Towards A Broad Definition Of “One Of Us”


(November 18, 1013: Captain’s log. This is by far the most controversial piece I ever posted. Ironically, I meant to analyze my acculturated reactions and make clear that I wanted to broaden my understanding of “One Of Us.” Hence the title above. However, an extremely large minority of the readers took me to mean that I endorsed my learned class prejudices.

I do not.

And, misguidedly, I had posted the first picture of my children here, thinking that everyone would understand the gesture of extending family as it was intended.

They did not.

So I leave the post up, with trepidation, hoping that with this introduction any new readers will approach with an open mind, and believe that I do everything I can to admit to and move beyond that part of my privilege which may cause harm. Thank you in advance.)

As I have explained, the Four Seasons Maui is very beautiful. As I have also explained, my little family and I had a wonderful time there. As I have not yet explained, however, the visit set me to thinking about resorts, communities, and how you react when other people seem not to be your sort.

In Hawaii, as in other places of family leisure, High WASPs show themselves fairly openly. They don’t worry about tank tops fitting. Or manicures.

Beaded Tory Burch skirt from an early collection, and a more recent Alexis Bittar bangle. Crafty sparkle all around.

They do still like to match.

They consume more alcohol than usual, and, given the libatious* culture, I’m already talking high volume. Then, at night, sisters lay their heads upon their brothers’ shoulders, and mothers and significant others walk behind, weaving, happily.

But what we don’t tend to do is swan about draped in artifacts of wealth. We tend towards the shabby. Or the slightly costumed, with historic or comic references. For example, fading red pants with lobsters. Or Lilly Pulitzer and her ilk, worn only near water or for holiday parties. Alternatively, we go native, like India Hicks, Tory Burch, and Gwyneth Paltrow. You see, we want to portray that we might in fact live where we vacation. Our motto being, “Oh this old thing?” in both residence and attire.

I will say this only once, and attempt to say it with all due respect and only because I wouldn’t want to mislead you. In December 2011, many of the people with whom we shared the Four Seasons Maui were Other. Glossier, more cosseted, and plumped out by artificial substances of all varieties.

It’s very, very tricky, to feel that people are Other, when you come from the original dominant class. Even when falling like Lucifer in Milton’s Paradise Lost, we High WASPs clutch tatters of Very Good-Looking Toile de Juoy in our tended hands. Those we now see as Other, we once called Not Our Kind, Dear. With no respect, only disdain. And that disdain was used for the longest time as part of a sophisticated arsenal to keep Others out.

So if I think, “That family over there is Other, they do not comport themselves as we do,” I observe myself, making sure that I don’t lump any cues of accent, skin color, and hair color, or any visible signs of religious identity, in with the behavior that drives me nuts.

You can be a snob about how someone acts, but not about who they are. Goes without saying, but always worth saying anyway. I started this blog in large part to deconstruct my upbringing.

And in the spirit of Old Dogs: New Tricks Edition, I did try to set aside the culture, a bit. For fun. One day, I wore this bikini, this sarong, and these earrings to the pool. I felt almost as though I’d sported a pierced navel and left off the bathing suit altogether. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Never mind then. Believe it or not, the earrings were more difficult to wear poolside than the sequined bikini top.


Cue music, always a good trick when narrative needs a non-linear intervention. Perhaps, we think, Annie was right. You’re never fully dressed without a smile. Even a blurry one. For our last night, dinner at Spago’s, I channeled Mad Men. The square-heeled white patent shoes I swear someone lifted from my mother’s closet, c. 1966.I felt comfortable in fancy-ish pearls, all part of my costume.

Dress by Karen Millen, shoes by David Tate via Zappos ($60, people), 3-strand pearl bracelet (reworked from a 25th birthday necklace my father gave me)

But that little shin injury you might be able to make out was not part of the intended effect.

The kids and I had woken up early that morning. Really early, 3am sort of morning. My daughter was still annoyed with me for having refused to drive the road to Hana. The hotel gave us zucchini bread, hot tea and coffee, and blankets. We drove to the top of Maui’s dormant volcano, Haleakala. As did many other tourists – from Japan, places unknown, and Minnesota.

We were really, really cold. Even the little boy from Minnesota kept asking, “Can we go home yet?” I barked my shin on a rock, trying to return in the dark to a warm car.  My kids laughed at the ensuing curses. I need to tell you again just how cold we were, and for how long.

The sun rose. Fog rolled across the crater.

Did you know that the sun does in fact have rays in situations like this? I did not. We warmed up.

The sun on my kids’ faces. We weren’t trying to look like Mary in my grandmama’s Nativity Scene, or, as my son said – in a rush of language given only to the young – Bedouin mendicants. It’s just so much better to create a sense of family by having weird adventures than worrying about who talks too loudly at the swimming pool.

*Which may or may not be a word.

99 Comments

  • 01/05/12
    6:48 am

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    Jan said...

    No picture of you in the bikini? I feel cheated. :P

  • 01/05/12
    6:58 am

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    Liz Wilson said...

    I do feel you’ve gone too far with this blog. Your “High WASPs” are not the only people capable of behaving well and discreetly at your resort. And, indeed, your touting of the Four Seasons is code for the money you spent on holiday, which to me is NOKD.

    01/05/12
    8:00 am
    Lisa said...

    Liz, I want to answer this early, because if the post sparks this reaction in a lot of people I clearly failed to communicate what I was trying to say. So, first of all, yes, it’s very not done of me to talk about all this. I shouldn’t, according to the culture, be talking about either the money or the attitudes. But I decided to do it any way, almost three years ago when I began writing this. Back then nobody read it, so nobody got offended. I’ve reduced the High WASP stuff a lot lately, and probably will go back now to just style. I think my sparser posts make it a lot harder communicate my complicated feelings in such a way that I don’t sound like a jerk.

    But secondly, what I was trying to do here was communicate both the learned reaction and class behavior, as well as the developed understanding that one really has to move on and embrace a wider view. I wanted to say that it’s OK to develop a strong sense of Us, but that doesn’t have to entail disdain of the Other, unless they are acting in a way that’s truly difficult. FInally, in terms of sharing experiences of the Four Seasons, or pictures of jewelry etc., I’m always torn. I want to share, but yeah, it’s true, some part of me has always wanted to show off. As I’ve written before, I make my peace with the conflict by going with what the readers like. In other words, if I want to do something, but know it’s a little bit with bad motives, but other people enjoy it, I let their enjoyment trump my need to squash my bad motives. And at the end of the day, I have to make judgment calls. Which, sometimes, I get wrong.

    If any of that makes sense. I appreciate your comment.

  • 01/05/12
    7:02 am

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    Danielle said...

    Love these gorgeous pictures (of yourself, your familys and the views) and stories. I have also eaten at Spago (snuck in without a reservation!) and driven up to Haleakala for the sunrise. You know what’s particularly amazing? Seeing it with a full moon. Thanks for reminding me.

  • 01/05/12
    7:08 am

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    QueenBeeSwain said...

    You and MoMo- long lost next door neighbors- we have the same taste in apparel/take on the Others when “in residence” up in Door County- save for dinner out, which we dress for- we’re more apt to look like down-trodden townies in old, fav’ resort-wear than new new new new new shiny polished patina’d.

    Great pic of the kids and I love the memories that you created on that outting. Hope the pic is going to be put into lovely silver frames for the three of you :)

    kHm

  • 01/05/12
    7:11 am

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    Alice said...

    You look beautiful in the Karen Millen dress! I love it.

    I have always wanted to visit Hawaii and am very much enjoying reading these posts.

  • 01/05/12
    7:25 am

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    kathy said...

    It seems I’ve missed the “point” of this post, and feel a bit like Liz does, although I know that isn’t your intent. Maybe some clarification or filling out about how this deconstructed your upbringing in any way? I can fill in between the lines, but it doesn’t seem enough somehow.

  • 01/05/12
    7:31 am

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    Parnassus said...

    I think I get your point about others’ comportment “below the standard”, but that always leaves the question of whether one’s values are the highest possible to begin with–in other words, we should avoid complacency while maintaining our standards.

    The Haleakala pictures are beautiful–was it worth the wait?

    By the way, how about ‘bibulous’ as an alternate choice of word?
    –Road to Parnassus

  • 01/05/12
    7:32 am

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    materfamilias said...

    Wow! 5 comments and it’s started already — this is so explosive, class in America, and I see you as very brave for being able to at least attempt to articulate honestly some of the attitudes you hold, whether consciously or unconsciously, thanks to your upbringing (and in that, I include generations, as, I believe, you do). This stuff is there. Why not know it is and figure out what to do about it, and how?
    Perhaps I feel this way because I’ve been reading here for a long time — and I’ve met you and seen your integrity and generosity and wit and perspicacity up close. Whatever, I applaud your honesty and your courage. Even as I could, if I would, acknowledge some envy . . . which is at least part of what’s going on here, right?

    And btw, your son and daughter are gorgeous — and I love that you have a son who tosses out phrases like “Bedouin mendicants” . . .

  • 01/05/12
    7:45 am

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    Stephanie @ La Dolce Vita said...

    I was going to comment on the post, when a previous comment caught my eye. I do not think you’ve gone too far – you specifically stated you were not going to judge them on who they are, but how they acted. As a non-High Wasp who was raised in much the same manner as an H.W. I will tell you that a lack of good breeding, and by that I mean, being raised well to behave well is readily ascertained. My right to have fun in public ends when it disturbs someone else’s enjoyment. Enjoy your adventures, and your lovely family. Your children are beautiful.

  • 01/05/12
    7:48 am

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    frugalscholar said...

    The thing is–there are many Others (and I am one) that you might not recognize AS Others.

    PS We gave up on the Hana Hwy ourselves–too frustrating!

  • 01/05/12
    7:52 am

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    Patsy said...

    Other doesn’t mean lesser, it means not like me. I’ve seen OKD people behave just as badly, and in some cases, worse, than NOKD folks.

  • 01/05/12
    7:59 am

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    kathy said...

    @Materfamilias – I want to go on record, that my comment has nothing to do with envy, you’ll have to trust me on that. I don’t think you should make assumptions about “what’s behind” anyone else’s comments. I think Lisa was brave to write this post, knowing that she might get some flack for it, and I admire that in her, as well as many other qualities.

    01/05/12
    10:51 am
    materfamilias said...

    Glad you called me on that quickly, Kathy, because it gives me a chance to clarify — I’m speaking for myself, absolutely. I suspect I’m not the only one, however, who sometimes gets twinges of envy at other lifestyles (I even suspect I invite it myself when I blog of Paris (done on a budget), or my waterfront home, as rustic as it is). I brought it up not as an accusation against specific commenters but rather because I do believe discussions of class evoke it.
    I’m going to risk going a bit further — and again, I need to clarify by specifying that I’m not looking at you when I say this — But I think that just as I should absolutely not assume what’s behind others’ comments, I strongly believe that we cannot assume we know everything that is behind our own comments. The unconscious is powerful and it has been formed by many elements and many generations — Class. Envy. I suspect they lurk. That’s really what I meant to point toward. Probably too dangerous a limb to climb on in such a decontextualized situation.

    01/05/12
    10:55 am
    materfamilias said...

    and as if I haven’t already gone on enough, could I add one more clarification. I wish I hadn’t singled out Envy — it’s simply one of a panoply of fleeting emotions, sensations, responses that get stirred up by this discussion or by these issues.

    01/06/12
    8:01 pm
    Lisa said...

    Thank you, both such thoughtful and considerate people.

  • 01/05/12
    8:20 am

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    Lee Rosenthall said...

    Well, you’ve opened a proverbial Pandora’s Box here, Lisa, but brava for the courage!

    As the progeny of an upper-middle-class European Jewess and a working class WASP, I can tell you it all comes down to VALUES. As humans, we crave our clans, and most of us unfortunately have a visceral desire to keep “others” out. I find I must constantly balance my natural preference to be with people of like mind and values with my strong belief that the best societies are heterogeneous.

    While I, too, can look down my markedly non-aquiline nose with disdain at gaudy displays of wealth or conspicuous consumerism, I generally try to find the good in others before I write someone off, and I hope they return me the favor.

    I find the same approach works when mixing with those who weren’t raised to have good manners (and never bothered to take the initiative to learn them on their own), by trying to enjoy their unique contributions to the American cultural “patois.” It’s a good way to keep my own ego in check.

  • 01/05/12
    8:35 am

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    Elatia Harris said...

    I enjoyed this in the spirit it was intended. It may not be possible to muse aloud about in-groups and out-groups without being mildly provocative. But, whichever in-group you belong to, it’s someone else’s idea of an out-group. Whatever privileges have been conferred on you, they will look pallid or even comical to people who exalt their own privileges over any others, including yours. That we are not supposed to talk about class, that we are encouraged to act unaware of it, is little more than a ruse for keeping class distinctions entrenched. Hushing the whole sitch up does more to maintain it than to dismantle it. The elephant in the parlor always wins.

  • 01/05/12
    8:37 am

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    kathy said...

    I would like to thank Lisa for her beautifully written and open explanation to Liz. It was a brave and “hard-to-admit-to” answer, and so very genuine.
    Lisa’s true sensitivity and humanity comes through, and it’s one of the things I love most about this blog. Thank you Lisa!

  • 01/05/12
    8:41 am

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    Patxi said...

    Great picture, your kids are beautiful!

    I commend you for daring to speak about class, the ultimate taboo. In case anyone doubts here’s an experiment: in a dinner conversation you may make some people uncomfortable by talking about wealth, health and diseases, intimate relationships, and what to do with income inequality. But mention class, in general, and everyone seems to seat on a giant spring. Then address any of the participants class and everyone will be more uncomfortable, comparable only to being ask to undress in front of the others :)

    Before, I was absolutely unaware of class and how profoundly it impacts multiple aspects of existence. Even being European! (where the concept of rich-aristocrat vs proletariat is part of history and present consciousness)

    In the last couple of years, I’ve started learning about the concept, and I realized that…
    (1) it’s a very powerful force, very present, and taboo (see above). Next to impossible to have a conversation on the subject and it stills impacts every single individual’s life.
    (2) it covers many topics from tastes, values, education, income, entertainment, health, ….
    (3) because of (2), very few have dared to analyze or try to talk about it
    (4) because it’s hidden in plain sight, it takes a lot of effort to become aware of one’s own class, attitudes to it, or how to change things we don’t like.

    Finally, Lisa, good luck with your deconstruction, it’s very brave work (and just ignore the critics and keep posting your thoughts!)

    Patxi

    PS: If anyone wants a reading list on the subject, happy to share. Just say the word!

    01/07/12
    11:05 am
    Paula said...

    Hi Patxi,
    your name won’t link to your blog or website – which way is ok for contacting you? … reagarding the reading list. TYIA!

  • 01/05/12
    8:44 am

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    mary anne said...

    You can be a snob about how someone acts, but not about who they are

    Wonderful! Completely agree! I knew you’d be opening up the proverbial can ‘o worms with this one. Hang in there, be brave, they’ll get over it.

    Good manners are never about being a snob. I don’t care how much money, pedigree, etc. is there. Anyone can learn to be considerate of others.

    01/05/12
    10:48 am
    M_NW said...

    I agree — I’d like MORE not less of Lisa’s take on class. On NYE, a friend and I had a discussion about this exact resort(she went recently, I went 14 yrs ago on a honeymooon splurge) … Many of her recollections were about the profound visual and behavior displays of her fellow resort-goers. I recalled a story from my stay there, and how the best manners are those that put others at ease.

    Arnold & Maria & her mother Eunice Shriver were at the pool with their young family. It was impossible not to notice them as the pool area is very open. Stories floated between the guests of encounters with them.

    None stood out as much as the one where a young newlywed husband waited for an elevator. The doors opened and there stood Arnold and his bodyguard alone in the elevator. With great trepidation, the young man stepped onto the elevator and stood quietly facing the doors. Then, he heard Arnold’s friendly and distinctive voice behind him, “Don’t pretend you don’t know who I am….” He turned to see Arnold with a big grin and open hand to shake. Whatever we may think of Arnold these days, this story speaks to a certain kind of social grace.

    High WASP style coverage is fun, but substance and sparked discussion is incredibly engaging.

    Thanks, Lisa.

  • 01/05/12
    8:47 am

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    Liz Wilson said...

    Lisa,
    I do appreciate your response and your taking the time to answer my note. I do agree that values (whether they are learned or inherited) have a great deal to do with the “c word,” class. You could also consider those who, unlike yourself had the initiative to learn them on their own to be a higher breed than those of us who just paid attention to and imitated our parents.

    But the word “high”– it does lord above all else.

    I do think your inferences about the glossy habitues (don’t know how to find the accent marks) of swell resorts sounds like a condemnation, and your “showing them” by wearing ridiculously sparkly earrings to the pool is a way of poking fun of yourself, sure, but to them most of all.

    Anyway, you provoked a dialogue.

  • 01/05/12
    8:49 am

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    frachellea said...

    Such a loaded subject and spirited commentary. I don’t necessarily think that you’ve gone too far in approaching the subject, but I do think that there could have been more analysis. You say that “You can be a snob about how someone acts, but not about who they are.” True enough – and you expand on that with, “that doesn’t have to entail disdain of the Other, unless they are acting in a way that’s truly difficult.” This “truly difficult” phrase, to me, is critical. It allows some play for observation of and comingling of differences of behavior without contempt or disdain.

    However, so often how someone acts does equate with who they are. Behavior can be a nod (but is not a hard and fast tell) to ones cultural, socio-economic, religious, etc background. How you separate that “truly difficult” (and I’m assuming you don’t mean the wearing of bling poolside, as much of a leap as it was for you) from self-perception/pre-conceived notions is something that I believe causes an internal struggle for any self-aware person.

  • 01/05/12
    8:49 am

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    The gold digger said...

    Is there anyone among us who has not looked with disdain at bad behavior in a public place? Lisa is right: it is not acceptable to judge someone based on who she is, but one chooses how one acts. If one is rude or tacky – I’m talking to you, grown women who wear fluffy pants with “Juicy” emblazoned across your butt on the airplane, then one opens onesself to criticism. Not to one’s face, of course – then the criticizer is equally tacky – but in the criticizer’s mind and on her blog.

  • 01/05/12
    9:02 am

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    Bev said...

    As one of the Others, I appreciate this post. This is what I come here for, for the honest attempts at deconstructing class. Please say more about this in the future, not less. Less would leave misunderstandings in place. Those of us who are always urging the privileged to recognize their privilege are sometimes taken aback by the process as it unfolds. Your honesty and good intentions do make a difference. Blogs allow us to have this conversation with each other, rather than only with our in-group members. It is hard and uncomfortable and very worthwhile.

  • 01/05/12
    9:04 am

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    deb-u-naunt said...

    I am a bit confused…still trying to understand why your HIGH WASP upbringing and Style would have you choose those earrings to wear to the pool…with a bikini on? This seems to me to be a bit of OTHER. Have i missed something in the translation?
    Please explain.

  • 01/05/12
    9:21 am

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    deb-u-naunt said...

    Correction: I just re-read the post. I DO get it now, the earrings at the pool thing… Sorry, spoke too soon.

  • 01/05/12
    9:26 am

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    Babette said...

    As a fellow wasp with a long history in the US and many of its trappings, I’ve never really understood the “high” part of this WASP blog (unless it belongs to one of my artsy cousins on holiday in Jamaica!). But. I do know what you’re talking about Lisa. Here’s my favorite example: my mother accompanied my father on business trips. They were hosts and the groups were often/always “other.” My mother told me she looked for “the woman with the worst nails.” (This was before there were manicurists on every block). Her reasoning? This woman likely had an interesting life: was an artist, loved to garden and/or would be the most likely to sleuth out museums v. shopping, the favorite activity of the masses. She was right – and she was looking for a class marker.

    All of us have things about our origins we don’t like and wrong, even evil. I’m ashamed beyond words that my ancestors might have spread small box with native americans. On purpose.

    My grandmother used to whisper “NOCD”, i.e., “not our class, dear.” My mother gave that up as have I – so I hope the negative class indicators become dilute with time and I hope the value of not showing off stands.

    01/05/12
    2:30 pm
    MJ said...

    Those of us who are WASPs but definitely not of the same class/monetary status in which you and Lisa evidently were raised can certainly understand her adding “high” to WASP as a modifier. I find it fascinating to read what Lisa has to say about her upbringing and the resulting attitudes, and I’m glad to see her try to deconstruct it.

  • 01/05/12
    9:36 am

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    Miranda said...

    My Great Grand Mother, Mayme, taught me that good manners and kindness always sets one on a higher plane. Good manners reigns over status of birth or wealth. The problem I am finding in this day and age, is many other cultures, who now live in my world, have different standards of good manners. I sincerely don’t know how to deal with this. I find myself pulling inward and my circle becoming smaller.
    Lisa, thank you for talking about things many of us don’t dare.
    Sincerely,
    Miranda
    SF Bay Area

  • 01/05/12
    9:41 am

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    Cynthia said...

    I found that in Hawaii, one meets “Us” (as in the low-key, might be local, blenders-in) more on the rainy side of the islands than on the flashy resort side. I stayed in hostel and B&B accommodations and there was none of that kind of “Other” going on, nor any High anything for that matter, just nice young people and retirees (and one summering academic) thrilled that they could make it to Hawaii at all, and eager to hit the water or hunt up the best ahi poke in town. We lacked an infinity pool but made up for it in polite cooperation about the shared coffeemaker.

    It really is interesting to me as a middle class upper Midwesterner (never in the top 1% or even 10% economically) to learn about what other people choose and emphasize when they are on vacation. I dated a man with money for a short while, and my experience of Hawaii in his company in his chosen places was totally different from my experiences and the choices I made on my own at other times. One does want to find one’s own crowd and feel comfortable there.

  • 01/05/12
    10:12 am

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    Dawn said...

    While I don’t share your pedigree, I related to every word of what you wrote. I feel like most humans have had similar experiences, whether in a biker bar or VFW hall or the Ritz. And, yes, ultimately it is what you say and what you do which matters to me most. Just be nice.

  • 01/05/12
    10:17 am

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    hostessofthehumblebungalow said...

    I had to google NOKD.
    Gosh this post seems to have stirred up a hornets nest!
    I do love how bravely you tackle subjects such as this Lisa.

    I am working class myself, and even I can relate to what Lisa is talking about here.
    I’d never talk too loud in public or make a fuss, nor would I show off as I do not like to stand out…(“blend darling blend” mother’s mantra)

    Last summer Mother, Sis and I were at a local tea room…
    I felt like we might have touched on what Lisa is blogging about
    A young woman who was with her MIL and husband out for afternoon tea…

    she was dressed in a pair of short shorts, buttocks visible at the hem
    a tiny bra top with minimal coverage, her cups runneth over…
    stiletto red heels
    a large handbag, almost a suitcase
    draped in large diamonds on every appendage including an ankle bracelet
    plumped lips and heavy make up
    we cringed and couldn’t help but sneak a few peeks, discreetly of course…

    I think we can all relate on some level to what Lisa is referring to. Mother, Sis and I were guilty of judging and we felt uncomfortable, not just in ourselves but for this young woman and we were not the only ones in that tearoom who noticed!

    But I digress…what a lovely opportunity to spend time with your family, cocooned in a resort somewhere warm with all the amenities at your fingertips.
    That image of your two children should be in a frame, it’s precious.
    My goodness your daughter looks so like you!
    Love those rubies earrings and pearls too :)
    XO

  • 01/05/12
    10:21 am

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    That's Not My Age said...

    I’m a complete slob on holiday, I even let my varicose veins hang out. You look lovely in your Karen Millen dress – and your kids are beautiful!

    Happy New Year!

  • 01/05/12
    11:02 am

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    Susan Tiner said...

    Dear Lisa, your children look beautiful and happy, you must be so proud. You are brave to write about class. I love this sentence: “You can be a snob about how someone acts, but not about who they are.” That should be a bumper sticker. Maybe I’ll make one, I get so many great comments on my “That behavior is not very attractive” bumper sticker.

    Misunderstandings happen easily when it comes to these kind of discussions. Remember our own misunderstanding? I was trying to write about reverse snobbery, failed to effectively communicate what I wanted to say and managed to upset you. I never told you how awful I felt — misunderstood, hurt, genuinely distressed. It didn’t seem appropriate at the time to layer my own feelings on top of an already fraught situation, but it’s been a year, so this seems like a good time to let you know. I was shocked that people still stereotype your culture of upbringing, that something as seemingly innocent as a table setting or university attended can set off a passionate argument about class. I was in over my head and in fact stopped writing about class because of what happened. I think you are better equipped to write about this subject, you do it well, your points are crystal clear IMO. And yet it doesn’t surprise me that people still misunderstand.

    01/07/12
    6:18 pm
    Disagree said...

    “You can be a snob about how someone acts, but not about who they are.” Actually, no, that should definitely NOT be a bumper sticker. That is an absurdly obvious way to rationalize any kind of -ism. “Oh, I don’t have a problem with black people, just the way they talk. Oh, I don’t have a problem with Mexicans, just how many kids they have. Oh, I don’t have a problem with Muslims, just how their women are veiled.” I mean, really? Is the way I act not a huge part of who I am and what I value? Should I dress, talk, walk and make major life decisions based on whether you find them too tacky for your delicate sensibilities?

    Without clarifying what kinds of actions she’s judging people on, this reeks of the very worst kind of prejudice — the kind that doesn’t stem from ignorance or stupidity, but has instead been refined into some sophisticated life philosophy by someone with the education, experience and opportunities to KNOW BETTER. Lisa, it sounds like you’ve missed the meaning of real class.

    01/07/12
    7:27 pm
    Lisa said...

    It’s so interesting, the way “class” gets used some times to mean something like dignity and grace. And yet when we talk about social class, we really mean mostly access to and use made of resources, right? Of course any trope can be misused. But it’s certainly better to base judgment on actions than on socioeconomic status. In any case, by that sentence, by how people act, I was largely referring to the way in which they treat each other. Tacky is one thing, and should be mostly overlooked, rude, hurtful, sneaky, dishonest, etc. are another. Perhaps that’s the clarification you were looking for?

    01/17/12
    1:07 pm
    Susan Tiner said...

    Hi Disagree, I disagree with you. I make judgements based on how people act and I bet you do too. It’s part of being human, making decisions about what we think is good or bad behavior. It seems the word snob is narrowly defined as making inappropriate judgments about behavior based on one’s superior social status, but that’s not how I interpreted Lisa’s use of the word in that sentence. I interpreted it to mean that I can freely use my intelligence to make judgements about behavior. You and I may disagree about what is and is not bad behavior, that’s fine, but I am entitled to my point of view, and it’s got nothing to do with one’s class, race, religion, gender or any other social distinction.

  • 01/05/12
    11:06 am

    Reply

    Princess Freckles said...

    What a neat adventure to see the sun rise from the top of such a beautiful mountain! Even if it was terribly early! I’ve never been to Hawaii. I sort of consider it a vacation spot for those living on the West Coast, but after seeing these photos, I think I’d love to plan a visit!

  • 01/05/12
    11:33 am

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    Allie von Summersverb said...

    What’s a manicure??? ;)

    Annnd, I finally broke down and wore sweats the the Whole Foods in G’wich yesterday. Granted, they were YALE sweats paired with RL cashmere but still, how else am I gonna attract friends who want to do masters swimming and brutal Insanity predawn workouts and long runs and go shoot sporting clays or plan wing hunts when I’m dolled up like a gal who does lunch day in and day out? Then again, Babe gave me a hard time for wearing fur to the grocery store at the beach last week. I just shrugged my shoulders and said I was cold and it was the warmest jacket I had packed. Which is a somewhat circuitous route to my point which is, we all have personal barometers for ferreting out OKD. My radar can land on a gal in camo just assuredly as it could one dripping in Alhambra. It’s just all about the eeeaaase in which they do so. Is it second skin, or is it a cooostume? And, there ain’t a thang wrong with trying to dissect and understand human nature and our though process. One would have to make quite a few assumptions to leap to a conclusion of snobbery, elitism or worse, breaking code GASP!

    Mr. Licoln right on the penny money when he said, “You can please some of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” And, btw, the biggest crime you committed was wearing earrings big enough to leave tan lines on your lobes :)

    01/08/12
    8:14 pm
    Christine G. said...

    I don’t think Lincoln said that, wasn’t it the circus guy?????? Can’t remember his name.

  • 01/05/12
    11:36 am

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    valentine said...

    Chlorine will ruin rubies.

  • 01/05/12
    12:44 pm

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    Marilyn @ Pink Martinis and Pearls said...

    I’m a simple woman. I like the earrings and the children huddled together and not in that particular order. :)

  • 01/05/12
    1:22 pm

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    HijabEng said...

    Sometimes, what you write seems so alien to me and other times, it feels like you took the words right out of my head. This post did both. Also, can you adopt me so I can go vacationing with you? I would TREMENDOUSLY enjoy it.

  • 01/05/12
    2:03 pm

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    DocP said...

    Of all of your posts, I enjoy the ones deconstructing class and ethnicity the most.

    01/05/12
    2:13 pm
    DocP said...

    Of course, now I feel the need to explain my comment. You write about your own experience. We all view the world through our own lens. Yours is WASP, from a family with means, and a family with a long history on this continent. There are other lenses – female, birth cohort (Boomer vs. GenX), but writing from your High WASP viewpoint aids me and others from differing backgrounds to better understand both the people (if any) from High WASP origins in our lives and the institutions founded by high WASPS that still maintain those values and viewpoints.

    01/06/12
    2:46 am
    Joan said...

    I’m with DocP– as a first-generation American who has lived in England and France (also with deeply ingrained class structures), and having been born to ex-colonialist parents, I need all the help decoding cultural mores that I can get.

    Lisa, thank you. And please keep being true to yourself.

  • 01/05/12
    2:21 pm

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    Annie said...

    What a cracker of a post Lisa. Bravo.
    Wish I was brave in my writing but alas I am not. Hence the fluff and pretty pictures.
    Beautiful children you have there…tis a gorgeous photo to be treasured.
    xx

  • 01/05/12
    2:31 pm

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    Duchesse said...

    A Four Seasons is open to anyone with the dosh (unless they wreck the joint). For Real snobs, is is *essential* to belong to clubs and private communities where they are insulated from any behaviour that is not correct- that is, just like theirs. Voices may not be raised but plenty goes on.

    The rest of us navigate the democracy the hotel proffers. And I think we are the better for it.

    I loved, loved loved seeing your children and am delighted that you wore those honkin’ earrings to the pool. Even if not “you”, such caprice!

  • 01/05/12
    2:38 pm

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    Flo said...

    Chewing my unmanicured fingernails lower and lower as I read down through the comments, brave is what you are, yes we all agree on that. I’m even kinda hesitant to make a comment but am overjoyed that Babette’s mother would come sit by me after this job I’ve done gnawing anxiously on my hands.

    When I got to your children, I sat forward and uttered aloud “Oh she’s showing them to us at lassssst!” I’m sure you had to get their consent, so please thank them both for sharing themselves with us!

  • 01/05/12
    3:41 pm

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    Christine said...

    I don’t read frequently enough for your post not to seem haughty. Are you deconstructing “High Wasp” or admitting it?

    I know some High Wasp people. What frustrates me is their inability to even recognize their behaviour is rude or inappropriate. I’m glad you seem to recognize the humour of it, but sometimes your words seem judgemental towards the “others”

  • 01/05/12
    3:43 pm

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    déjà pseu said...

    Lisa, your children are gorgeous. I see so much of you in them. That picture of them huddled together is priceless.

    I love reading your reflections on deconstructing our notions of class and dress and behavior. It’s a very hard thing to discuss sensitively yet I think you do so. I’m wary of the flashy, and the brash, the loudly imperious and the attention-seeking. We all carry some sort of cultural baggage, and it’s good to unpack and examine the contents from time to time.

  • 01/05/12
    3:51 pm

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    southernWasp said...

    Lisa, thanks for this thought-provoking post! I understood what you were trying to get across and it made perfect sense to me…it’s a rare individual who does not notice ‘otherness’ when out in the world. Also, loved the photos – the last one of your kids was great! Thanks for sharing.

  • 01/05/12
    4:45 pm

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    Peg Nicholson said...

    Love your willingness to discuss class – so few have the courage. I LOVE your HW content. Without you I would not have labeled my sensibilities as High Wasp (three generations with the family fortune impaired covers it up rather well!) At Princeton, we used to say that one could discuss anything, so long as it was done over sherry, and voices were not raised. A long a the sherry is applied quickly, I believe we are fine.

  • 01/05/12
    4:48 pm

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    Muffy Martini said...

    I could comment on the post or the comments that were left but forget all that– PICTURES OF YOUR CHILDREN!!! I’ve wondered so long what they look like! What a delight– what GOOD LOOKING OFFSPRING! Bravo, Lisa. Well done. Gorgeous kids.

  • 01/05/12
    5:01 pm

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    RoseAG said...

    I think you’ve made an excellent point about righteous snobbiness. It’s low-class to pull yourself up by putting others down.

    I’m going to Cancun with my husband in February. Do I need to pack some bling for poolside lounging?

  • 01/05/12
    5:25 pm

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    K-Line said...

    Genius: You can be a snob about how people act, but not about how they are. This is SO true!

  • 01/05/12
    9:41 pm

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    Terri said...

    What a beautiful post. Love the last photo of the children and the beautiful Karen Millen dress. I had relatives in Hawaii about the same time and they too complained of the cold, while all of us in the midwest rolled our eyes…

    I am forever uncovered remnants in myself of othering others. Have you seen the video Sh*t White Girls Say? (http://youtu.be/ylPUzxpIBe0). I laughed and then saw the truth in it.

  • 01/05/12
    9:42 pm

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    Terri said...

    Uncovering, not uncovered.

  • 01/06/12
    2:36 am

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    Paula said...

    I thought all the money was gone? Could you still afford all the bling?

    My sister has invited me to join her family to their annual resort stay and I turned her down each and every time so far. Even having only farmers and weavers as ancestors, I am not good at overhearing the Others when they talk too loud.

    In Western Europe the Others are the Russians. I don’t like me disliking them only because they behave loud in every way. I even considered learning Russian, only to understand how they tick. Because no one is abhorrent per se.

    Actually I can’t even join the colleages on their daily lunch break, which already turns into some kind of a resort for me.

    Would WASPS go on a educational trip? Friend B and I will go on our first ever group trip to Sicily. We are excited and don’t know what to expect. But one thing we know for sure: we are going to lay in bed after dinner, lights out and we will talk about all the oddities we’ve observed during the day, because that’s how we are, we love to contemplate. And I am not talking antique statues and Italian food here, but group members.

    I read your posting as a Pillow Talk to a friend at night, when the lights are already out, before going to sleep.

  • 01/06/12
    4:57 am

    Reply

    01/06/12
    7:24 am
    Flo said...

    Perfect.

  • 01/06/12
    5:28 am

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    Beth Dunn said...

    I’ve always dressed as if I’m on vacation even when at home. It puts in a good mood! But I love wearing jewelry even when I’m on vacation.
    xoxo
    SC

  • 01/06/12
    6:47 am

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    Susan said...

    I was amazed when I saw/read all the comments. I thought the post was excellent and I DO hope that you will continue to write about class—often. I was puzzled a first when I stumbled upon your blog (I’ve forgotten how), but now, I feel like I am reading the musings of a friend and would miss your explanation of the “high wasp” culture if you stopped writing about it.

    This post is one of your classics and will be a hard act to follow! Please try.

  • 01/06/12
    7:31 am

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    Jan – There’s one in every crowd:). In my next life I’m going to channel some of your spirit.

    Danielle – Thanks. I would love to go again and see the full moon. Even better, one can dash out, look, get back in the car:).

    QBS – Maybe some day you and MoMo will come to SF for a mother-daughter trip and we’ll gather somewhere for drinks. After all, one has to keep touch with one’s neighbors, no? I need a picture of the kids for my office. This might be it.

    Alice – Thank you very much.

    Kathy – Thank you for the frank comment. The whole High WASP trope here is very difficult communicate in less than 1000 words, and clearly I need to pay more attention.

  • 01/06/12
    7:33 am

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    Lisa said...

    Parnassus – Yes, exactly, glass houses and all that. Haleakala was an entire experience, the wait, the cold, as much as the eventual sunrise. Bibulous! Perfect.

    Mater – So thoughtful, as always. If you had met me and then thought I was a jerk, well then, I’d really be in trouble:). Complex issues like this – complex both in society and in my emotional makeup, are so difficult to write about in enough detail without it being pedantic, or overly confessional.

    Stephanie – Thank you for your kind words about my kids. And I think your phrase, my right to have fun in public ends when it disturbs someone else’s enjoyment is the crux of this. The gray area in there is where judgments arise, and it seems like a good task of this decade for me to tease this all out.

    Patsy – Well, there you go. True dat.

    frugalscholar – If I don’t recognize you as Others, then, in the real and valuable part of community, you are not Other. If that makes sense. For example, I’ve found that I share in many ways the most similar experiences with other children of professors. No matter the class of ethnicity.

  • 01/06/12
    7:33 am

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    Lee – Exactly, I too try to find the good in others first. Not virtue on my part, just a happier way to approach the world. Looking back, I am sure that part of my reaction was simply because the resort was very full for the Christmas season, so behaviors that were not harmful, just intrusive or unsupportive of my values, impinged on my space. Your comments are so intelligent and well-written – thank you for participating.

    Elatia – Ha! Love your attitude. Let us cease to hush the whole sich up! Thank you.

    Patxi – Thank you very much. I agree – this issue has been there all along. If I look back at my life it’s had all kinds of impact that I didn’t understand at all. Things I used to think were personal, I now understand to have had a large class component. And I’d be glad if you emailed me your reading list. skyepeale at yahoo dot com.

    Mary Anne – Thanks. I appreciate so much comments from all points of view. Those who upbraid me, although it’s hard, and those who cheer me on. I believe both reactions are warranted – at least I hope the cheering is:).

    Liz – I have nothing but respect and admiration for those who come from fewer resources than I, and manage to live by values that include generosity, integrity, and excellence. I use the term High simply to distinguish between the literal acronym, White Anglo Saxon Protestant, and the class I’m describing. Although, you’re right, anyone identifying themselves as high anything is walking that line of I’m So Great. That’s the thing I wrestle with. Oh, and the earrings, I didn’t wear them to make fun of anyone. I wore them to experiment with my own desire to participate in sparkle, in the aesthetic in which I found myself, and to see if it was fun to walk around looking fancy by the pool. It wasn’t:).

    01/07/12
    9:48 am
    Lee Rosenthall said...

    You’re so sweet! Thank you for your kind words. The fact that you take the time to respond to comments is one of the things I most appreciate about your blog. That and the subject matter. I love a good discussion about fashion as much as the next gal, but it’s the larger discussion about class in America that actually brought me here, so please don’t shy away from the subject!

    01/07/12
    2:00 pm
    Anonym said...

    The whole NOKD thing is interesting to me- my family is largely Italian, so we were the “Official Others”, as it were, and there seems to have been a constant drive to hide that, to match the dominant culture- in things like my mother’s kneejerk reaction to her sister’s (gorgeous) brick facade on her house as being “too Italian”, and for me, trying to quell unwarranted embarrassment at my family when my husband and I were getting married (his family are a lot quieter and less demonstrative than mine- we relate to Nia’s family in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” very easily).

    I think there is a danger in assuming culture=manners- if we were disruptive in public, I’d have been right to be embarrassed, but its a different way of trying to put people at there ease. Noise is not always a bad thing.

    01/07/12
    7:22 pm
    Lisa said...

    Anonym – Very interesting to call Italians the official others. There’s so much truth to that, look for example at A Room With A View, where a trip to Italy is license for all kinds of otherwise forbidden stuff. I couldn’t agree more that noise is not always a bad thing. I have said this before, I think, but I’ll say it again. My years with Chinese-American colleagues were the catalyst to cracking open my approach to my culture. They would ask me questions that would have been uncomfortable in my culture, and we had worked together for so long that I was very comfortable in answering.

  • 01/06/12
    7:37 am

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    M_NW – That is a great story. Thank you. Writing about class is both extraordinarily demanding and very rewarding. The rewards are the fantastic comments – as I’ve said both those who question and those who support. Interesting that you had similar observations about the same spot. I should say, the hotel itself didn’t seem to invite the behavior, at least it wasn’t echoed by any of the staff.

    frachellea – Spot on. Truly difficult clearly means harming others. The rest is gray, and is exactly where social bias flourishes. Or, with some effort, cultural understanding.

    The gold digger – I even try to remain neutral around a whole set of clothing choices:).

    Bev – Aw. Thank you. “Those of us who are always urging the privileged to recognize the privilege are sometimes taken aback by the process as it unfolds.” Well said. Also, in these conversations, all Otherness can fall right away, no matter the variance in origins.

    deb-un-naunt – Well clearly you understand exactly:).

  • 01/06/12
    8:57 am

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    Alan B. said...

    Love the pic in the tank top!

  • 01/06/12
    9:01 am

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    Buckeroomama said...

    Wow. I know I could count of having a great read whenever I come here –no matter what you write about. This one, however, gave me extra interesting reads by way of the comments. :)

    I am not going to jump in and add to the debate, but do allow me to say how beautiful your children are. Odd to call them children when they’re grown-ups already, but to a mother, I am sure they will be forever “children” in our hearts.

  • 01/06/12
    9:06 am

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    maven said...

    Really, everyone!

    The name of the blog is “Privilege” and even though I think that Lisa means that in a semi-ironic way, if one is too thin-skinned or non-curious in an academic sense to discuss social class, what is one doing here after all?

    Lisa, I think that you are very brave and I love being able to come here and see what you have to say about things.

  • 01/06/12
    10:34 am

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    Town and Country Mom said...

    Quite a lot to think about here and more than I could respond to in a comment. It is interesting to me that no matter what our present circumstances are, we seek to define our identity by our similarities to or differences from others. I’m certainly guilty of it, and I think travel, particularly vacation travel, offers the most fertile ground for playing the “what’s different?” game. Everyone is out of her native environment, and perhaps more telling, we’ve all consciously selected the personal props we bring to project the image we desire–from earrings to reading material to shoes.

  • 01/06/12
    11:34 am

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    The Preppy Princess said...

    Here’s what strikes me about this entire topic, the post *and* the comments and then Lisa’s feedback on those comments: it has been done with civility, a lack of name-calling or personally disparaging comments. And that’s saying something, a lot actually, about the ethos and culture Lisa has created here. Frankly, it epitomizes one of the ‘truths’ in the post: we are frequently more comfortable in the company of those who share a common bond (this blog) and behave in similar ways (discussing difficult, often painful topics in a polite and respectful fashion).

    My admiration for your bravery in writing about such a hot-button topic is enormous, thank you for stepping out on the ledge. *And* for sharing that darling photo of your children. (I remain horrified however about the earrings. Gasp.)

    Sending you a smile,
    tp

  • 01/06/12
    12:43 pm

    Reply

    Paula said...

    I tried to tell Mr Paula about the topic and I could not explain it – I don’t know who exactly you Others are. Maybe you will explain it in the near future?
    I would like to get a clearer picture of the other classes. I do understand the concept of being a WASP or high WASP. What I don’t get is the impact. Have the WASPS been granted exclusive access to resorts in the past? If so, how did the resorts make sure only the right people got in? Was a surname enough proof you were worthy? And were there enough WASPS to visit the resorts?
    Or is the stay at a resort a whole new concept for your familiy?

    I guess I live very, very far from any kind of class-systems. Over here in Europe, in a non-Anglo-Saxon country, class is defined by other terms then in the US. Babette mentioned the long history her family has in the US. Well, in Europe we all have been around for centuries, a short history does not exist. It probably goes as far back as your ancestors were able to trace the traces in birth-registers and tombstones.

    01/06/12
    8:39 pm
    virago said...

    Paula,

    I’m from Maine, in the northeastern U.S., home to many WASPs, both High and Low.

    Our state is largely rural and picturesque, and its ocean- and lakeside resorts have been popular with summer visitors from major metropolitan areas (such as Boston and New York City) since the 19th century, when the establishment of train service supported mass tourism.

    At the risk of opening another can of worms, I will point out that when city residents started coming to Maine to vacation here, resorts in the state established policies barring Jewish guests. (Sadly, I have no doubt that this is true of many other regions of the U.S. — I am using Maine as just one example.)

    You ask a good question: “Have the WASPS been granted exclusive access to resorts in the past? If so, how did the resorts make sure only the right people got in? Was a surname enough proof you were worthy?”

    A student of Jewish history at Colby College, a small liberal arts college in Maine, talked with Sara Miller Arnon, a Jewish woman who was born and brought up in Maine.

    In the 1950s, Arnon’s mother, Gisele, had volunteered with a civil rights group, the Anti-Defamation League, to expose Maine hotel proprietors’ anti-Semitic policies.

    Here is one egregious example of how the WASP resorts made sure that “only the right people got in”:

    “One of the things that she [Gisele Miller] did in those days is she made reservations at places on the coast as Mrs. Howard Miller, which was her name, then she showed up and gave her name as Mrs. Howard Levine, and they never had her reservation for her.”

    (Here’s a link to the website from which this information was taken: http://web.colby.edu/jewsinmaine/kennebec/recreation/. Scroll down until you see “Discrimination at Resorts,” which touches on anti-Semitism in the U.S. in general and Maine in particular.)

    This is a fascinating discussion, and I could write a much longer post, but I didn’t want to overwhelm anyone! (As a graduate student, I’m always tempted to assemble a reading list whenever a subject interests me.)

    01/07/12
    11:10 am
    Lisa said...

    Viragao – Thank you so much for this link, and answering these questions. Resorts and country clubs have played such a part in class discrimination, you’re right.

  • 01/06/12
    2:47 pm

    Reply

    maven said...

    Paula,

    I think that what Europeans often don’t understand is that many American high WASPS can trace their ancestors to Virginia 1620 and New Amsterdam 1625(now New York) AND to Charlemagne and probably further. (This is my case.) I don’t say this to boast – many of us are a very mixed lot. I had a grandfather that only had an eigth grade education, while my grandmother held a master’s degree she obtained in 1910 – not very common. Additionally, I decend from a Native American woman who married a follower of Daniel Boone as he led settlers into Kentucky. The same independent character that brought my ancestors here is one of the best things about current recent immigants. The chapter of the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution), to which I belong, has a welcoming reception after our local citizenship ceremony. We welcome our new citizens!

    Americans don’t really like to discuss social class. I would recommend the book “Class” by Paul Fussell if you want to understand the finer points of this topic. The book is a bit dated, but it still points out some real truth about the American class system.

    01/07/12
    5:51 am
    Paula said...

    virago, thank you for this insight!

    maven, I am off to the public library, the book is available!
    before returning to Lisa’s blog I have browsed the library’s catalogue, now I know what to look for. :-)

    Lisa, thank you for enabling the exchange of ideas and opinions here.
    Having seen your children’s photo, I see what you are missing, everytime they leave/go back home.

  • 01/06/12
    6:12 pm

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    Loretta said...

    Such lively comment buzz! I love to read everyone’s reactions. To be brutally honest, I’ve never quite understood how the whole “High Wasp” archetype is relevant in today’s world and wondered how as a contemporary woman it still defined your perspective.

    Unfortunately, for me it brings back bad memories of my Catholic school days when the Irish girls with the long hair, circle pins, Weejuns, and kilts would not invite we Italian, Polish, or black girls to their sleepovers in their big houses, despite our straightened hair, circle pins, Weejuns, and kilts.

    I think the difference is that I have read so many intelligent, caring, generous and sensitive posts from you (not that this one wasn’t any of those things) that it completely balances out your personality.

    Perhaps the more palatable and pc distinction would be to call it a “culture” rather than a “class”. After all, we all understand what you mean. I’d be hard pressed to want to go on a vacation with a resort full of Kardashians or Orange County Housewives, (and that is what I think you were describing), but I fool myself into feeling better about it if I consider it a different “culture” than a different “class”.

  • 01/06/12
    6:48 pm

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    Melissa said...

    Hurrah for weird family adventures as Bedouin mendicants – though I’ll also take some poking fun by the pool.

    That being said, though, you raise an excellent point about being careful with the NOKD business . . . I’m ashamed that I’m only just learning the lesson, in some instances. Case in point – marrying into an Italian-Catholic family that doesn’t give a hoot about the WASP stuff has been a working experiment in examining my own prejudices.

    And *that* being said, I’m still going to monogram most of what I can get my hands on, marriage or no.

    PS – that “Class” book mentioned in a comment above really is fascinating, definitely worth tracking down.

  • 01/06/12
    8:07 pm

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    Babette – The woman with the worst nails! Sturdy Gals, unite! But it is a class marker in this day and age. I personally ashamed of my ancestors funding railroads on the backs of Chinese immigrants. These things come round over the generations, I’m finding. And the High thing I started to use only because I was annoyed at the usage of the broad acronym WASP to apply only to this narrow segment of the WASP demographic. More linguistic than anything else, I guess.

    MJ – Thank you.

    Miranda – Thank you for bringing your great-grandmother to the table here. I hope that the discussion might feel like a little widening of the circle. It’s kind of easier to do online, in some ways.

    Cynthia – That’s so interesting, as I found the same thing on Oahu. In other words, if I imagine myself moving there it’d be to a little place on the North Shore.

    Dawn – Thank you. Just be nice. I keep trying:). And love the spectrum from biker bar to VFW to the Ritz.

  • 01/06/12
    8:24 pm

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    Hostess – These are some very polite hornets, so I’m OK with it:). I am hoping to frame the photo of my kids, but first I have to decide how to get it printed. You know, I have to wonder, how did the MIL of that young woman feel?

    That’s Not My Age – I admire your spirit. Thanks a million, and Happy New Year to you to!

    Susan – I am very proud. And I will never forget our misunderstanding, and I appreciate you telling me how you felt. You know, I think I’m in over my head too, really, but since it brings me so much clarity, I just keep almost drowning:).

    Princess – It would be really hard not to like Hawaii – it’s such a beautiful spot, with such a wonderful and historic culture.

    Allie – Hahahaha. Codes are kind of made to be broken, no? So if so, break them with panache. You’ve got it in spades. Go on with your bad self:).

  • 01/06/12
    8:53 pm

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    virago said...

    OK, I couldn’t stop myself.

    I did a Google search for the phrase “not our kind dear” used in connection with the adjective “Jewish,” and I found this, quoting columnist Kathleen Parker on Elena Kagan, the Jewish woman whose nomination to the Supreme Court was then awaiting confirmation:

    “More than half the country also happens to be Protestant, yet with Kagan, the court will feature three Jews, six Catholics and nary a Protestant. Fewer than one-fourth of Americans are Catholic, and 1.7 percent are Jewish.” But Parker held up Catholic justices (Antonin) Scalia and Samuel Alito as exemplars of the mainstream, so it’s not their religion that puts them beyond the pale — just Kagan’s, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s and Steven Breyer’s.

    From the website of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, the liberal media criticism organization:
    http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=4171. Scroll down to “Elena Kagan Is Not Our Kind, Dear.”

    01/07/12
    11:21 am
    Lisa said...

    Yes. The recent shift in the Supreme Court makeup has been sort of a chemical marker for the broader changes in society, and has been commented on as such. Let us cheer.

    01/07/12
    5:41 pm
    virago said...

    And cheer I did, especially during her confirmation hearings, when she more than proved her comic chops:

    Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, was about to ask Kagan whether terrorists like the Christmas Day bomber in Detroit should be given Miranda warnings before being questioned for intelligence information.

    “Where were you on Christmas Day?” Graham asked, setting up his line of questioning.

    Kagan could see where he was headed and attempted to dodge the question. “That is an undecided legal issue,” she said.

    Graham persisted. “I just asked you where you were on Christmas?”

    A gleam appeared in Kagan’s eye. She laughed out loud. “You know, like all Jews, I was probably in a Chinese restaurant.”

    (From http://tinyurl.com/2d7l4r2)

    01/07/12
    7:21 pm
    Lisa said...

    And let me add only that my entire family spent Christmas Eve at a Chinese restaurant this year, to honor that tradition and a few others. Still cheering.

  • 01/06/12
    9:25 pm

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    Melissa said...

    I’m logging back on here because I cannot believe I forgot to mention how stunning your children are. You know that, of course, but sometimes it’s fun to hear it from an Invisible Internet Friend too. Thank you for sharing that moment and your thoughts on this topic generally – I vote for more of each, whatever that’s worth – with us.

  • 01/07/12
    6:57 am

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    Mardel said...

    I thought this was a beautiful, well stated and thoughtful post. I kind of got lost in all the comments for a while, which is why I am late coming here. It is a brave topic as well, because we humans tend to be clannish sorts and the distinction between “us” and “other” is universal and takes many forms. I tend to feel the most comfortable with the distinction between how one behaves versus who one is but even that can be a difficult and loaded proposition. I find myself constantly deconstructing my own attitudes and views of the world, shaped as they are by both my experiences and the experiences and expectations of the generations prior to myself as they were passed on to me.

    I’ve stayed in a lot of places in my years, from luxury resorts, to flea-bag hotels covered with ants and/or holes in the bathroom walls. I’ve met interesting and congenial people in all environments and think the world is a better place for this co-mingling of sensibilities and circumstances. I do however admit to liking a luxury resort; I admit to enjoying the feeling of being cosseted, of not necessarily having to drive to dinner, just as I enjoy really nice things, and it is my choice to occasionally indulge in them. In some resorts, I miss that more low-key, “we are here and can enjoy” attitude and it seems to be a dying thing in many ways, that ability to just enjoy one’s privilege, or good fortune, and just get on with life. What struck me in this post was that feeling of unease that brought out the earrings at the pool, the feeling of wanting to just enjoy a place without it becoming yet another competition to prove who has or is more, and the basic human need to try to feel a part of a group and the wisdom to know and admit one’s own limits.

    I do hope you continue writing these posts, and I applaud you in creating a space whee people mostly voice their opinions in a polite and civil way.

  • 01/07/12
    8:20 am

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    Flo said...

    The winner of the 2012 New Year Blogger Pure Bravery Award is going to have to be split this year between our very own beautifulgeniusLisa and Dominique Browning [who has taken on men v. women in her most recent blog post entitled "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle"!] ACK! I salute you both

  • 01/07/12
    9:32 am

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    Lee Rosenthall said...

    I wasn’t going to comment again, but I got so excited when I saw another recommendation for Paul Fussell’s “Class,” that I had to log back on. Such an entertaining and informative little book. And he leaves no class unscathed!

    I’d love to see your “suggested reading list,” virago, as this is a subject that has facinated me since my early teens. I actually had the privilege of taking a class with the late great sociologist E. Digby Baltzell, when I was a student at Penn in the early 1980s. It was called “Social Stratifications” and explained so much about the history of the “invisible” social classes in our relatively young nation. It was where I learned the term “meritocracy” and other illuminative perspectives.

    Paul Fussell actually came to teach English at Penn the year I graduated, so alas I never got to take his class, but I have a feeling he would have intimidated the hell out of me. Not a nice man, from what I’ve read!

    Digby Baltzell has been credited with coining the term “WASP,” by the way, although I don’t think that’s true. I believe he popularized it though and made it a household term. He used to ride around campus on his bicycle in his old tweed suits and was as charming as can be. He looked like a Kennedy, but as a WASP he was “better bred.” ;-)

    His obituaries here might help inform this discussion even further:

    http://articles.philly.com/1996-08-20/news/25645683_1_wasp-memorial-service-caste

    http://www.nytimes.com/1996/08/20/us/e-digby-baltzell-dies-at-80-studied-wasp-s.html?scp=1&sq=digby%20baltzell&st=cse

    01/07/12
    11:22 am
    Paula said...

    Lee, I am back from the library and I happily brought home the class-book. Let alone the exercises in the last chapter – how to figure out, which class someone belongs to. ( I had to thumb through the book) His descriptions are so precise! I am looking forward to reading the book.

    But: the german title is “Cashmere, Cocktail Cadillac”. A guide through the status system in the US. :-o

  • 01/07/12
    10:28 am

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    Valentine – Ha! Priceless! Focus on what matters, really. Thank you.

    Marilyn – Yours is my favorite kind of simplicity:).

    HijabEng – What a wonderful description. And you bet. We’ll start the proceedings right away:).

    DocP – Your intelligent approach to most everything you talk about never ceases to make me happy.

    Joan – Oh, no, thank you. I will do my best. You guys keep me trying.

  • 01/07/12
    10:28 am

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    Annie – Aw. Thank you. I don’t feel brave, only compelled. Pretty pictures serve a very valuable service in this world.

    Duchesse – The dosh! God I love language. “The rest of us navigate the democracy…” Yes, exactly. And my father forbade us to join country clubs. Kudos to him. I was happy to finally show you my kids. And love that you appreciated those earrings. They aren’t so big:), if you compare them to the size of the sequins on the bikini. And that, my friend, is a sentence I never figured I’d write.

    Flo – Oh my dear. Not brave. Just a genetic blurter of what I feel and see. I did get the kids’ consent, of course, as you would know. They read the blog, so I imagine they have seen your thanks.

    Christine – I am doing both, admitting it, since I haven’t been able to evolve completely beyond the less admirable aspects, and deconstructing it. Tough to pull off, I know. I am both judgmental and then distancing myself from my own judgments and judging myself. Trying to have both emotions and thoughts at the same time. Probably I’m in over my head, but I don’t really have an alternative that’s truthtful.

    Deja – Thank you very much. You’re my compatriot in the unpacking, it’s good to have company.

  • 01/07/12
    10:41 am

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    BTW, everyone, I want to respond to all the comments. If I miss anyone, and you want to bring it to my attention, please email me and I’ll correct my mistake. I appreciate this community and discourse and would like to honor the time and thought everybody puts into their words.

  • 01/07/12
    11:38 am

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    southernWasp – You are more than welcome. It’s a real privilege in my life to share with you guys.

    Peg – Oh yes. Sherry until 4pm. I believe we’ve moved on through refrigerator white wine to after dinner scotch. I will do my best to keep up this content. It is more demanding, but of course also more rewarding to me. Thank you.

    Muffy – Yes! The pictures of my kids are kind of like, um, here, I have to say some sticky stuff but see! I have children! I love them! They were good sports about letting me put up their picture. Thank you:). Warms a mother’s heart.

    RoseAG – Ha! No bling! However, I think the tropics require caftans at our age. My sarong was no longer sufficient:).

    K-Line – Thank you so much.

  • 01/07/12
    11:38 am

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    Terri – Thanks. And yes, this. “I am forever uncovering remnants in myself of othering others.” That video is so painful.

    Paula – The bulk of the family fortune is gone. Enough remains for bling and the occasional foray. WASPs love educational trips. I believe we must be among the greatest supporters of Lindblad Cruise Lines. Others have answered your questions here much better than I could.

    Fuji – Yes.

    Beth Dunn – Irrepressible spirits are a great gift to the world.

    Susan – Writing about class is way more demanding than what I wear, or what I might want to wear:). But I will keep it up as much as I can. The thing is, that book I’ve talked about? Guess what the topic would be:). Thank you so much for persisting past your puzzlement. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your comment.

  • 01/07/12
    11:38 am

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    Alan B. – Ha! Gotta love the male singular focus:). Brings a smile to my face, even as I shake my head a bit.

    Buckeroomama – I know! The comments, right? I am so happy to have you meet my children, since I have enjoyed yours more than I can say, over these past couple of years.

    maven – Oh thank you. I feel undeserving, as one does in my culture, when one provokes a stir:). As long as you’re willing to read, I will continue trying to muster up the thoughts and guts to write.

    Town and Country Mom – That’s an interesting perspective, and one I hadn’t even gotten to in my thoughts. Kind of reminds me too, of the Sesame Street song, One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other.

    TPP – Oh Queen of Civility, how I appreciate your support. I shall not, as you can imagine, repeat the earrings experiment. I have, however, determined that I have reached The Age Of The Caftan.

  • 01/07/12
    11:39 am

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    Loretta – The High WASP archetype has declining relevance, that’s probably why I can talk about it, as the personal meaning has finally begun to usurp the larger political meaning. You say you have “wondered how as a contemporary woman it still defined your perspective.” Well, just in the way that anyone’s background colors their perspective. As we get older, and with any hope wiser, we might be able to develop a secondary perspective on that perspective, but I think early views rarely disappear altogether from our consciousness. And yes, as my culture becomes less loosely coupled to an economic class, i.e. fading family fortunes and all, it is less of a class.

    Melissa – Monogram with exuberance then:). And thanks for the kind words about my babies, grown as they are.

    Mardel – You echo my own thoughts and reactions so closely. And you honed in on the unease that led me to put on the earrings. My culture places the highest value on Appropriate, and when we find ourselves in other cultures, we are compelled to try to play along. I thank you for contributing so much thought and concordant civility.

    Flo – Oh I have to tell you all I am not brave. Just a blurter. Really. I have no choice in this stuff, it’s innate. Thank you for the link. I think Dominique is right.

    Lee – Yes, I think a suggested reading list from both Virago and Paxti would be wonderful. Both of you, please feel free to email me the lists and I will make a post dedicated to all of us forging a common understanding.

  • 01/07/12
    3:07 pm

    Reply

    Pam said...

    After all the above, I hope my simple thank you will suffice.

    01/07/12
    7:32 pm
    Lisa said...

    Brilliant:). Thank you.

  • 01/08/12
    8:36 am

    Reply

    B_pseudo said...

    I am inclined to feel as Liz does. I think your style posts are fabulous, and obviously you are a great writer. I found myself here via minimalist and stayed because of your writing, but the high wasp (lower case) mentions have always seemed more “not our kind, dear” than the wasp behaviors themselves. That is, the irony of extolling one’s wealth and past greater wealth is the faux pas, no matter that one’s ancestors were the people setting that standard.

    It is interesting, because in some ways, as a non-high wasp (and I am 26, if that makes a difference), it’s better to read the uncensored honesty — and think, “so that is how this class thinks of me.” Maybe not all, but certainly the history af undervaluing me is there.

    Maybe some people think I am over thinking it or being too sensitive, but I actually also get that feeling when another class of people also refer to the lofty status they used to enjoy and lament it. And that class of people are men, whether they are preventing women from entering Princeton or its exclusive eating clubs, whether complaining about oversensitive feminists (who obviously complain because they can never get a man), and so on. I understand the inclination in their case to remark on differences and “how it used to be” and maybe even how gracious they are for acceding without too much complaint (and praised for their honesty too). But for us women, it’s frankly just been a battle to be acknowledged, and frankly, it should’ve always been this way, and it’s been a long time coming.

  • 01/08/12
    9:18 am

    Reply

    Susan said...

    I want to see the reading list also Please post it here!

  • 01/08/12
    4:04 pm

    Reply

    staircase witch said...

    Wow. What a post and what a discussion I’ve come late to. While you were apparently swanning about your five star Hawaiian resort in a bikini and shiny ruby and diamond sunbursts ;) I spent the last week paddling the backcountry of the Everglades and hobnobbing with the locals, who are of the Very Best Society and whose frequent lapses of etiquette– such as regurgitating half-digested sushi or, as I observed on one occasion, lying motionless on the beach in an apparent drunken stupor before suddenly ambushing and devouring a fellow diner whole– I not only tolerated but avidly photographed. I have further thoughts but will put them in order from my cheerfully kitschy little beach motel on the Gulf.

  • 01/08/12
    4:33 pm

    Reply

    Jill said...

    Maybe it’s a good thing I don’t get many comments!

  • 01/08/12
    6:28 pm

    Reply

    joanne said...

    Small minded, the post and the comments.
    I am most definitely not one of your kind, for which I am grateful.

  • 01/08/12
    6:43 pm

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    B_pseudo – I can only apologize if you have felt my references to the culture were NOKD. And if discussing the phenomena is worse than the phenomena itself, well, what option do I have? Silence only? This post and the aftermath has worn on me. I didn’t know the response would be so strong, but have felt responsible to answer all comments so as to keep the discussion open. And I suppose hoping to prove that I am not myself a haughty person complaining of oversensitivity. Prove it to myself as much as to anyone else. At a guess, the ratio of supportive comments to condemning ones is about right, correctly proportioned probably to the goodness or not so goodness of my motives in all this. All I can say is that this is quite hard, and I am doing my best.

    Staircase – Next time I’ll join you. A beach is a beach.

    Jill – Um, yeah.

    Joanne – Hmm. The last thing I’d accuse myself of is small-mindedness. The desire to show off, insecurity, all sorts of stuff. But this I just don’t get. Oof. Long comment thread. I’m still reading every one and trying to reply. I may run out of emotional stamina at some point. Finally, the comments are not small-minded. How can you say that? I’ll offer myself up to be pilloried, but please leave the other commenters out of it, OK?

  • 01/08/12
    7:51 pm

    Reply

    Christine G. said...

    As member of second generation of immigrant families sourced from both Europe and Mexico, and product of a working class family (now gratefully ensconced firmly in the middle class), I just want to say:

    Isn’t Haleakala gorgeous?!!!

    I also want to mention that I found Maui to be a rather sterile version of Hawaiian culture (Louis Vuitton stores???). I enjoyed The Big Island so much more, especially as we were there during the Merrie Monarch Festival. The hula Olympics!

    That’s all. Love your blog, even if I’m NYKD. :)

    01/08/12
    8:00 pm
    Lisa said...

    Christine – Well, you’re my kind:). I also like the Big Island, and the North Shore of Oahu, and any encounter I’ve had with the Hawaiian culture. BTW, I have never heard anyone in my family, ever, use the term NOKD:).

  • 01/09/12
    11:45 am

    Reply

    Lynn said...

    After 100+ comment about class, comfort, and personal growth, I’m still trying to figure out the bikini. What I see looks like a knit, but not fine enough in gauge or sufficiently fast-drying to wear in the water. How deeply puzzling.

  • 01/10/12
    11:34 am

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    Englishvers said...

    Goods heavens – what a debate!
    Firstly, I can’t stand the word “Class” – it ought to be banned from social language.

  • 01/11/12
    5:27 am

    Reply

    SusanB said...

    Lisa, let me say up front that I grew up working class, but with a mother who grew up upper middle class and thought that she should really be privileged:) My father was working class through and through and actually had quite a lot of disdain for my mother’s “snooty ways”. Perhaps that explains my mess of a brain and also my fascination with your blog.

    Anyway, I just wanted to say that I think that you are quite brave to take on such hot button topics and I, for one, appreciate your honesty. This was a really great post and the responses to it are part of the fun (although I am surprised at how hostile a few people are to you). You go, girl.

    01/11/12
    10:09 am
    Paula said...

    SusanB, I would love to visit your blog, too. If there is one? Your name / the icon won’t link towards it.

  • 01/11/12
    10:37 am

    Reply

    Mrs. Lynch said...

    As always, I loved your post. I think that many blogs have become fluffy, where it’s more about what one is doing or where they’re going and what they think is cute than sharing important thoughts and dissecting things that many are uncomfortable to discuss. Class will always be there. I’m a first generation American (West Indian parents) and my husband is American all the way and I even tend to dissect things we do differently, which may be caused by how we were brought up. It is the elephant in the room, but I think you tackled it beautifully. It would be beneficial to all of us to step out and meet someone who may not be like us. What they may add to our life may just be happy chaos; a much needed change or a chance to see things differently, as long as the relationship is mutually beneficial. There are many times where I want a friend who is different. Different political affiliation, different race, they like different music, etc. But before I forget, your children are beautiful and I can only imagine that they are as thoughtful, intelligent and fashionable as their mom.

  • 01/11/12
    4:45 pm

    Reply

    SusanB. said...

    Paula, no blog here, but thanks for asking.

  • 01/12/12
    6:41 am

    Reply

    Flo said...

    Slipping this under the wire as I find it pertinent to the discussion. Headlining at HuffPo today:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/11/pew-survey-class-conflict_n_1200176.html

  • 01/12/12
    6:45 pm

    Reply

    WestDoc said...

    Delurking to say how impressed I am with the grace and caring with which you have responded to the comments, particularly the ‘gently critical’ ones. In your initial post, I could grasp your intended self-exploration and self-challenging, but found some of the connecting interpretation to be occasionally sparse or ambiguous. The clarification “by how people act, I was largely referring to the way in which they treat each other. Tacky is one thing, and should be mostly overlooked, rude, hurtful, sneaky, dishonest, etc. are another.” cuts beautifully through all that ambiguity.

    That you chose to open this dialogue (and then to see it through despite the perhaps overwhelming response) strikes me as courageous and I feel compelled to examine some of my own automatic cultural beliefs. I’m definitely not WASP, high or otherwise, but come from a family with plenty of academic and citizen-of-the-world sort of snobbery. Thanks for a stimulating post and your caring responses!

  • 01/15/12
    8:31 pm

    Reply

    Allison said...

    Ir was an interesting post, perhaps lacking in tact and awareness. To me, the daughter of impoverished immigrants, you carry the scent of other. Your entire goal of explaining your “class” just strikes me as odd.

  • 01/20/12
    12:15 pm

    Reply

    Claire said...

    hehe, such a striking example of irony wrapped up in that “small minded” comment… and further demonstrating that we are, on some level, the same kind :)

    your defense of your commenters was touching. hope you and your emotional stamina are hanging in there, lady lisa! as always, enjoying your well-crafted blog; well wishes from another of you kind, not your kind, and that which lies between. ;)

  • 01/23/12
    12:35 pm

    Reply

    Alison said...

    As one of the Others, I knew exactly who you were talking about before I even got to the tell-tale “visible signs of religious identity” line. Part of me understands what you’re talking about, though most of me is offended by what you’ve discussed and opened up.

    I suppose I’m responding because I don’t believe this is an issue of “class”. Perhaps those “others” were looking at your “libatious” behavior as inappropriate. Perhaps they were loud at the pool, but you or someone else of your ilk were loud at the restaurant or the bar. People let loose in all different kinds of ways. People express themselves and their wealth in all different kinds of clothing.

    Though you tried to seem as though you weren’t judging and were deconstructing your class by letting yourself out of your comfort zone enough to wear a pair of earrings to the pool, you quickly reverted back to the judgment by stating how “wrong” it felt for you. Yes, but big diamond earrings on an “other” might feel right to her. And that person might be a lovely, down-to-earth, interesting and intelligent person. Perhaps she has a loud NY accent, but it doesn’t necessarily speak to who she is as a person. It’s not a matter of class or manners or things like that (unless the people in question are really truly being rude, which I would think is not ALL of them), it’s individuality and who they are. I’ve met plenty of people of “your kind” whose behaviors I’ve questioned just as much. But I would never put them or anyone seemingly like them into a category as you have. No one is more right than the other. It’s just who’s a good and decent person.

    My family has been to the Four Seasons Maui. We’ve been known to talk and laugh loudly while we enjoy each other’s company. Some people in my family have NY accents. Some of them wear large diamond rings…to the pool and in daily life. We all make sure we’re pedicured and manicured because that’s how we like to go on vacation. We are the “others” you were really kind of looking down upon in this post. Yet I’ve been raised by my parents with strong values and a sense of community, compassion and consideration. You might not know it if you just concluded your judgment based on how my family interacted at the pool on vacation.

    Had you stuck with your attempt not to judge, I might not be making this comment, but it seems like you tried a lifestyle on and not only didn’t like it, but felt it beneath you. If your words could be displayed as action, it seems like you were shucking off a dirty coat on to the floor in disgust. Perhaps I was reading it wrong, but that was the impression I got.

  • 01/24/12
    8:19 am

    Reply

    Jessica said...

    If the whole wasp aesthetic is about effortlessness, why are you spending your entire vacation noticing how other people dress and act? Do you think they notice or care what earrings you do or don’t wear to the pool?

    Perhaps the “Others” who were dressed nicely at dinner just wanted to… look nice at dinner, and weren’t trying to play some part in a grande nouveau riche narrative.

  • 02/24/12
    6:12 am

    Reply

    Aurelia said...

    Indeed, all this discussion, and even the original post, read from my distant Mediterrenean Europe-centered perspective tends to ring very exotic. I don’t have a clue what you all are talking about, I’m afraid. So perhaps I had better not comment at all. Just wanted to tell I had no idea such an expression as NOKD existed and had even been made into an acronim. I’m baffled at how ignorant I am. And grateful I know a little more after reading (no, not fully understanding, absolutely not) this discussion. In Europe I guess class is less of a taboo (Uk excluded, of course). I see it like that: in Europe class was a matter of political power before the French Revolution, a matter of money before K. Marx, and very much a matter of knowledge and culture afterwards. As there’ little social mobility, not much seems to have really changed in the last centuries around here. Cheers!

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