sparklies.

  • Lisa, I’ve been following this conversation and was surprised today to see that the comment I left when I first saw the post is not here. After reading what everyone else has written, there’s no way I can dredge up a smidgen of originality in recollecting what I wrote, but I didn’t want to leave without making sure you know I absolutely support what you do here. I think this kind of self-reflexivity around class, the kind of honest analysis you do with openness, wisdom, and humour, is ever so worthwhile. Anyone who reads more than two or three posts all the way through will get that.

  • her preppiness – Aaargh, in the jumping about I missed replying to your comment. But not reading it. Thank you so much. You are a very gracious person, always, and I particularly appreciate your kindness and support here.

    Ms. Bunny – I will just keep going then. Thank you very much.

    GBBB – OK. Show and tell will continue:):). Also writing about what I know, and hoping that I continue to know something…

    Someone – I appreciate your support. In all fairness, Penelope liked my blog:). It was the people she talked to who were appalled. But, I really do appreciate your support.

    ashley j. – I am so glad you showed up and said this. Keeps my feet on the ground. And when you ask me that question, what value do I bring except my material goods, oddly I’m quite sure of how to answer that. That’s what good about living a long time and doing a lot of stuff.

    Jan – Sparkles is such a judgment-free word. I thank you. And I know you would not suffer crap gladly, so, like I said, thank you.

    Mater – I found your first comment. It was in spam. If that isn’t an example of stupid software I don’t know what is. Thank you very much. You are a wonderful model for how privilege, of any sort, can go hand in hand with humility.

  • Lisa, sorry that I myself misjudged Ms. Trunk’s own response to your blog. I still don’t understand her; she seems to revel in what looks to me like tasteless sensationalism. But if she likes you, I suppose will retract a bit of my snarling. It shows she has a little more idea of what class is even if she doesn’t have any of her own. :)

  • Lisa — the cutting comments say more about our diverse and confounding culture than they do about you. I find your blog refreshing, thought-provoking and wry. All of this is good. And, as usual, you make me stop and think about things. Please keep it up! Diane

  • Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.

    Napoleon Hill

    All the best to you Lisa. Reading the comments I can see that many, many feel as I do. Your writing and thoughts are of the upmost character and grace.

    Your reflections and ideas are indeed a comfort.

    Carry on.


  • Lisa,
    That which doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger!
    Be introspective when challenged but remain true to yourself.

  • Dear Lisa –
    I am a recent subscriber to your blog and I have to say that I’m shocked at the attacks against you. (Though I shouldn’t be, given what I have read in the comments section of many blogs.) I would think it patently obvious to anyone who viewed the title of your blog that you are simply writing from your perspective and experience, not stating that it is a superior vantage point above all others. Why is your blog different from the Mormon mommy blogs I read or the SAH twice-divorced father or the woman married to a Muslim man, raising her children in Islam though she herself is not a practitioner of the faith? Each of these writers is simply telling their own story (as one of your comments suggested) as a guide from their own tribe. Why do I subscribe to nearly 200 blogs and truly adore them all? Because each of them takes me to a new place – transports me with words into new settings, meeting new people, stumbling around on the planet of someone else’s existence. What could be better? You are insulting no one (except on occasion, your own tribe) and being as honest, it seems to me, as you can be. I love your writing and I’ll keep coming back for more. First time commenter, new reader, huge fan. – Kats

  • @Lisa: Also wanted to add that I read your blog because you’re a d*mn good writer. In addition to the pretty pictures and anthropological insight :)

  • Lisa, I’m neither white, nor an AngloSaxon, nor a Protestant. But I’m privileged. And even more so to read your blog which is always one the of bright spots of my day.

    And I think I’m the Indian who asked about Wasp-y style for coloured ladies:) I love that classic look…what can I say!

    Keep going. You’re doing fine and not responsible for how others view themselves, your blog or the world. For every privileged person, there’s another who feels they’re victimised (rightly or wrongly, who can tell).

  • One more thing: regarding showing off — I feel that this is a gendered thing. Do men “share opinions” while women “show off”? I’ve observed that men feel entitled to share their views more often and more directly than women.

  • you write what you feel and i wouldn’t judge you by this blog – i find this blog refreshing but you cant please everyone. :)

  • Privilege naturally provokes jealousy, and it strikes me that those who are so quick to label you and your work “elitist” are merely suffering an acute case if the ‘envies.’ The greatest benefit of privilege, my dear, is the large, pleasurable, comfortable barrier it provides against sticks and stones.

  • LPC…as I have been accustomed to addressing you :)
    I am just, perhaps naively, shocked that people are offended by your posts, by the title of your blog. To me, the title, the admission and acknowledgment of your somewhat rare upbringing (and your constant analysis), flies in the face of snobbery and elitism.

    Even your description says, “standing still to examine the implications.” I truly don’t understand the criticisms.

    By the way, I find you an excellent writer…very perceptive and deeply insightful. I especially enjoy living vicariously through you. I will never forget your post about your college roommate thinking that your house was a hotel! Hee hee…fun. And also the one about your aunt and uncle who tended to you in college. Also delightful.

  • LPC, I am a bit late to this post, but I must chime in…You have never been anything but welcoming and gracious to me. I believe you have been the unfortunate recipient of “reverse snobbery.” Being born in non-wealthy ranks does not automatically infer better qualities, the same as being born in certain families does not automatically transfers the same. However, I believe we have all argued above, that based upon the qualities exhibited by your past writings, that you are indeed of excellent character.

    And truly, as anyone that has travel much outside the states can attest- anyone born in the states (or much of the western world) is “privileged” materially compared to much of the rest of the world, now aren’t we? It’s all a matter of perspective, and gratitude. Much peace to you, and hope you are feeling stronger…

  • Lisa,

    I’m late to comment as well, but wanted to add my nickel’s worth.

    The thing that’s most subversive (in the best sense of the word) about your blog is that you look who you are square in the face, deconstruct yourself, and do it with love. In coach-speak, you catch yourself in the act of being you. This is a supremely difficult thing to do, no matter what one’s background. The fact that you do it despite everything that would impel you not to speaks volumes of your wisdom and bravery. Don’t stop.

    With love,

  • I have been following this post and the comments on my IPhone for the last few days while out of town. Now that I’m at a computer, just want to say I agree with everyone who has been so supportive of you. I so enjoy your blog and hope you don’t feel you have to be “careful” now of what you say and write.
    I come from a “privileged” Jewish family, and like many of those families who had similar “rags to riches” stories, with no real model of how to “fit in”, we often looked to privileged Wasps for style, and all manners of behaviors, etc.
    It’s a whole post in itself, so I won’t elaborate any further, other than to say I think it’s about time we all stopped pretending that these stories don’t exist!!
    Glad for your courage – stick to it.

  • I just wanted to say that I agree with all the above comments of support. Your blog is not elitist and you have never looked down on anyone, it’s the opposite actually. You are always stressing how cultural differences play a big part in what we consider acceptable or not, and provide valuable insight into your own class. I appreciate and thank you for that, because that is information I couldn’t get anywhere else, or that it would take me a long time to get by myself.
    Denying the existence of social classes will not make them disappear. While we could all wish for societies to be more inclusive and for better opportunities in access to education, health care and good jobs to be available to everyone, it doesn’t make sense, IMHO, to attack those who have been lucky to enjoy privileged upbringings.
    I do not come from a privileged family, but I did have a privileged education – which my parents struggled to provide me. I grew up pretty much like the main character of a XIX century novel- an impoverished middle class girl in a private school full of rich kids. It was tough, but it payed off. And after all, privilege isn’t always easy.
    I look forward to your posts, especially the Saturday ones, I must admit :)
    Have a nice week!

  • Oh and please, don’t feel shy about showing the beautiful things you own. As someone commented above, I am thankful for living vicariously through you ;)
    I don’t envy you or feel bad for not owning what you do, just as I don’t feel bad for not having Botticelli’s Primavera hanging from the main wall of my living room (it wouldn’t fit anyway ;)

  • How incredibly judgy of that young woman.

    I’d be interested in reading her blog.

    I wonder if she’s white, too.

  • I _love_ that you are throwing open the door to the class closet. Your class is not my class, but you help me understand the assumptions of my own background.

  • I’m kind of surprised at the response your blog has gotten, because I’m fairly sure I’ve always interpreted your definition of “privilege” and your aims in the spirit in which they are intended.

    To me this blog isn’t just about aesthetics. For better or for worse, high WASPdom is a culture, and every culture has both its ideals and its dark side. The dark side–entitlement, materialism, and complacency, and the resultant bad behavior, avarice, and outright bigotry–has been very much on display over the past decades in our culture, and in the past its manifestations in my own family drove me away from it.

    But, for me, what comes through in your blog are the ideals of this culture–beliefs in excellence, in striving, in clear-eyed respect for tradition and memory, in pride and self-respect, in quiet generosity and courtesy and restraint, in love and loyalty to family. And in noblesse oblige–a term fraught with feudalistic connotations, unfortunately, but something of which we all desperately need far more these days–an acknowledgement of how lucky one is and how much, as a result, one is obliged to give back.

    It seems as though these values are, with WASPdom itself, quickly vanishing. And not because of the encroachment of other cultures that have arrived on our shores more recently–indeed, they have their own, often very similar values–but because we’re all being flattened by a mass corporate culture that is at once bland and insipid and superficial and at the same time deeply ugly, catering to the lowest common denominator and our society’s worst instincts…and rewarding them.

    Reading your blog and a few others reminds me of the things that we’re in danger of losing, that are worth preserving and sharing. Often, your posts have evoked for me memories of people and places that I’d forgotten how much I treasured. I’m so sorry the apparently thoughtless and uninformed reactions of others have caused you such distress. I can only hope that they might come and actually read you with an open mind.

  • First and foremost, there is no such thing as a racist anti-semitic nothern california liberal. Period.

    Second of all, my father often tells me (usually when I am upset about the comments or actions of another), “Darling. Some people just don’t know any better.” ..and he is right. The modern political and social climate has changed the perspective of many. Things that we know not to say or do are said and done. The times, they are a-changing.

    Your blog is a study of these changes. You write with a conscience and with a great deal of heart (something that comes from being a northern california liberal perhaps?)– you think of others. You are none of the things these people have called you. They, my dear, are close-minded, the true racists (for assuming because you are caucasian and belong to a certain class that you MUST not like those that are not like you) and, most importantly, IGNORANT.

    Just remember– it’s not you. Darling, some people just don’t KNOW any better.


    PS: Also, I think you’re swell and at the end of the day, really only my opinion matters. HA!

  • Coming in late (busy weekend), but wanted to say I’ve never found a hint of racism or anti-semitism in your writing. You describe your class and its preoccupations very well. Many of your thoughts resonate with those of us who are definitely not high WASP but who were reared with many of the same values. Keep it up!

  • I’m also coming in late on this, due to a busy weekend. I agree with what just about everyone has said here — there is absolutely nothing offensive or elitist or uncomfortable about your blog. If there were, I would not being reading it for over a year now! You write so well, and your posts are so varied and interesting. You are a keen observer and you share personal experiences and insights, which are informed by your upbringing and your education. You need not apologize for any of it.If someone is going to make a judgment about you without reading several of your posts, then I consider that unfair. So promise that there will be no more crying — if nothing else, this must reveal to you that WE ALL REALLY LIKE YOU! Keep on blogging! And thank you for sharing so much about yourself, and for making me really stop and think about things that I sometimes take for granted.

  • Hell’s bells, isn’t life something else.

    I’m with all your other supportive readers (me too! me too!).

    Rock on, Lisa!

  • (Holy cow, that took a long time to scroll through all those comments!)

    First of all, if anyone is reading this, they are privileged.

    Second, you seem very grateful and aware of what you have. That’s all that matters.

  • Lisa, do you know who the person is who criticises your writing? Is this stir running out of proportion, maybe?
    something totally different: today I chose the knotted silk scarf instead of the pearls, the effect was the same! Such fun, playing with iconic accessoires.

  • Oh, Lisa. Some people are just looking for offense and aren’t happy unless they find it.

    I love your site and I’m not a WASP.

  • Dear Lisa:
    This post is as thoughtful as I believe you are. I think you elevate discussions of class, race, etc. I also think you have a terrific sense of humor and understand that mirror images are aften funny.

  • You say it like it is, and i find your musings most delightful. please do continue to show your bling.

  • This is my first visit. I’m floored that anyone would be offended by the blog title/subject, especially without even reading some of it.
    But I am neither liberal in the current sense of the word, nor from San Francisco. Maybe that explains it.
    It is not a zero sum game, haves vs have nots, so why the guilt, or shame?
    Poor people have never employed me and paid me money so I could pay rent.
    Some have, however, been rather sharp about how to look like something other than an oaf at events peopled by those of privilege, and their advice proved useful to me.

    I think it reflects a little humor and not taking one’s self too seriously to address the lifestyle you lead in the way you do.

    I’m not sure why you restrict it to WASPs though, because where I grew up, privilege was highly Jewish and Cuban, so elite WASPs had to mix. Maybe they were really poor compared to you or the DuPonts and the like.

  • I’m coming late to this discussion as well, and many have put words to thoughts that were only nebulously wavering in my mind. I consider it a privilege to read your blog. You describe the preoccupations of class well and you do so with charm and wit but you are not limited by these preoccupations. This is something we can all continue to work toward achieving. Reading hour wise words helps me sometimes to see how my own thoughts and perceptions have been formed and filtered by my own experiences. Hugs all around.

  • I read this yesterday at which time there were 35 responding posts. I wanted to mull over what I wanted to say because the subject touched me deeply. Now there are 106 responses and I am immensely pleased. Most of what I wanted to say, was said. Having read most of the posts, I am delighted with the wonderful conversation we are all having with you, LPC.

    I do want to say this: I was so sad that someone’s negativity caused you distress. All cultures and subcultures are like foreign countries and there will always be xenophobes – those who are suspicious or fearful of what they do not know or understand. That, in itself, is sad because there is so much to learn and enjoy when one is open to something strange and foreign. When one travels, it’s always good to know a bit about the country one is going to – get a lay of the land, so to speak. It’s good to do a little research. Wiki has excellent info on White Anglo-Saxon Protestants: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Anglo-Saxon_Protestant As a WASP myself (though not born to Privilege), I found it enlightening.

    Blog on, LPC! You are doing a wonderful job and you are loved and appreciated.

  • The reader, a young Jewish woman, explained that the blog struck her as elitist and very “white.” She said it wouldn’t surprise her if the writer were anti-semetic and racist.”

    Wow. The irony in that comment. You’re from a privileged background so of course you’re racist and anti-semitic? Not a bigoted thing to assume at all.

    PS I know you might not be thrilled at the comparison, but one of the things that really bothered Ores. George Bush was when he was accused of being a racist. It’s a horrible thing to say about someone when it is not true.

  • PS I love your blog and I love reading your take on things and I don’t think there is a mean, racist bone in your body.

  • Someone – Much appreciated.

    Diane – Thank you very much. I hadn’t considered the idea that the remark – made of course not as a public comment but in a private conversation – said something about our society. I suppose you are right.

    Dana – That quotation has certainly proven to be true here. Thank you so much. Had I ever known that someday I might communicate with grace it would have eased my young mind enormously.

    Leslie – I take your words to heart. It is also true that that which you do with the full intent of providing use to others is often appreciated in ways you can’t predict. Thank you.

    Kats – “A guide from their own tribe.” Thank you for commenting, and for reading the comments of the other readers here, as they are surpassingly graceful and intelligent. I started writing Privilege precisely because of what you say – in my tribe our cultural artifacts are so tied to history of oppression and colonization that it’s hard to simply tell a tale of one’s childhood.

  • Danielle – I will keep that as a set of benchmarks, writing as good as I can make it, pretty pictures, and some anthropological insight. Thanks:).

    AN – Yes, that’s you. I didn’t want to call you out on the request without your permission:). And I plan to get to that post in the next month. It’s certainly an interesting question, when one comes to a new country, privileged in one’s home territory and yet not bearing the usual marks of privilege in the new country. I believe that’s one of the things I went through all those years ago in India. You know, don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone? Thank you.

    Danielle – That is a very good point. Interesting.

    Ash’s Mum – I need to remember your practical advice. Thanks.

    Kelly – “The greatest benefit of privilege, my dear, is the large, pleasurable, comfortable barrier it provides against sticks and stones.” Material ones, yes. But I’m naturally thin-skinned, which no amount of privilege seems to mitigate. Privilege may even have contributed. I need to channel a little more of the stiff upper lip my ancestors so prized:). Thanks.

  • Dear Lisa, j’adore your writing and your perspective. So many supporters have stated support so eloquently. I will simply add a “Hear, hear!” with the hope that you will recognize that your readers get you. We appreciate your words and look forward to future posts. Onward.

  • Lipstick – Ah, you’ve been reading since the very early days. I haven’t told so many stories about my family recently, except of course my own trip to India. Maybe I will do some more, to put characters into the posts instead of goods only. Thank you for your support, all along, and now. I also really appreciate the kind words about my writing. All the best to you and yours.

    Rhonda – I am honored to be found of excellent character, especially by someone with your high standards. Thank you. It is certainly true that we in the West are privileged almost automatically, if only for the wide access to clean water and electricity.

    Rubiatonta – No such thing as late:). Aha. I catch myself being me? I like that very much. Especially because in cultures which leave a lot unspoken, sneaky behavior sort of sneaks up on one. You might be interested in the fact that I had the voice of a coach-like person, Leo Babauta, in my ears, telling me that the best thing to do when you blog is to write something useful. I probably did a braver job because I was trying to be useful than I would have had I tried to be brave. Know what I mean? Thank you.

    kathy – I’d love to hear your story about your family and the role, if any, that my culture played. I feel as though I need to be more careful, but only to be more careful in doing what I’ve been doing already. That if all these people are cheering me on I’d really better not slack off:). Thank you so much.

    Marcela – “Denying the existence of social classes will not make them disappear.” Unfortunately not. One thing you say resonates with me particularly at the moment. The definition of “privilege” should mean something for which one feels extremely fortunate. But it has come to mean something unearned. In which case your education wasn’t a privilege, it was a well-earned reward. I believe, and feel myself, that what one earns through blood and sweat and tears is different than what one receives through inheritance or social class or race, without much work. BTW, even if you or I had the Primavera the insurance requirements would mean we’d have to lock it up and never see it:). It is one of my favorite paintings in the world.

  • Patsy – Succint and to the point as always:). Thank you.

    independentclause – “Throwing open the door to the class closet!” Exactly! Thank you. In all honesty, I’ve always loved the Eminem song that goes, “tonight, I’m cleaning out the closet.” I know he’s mean to his mother in the lyrics, but the emotional pitch has always made to sense to me. Also I embarrassed the heck out of my son when I sang it in the car:).

    Staircase Witch – You have said it so well I can only quote, “the ideals of this culture–beliefs in excellence, in striving, in clear-eyed respect for tradition and memory, in pride and self-respect, in quiet generosity and courtesy and restraint, in love and loyalty to family. And in noblesse oblige–a term fraught with feudalistic connotations, unfortunately, but something of which we all desperately need far more these days–an acknowledgement of how lucky one is and how much, as a result, one is obliged to give back.” Privilege to me is tied handfast to good fortune, otherwise it would be a reward, not a privilege. One is obliged, by privilege, to behave well. Thank you very much.

    Muffy – Ha! I only wish we could bottle you and make our fortune. Really only your opinion matters. That you! I can’t help but slog along hoping that people can always know better if we just reason with them. Myself included. I know better if I reason with myself.

    SewingLibrarian – Thank you. It has been a real pleasure to find people of similar values, never mind the background. That way the artifacts become more like baubles than totems.

  • Jacqueline – You know, I should have known that my readers, for whom I have such enormous respect and fondness, wouldn’t read something they didn’t respond to. I can’t promise I won’t cry again- it does come with a thin skin. But I can promise that I take what you say to heart. No Sally Fielding, that poor woman, to have said that and never to fully recover, but I appreciate the demonstrated fondness and support so much I can’t even say. Thank you very much.

    Jean S. – I do love that phrase. Hell’s bells indeed. My father used to say that. I think I’ll take it out for a spin. Thank you very much and I hope you rock on your bad self too:).

    Paula – This was not someone I know, nor was it actually a blog comment here. It was a post on someone else’s blog, and I think I will simply unprepared to hear it, due to a grab bag of factors. I want to make sure that I deserve this stir, the support here, and so will just try to get back to doing what I do and trying to do it even better. Iconic accessories, exactly:). Thanks.

    rb – You are right. Some people do enjoy taking offense, arguing, etc. I have been known to argue, but I would never seek out the occasion. Thank you so much. How horrible that would be if only those who shared my background liked what I wrote. What then would be the point?

    Colleen – “Mirror images are aften funny.” Ain’t that the truth. Nice point. Thank you.

  • kate – Thank you very much. I will “bling” it on. Oh lord. So sorry. Inexcusable pun:). Never again.

    John – Thanks for commenting. I restrict what I write to the High WASP sub-culture of privilege because it’s really the only one I know. The fading family fortune and the Silicon Valley habitat haven’t placed me often in any traditional haunts of privilege, except my family’s houses and the occasional luxury hotel:). Around here everyone is from somewhere else, so we are mostly high-tech people first, any kind of privilege after.

    Mardel – It’s a privilege to have you as a reader. I’m the luckiest person, it seems. I thank you. I can’t quote you, you say too many directly nice things:).

    Lara – I’m completely hornswoggled by the response. And just pinching myself and telling myself I’d better live up to the readers. I hope to keep talking with you. I am learning so much. I can’t believe I’d never read that Wikipedia article:). What you say is true, to review and understand the lay of the land, everywhere, is what matters.

    class factotum – While I found W. to be sort of a bumbler as President, it was quite apparent to me that he was not at all racist. And I’d much rather be a bumbler. Thank you very much Ms. Factotum.

    Sylvie – Onward. Thank you.. Indeed. Onward. And cheers to you.

  • Humorless reactionary ninnies are everywhere – don’t listen to them. I’m sure that I just offended many. PFLLLT to them – I had to endure them for years in Ann Arbor (and hear out their complaints on why law school was discriminatory because we weren’t hearing Marxist contract analysis – if it is ever relevant, than perhaps we will).

    Also, query whether Penelope Trunk is really your best advisor. She is, as we say, “interesting.”

  • Whereas working class people can be proud of themselves and their culture, privileged people have that same right. Somehow it just isn’t as obvious to most people.

  • One last thing: the quote, “Don’t hate the player, hate the game,” might be apropos here. Some people are (rightly) angered by the class system which divides us. Let’s remember that the economic and social systems are the problem here, not the individuals who either benefit or are limited by such systems. I think some commenters are misplacing their (justified) criticisms (unfairly) onto you.

  • Artful Lawyer – Interesting is OK, by me, but humorless reactionary ninnies are not:). All sides to every question are worth at least a brief examination, anyone who says otherwise is going to be hard to listen to.

    Daniela – Yes. Exactly. I am mulling this over as we speak.

    Danielle – Right. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, and, as the baby, I deeply appreciate the sentiment:).

  • It’s a PRIVILEGE to read your writing, your musings, your wishes and dreams.

    7:02 am
    Caroline said...

    LPC, I love reading your blog. Please try to ignore the horrible, rude people who made you cry. Carry on.

  • I just read this, and all the comments. Sending you a big hug.

  • I’ve been paging though your website and see nothing that should cause alarm, offense, or distress to others.

    Your writing and points are delivered with a singular grace and graciousness that many would do well to emulate. I have found your blog a thoroughly charming read and would infer that if you are your words, then you are a true lady in the American sense of a gracious, thoughtful woman.

    That you put at ease a stroppy, class-conscious, woman of working-class Slavic roots says something as well. I’m apt to get quite riled up by snobs and people who are just show-offs and I really don’t get that sort of “vibe” from your site.

    I honestly enjoy it and just wanted you to know.

    10:33 am
    Lisa said...

    Wow. What a lovely Christmas present. I thank you, very much.

  • I found you through my good friend Duchesse. Your blog is shocking. I love it. OMG, it’s me you are talking about – and without any shame! The dark and the fine side of High WASPness bear much discusssion and examination. Mostly our false modesty pushes us to self-denigration, which is irritating. You don’t do that. You have such witty little asides such as how our culture likes to “match” things. Yep, it does.I knew that, but I hadn’t noticed it. Thanks for noticing for me. I loved your irony about NOKD. You gives me a chance to laugh and appreciate my culture.
    Two other thoughts: Shame is about what is hidden.
    If you haven’t made any enemies, you haven’t taken any risks.
    I applaud your courage, wit and self-acceptance.

    9:19 am
    Lisa said...

    Thank you. I confess it’s a tough row to hoe.

  • So refreshing to read correct grammar and see good taste in your writings. Apologize to no one and keep giving your readers the quality of thought and philosophy you so well express and obviously all have come to expect!! BRAVO! I say!


  • I do not drop a comment, however I looked through some comments on this page
    What To Do With Distress, Or, Saturday Morning at 10:45am | Privilege.
    I actually do have 2 questions for you if you tend not to mind.
    Is it just me or does it appear like some of these responses look as if they are written by brain dead people?
    :-P And, if you are posting at additional places, I’d like to follow you.
    Would you post a list of all of all your social community pages like your twitter feed, Facebook page or linkedin profile?

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