Yesterday, Kristin over at Not Intent On Arriving was kind enough to interview me for her series, Writer Wednesdays. You can read it here, if you are so inclined. Thank you in advance for your time.
Her questions got me thinking. First about being a writer, and then about the book I didn’t write. It was to be about High WASPs. As I spend far less time writing in the voice of my ancestors these days, and I know some of you liked it, it occurred to me I could post the rough book outline. And then, perhaps, over time, the actual chapters.
Or not. We’ll see. A look at the outline, however, will take all of 3 minutes, and serve as a nod to time past and confession.
TITLE: The Secrets Of America’s High WASPs, or, Life in the Subjunctive
Alternative Title: A High WASPs Guide To Life, If I Can Be So Bold
1. What IS a High WASP?
- A WASP is any White Anglo Saxon Protestant. A High WASP is a human being whose family has been in the United States long enough to make a fortune, lose a fortune, and spend an ungodly amount of time in well-known universities while so doing.
- In general, our families (for yes, I am one) came to the US in the Colonial Period. They farmed, they bought land, they bought more land. They moved to the cities, where they participated in the first great swell of American wealth.
- A High WASP is not, necessarily, a preppy. Tad Friend says so.
- We might say, Preppy is optional, High WASP irrevocable.
- Preppy is about the gear, the schooling. High WASP is about the family, the aesthetic, the code of conduct, and that little voice that says, “You have not done a good enough job.”
2. High WASPs: Do I Care At All?
- Why might you care? Maybe you like to see how the mighty have fallen. No shame in that. Mighty people are often quite dreadful.
- You find navy blue seductive.
- You believe in America, and yet you think the flag belongs to everyone.
- You wonder, sometimes, what happened to the social contract, to delayed gratification, to showing up on time. You wonder, what about good taste?
- However, you don’t miss wearing white gloves to the city. That was truly unnecessary.
3. High WASP Men And Women: Do They Differ?
- High WASP men often have very square jaws.
- High WASP women are neither sexy nor powerful. Why?
- Related: What is a lady?
4. How Do High WASPs Live? Does Everyone Own a Mansion in Connecticut?
- Our houses, then and now.
- Our clothing brands and quirks.
- Why my father loathes Ralph Lauren but I find him admirable.
- Didn’t everyone have a personal shopper named Mrs. Bailey at Saks, for back-to-school?
- How to use the unspoken High WASP dress code to your advantage.
- Our diet.
- Family traditions and rituals.
5. How to Speak High WASP, Or, Joy In The Subjunctive, Terror In Nouns, Safety In Punctuation
- Any time you talk about anything emotional, do so in the 3rd person. Use the term, “One,” meaning, “I.”
- Never direct, only suggest. “You might want to think about a haircut?”
- Danger lurks inside common nouns, especially house and clothing terms. For example, High WASPs say “curtains,” not “drapes.” The new generations don’t care, but the older ones still do. Oh, you might, if you push the limits say, “That woman has real class,” but you’d never call anyone, “Classy.”
- High WASPs need their own emoticons.
- Learn to love a semi-colon, insist on using a period at the end of numbered list phrases. Like so.
6. The High WASP Code of Conduct And Its Application In Various Undertakings
- Retail Therapy
- Child-Rearing (No, the French didn’t invent delayed gratification.)
7. The Meaning Of Manners
- Protocol vs. Courtesy
- Intra-Cultural and Inter-Cultural – Is There A Universal Set Of Manners?
- Snobbery, And Why It’s Always Bad Manners
8. How To Get Your Child Into Harvard, Yale, or Princeton. OK Fine, Stanford Or Dartmouth, But Please Shower Often If You Must Grow A Beard
- Go back in time and tell your father and grandfathers to get themselves over to the Ivy League. Then get yourself there.
- Once you graduate, give small sums of money every year. The institutions prize loyalty, it’s harder to find these days than cash.
- Never mention the words “find your passion” to a 14-year old — however, if they actually do, scoff not. Keep lesson quantities low, free time high.
- Send your children outside to play, when they complain of boredom tell them they can go clean up their rooms if they need amusement, limit screen time, read them stories every night, encourage them to make up “shows” and watch said “shows” at least 3 times in a row before pleading the need to do something, anything else.
- Do not let anyone, including yourself, make a single editing mark on your child’s college essay. Discuss, but do not correct on the page. If reading essays by 17-year olds gets tough, just imagine reading essays by parents pretending to be 17-year olds.
- Always remember, it’s just 4 years. Better to arrive at a good school intact, than at a fabled one stunned or frayed by over-training
9. When High WASPs Travel, Or, Please Don’t Make Me Eat Anything Too Ranchero
- Two distinct types.
- Uncle Fred Carnochan lived with the Snake People
- Second Cousin Once Removed Walter – He of the Ranchero Comment
- The history of the Grand Tour.
- We prefer squalor to bad carpet.
10. How To Avoid Wedding Gaffes
- Hang ye no crystals.
- Color-coordinate ye no humans with the decor.
- Scroll ye no invitation fonts.
- Confuse ye no people with weird dress codes.
- Play ye no Pachelbel.
- Invite all your family.
- If you’re a guest, give presents, not “gifts.”
- Keep your shoes on until you can put your feet under a table.
- How to give money to your children without destroying them.
- What to do with an inheritance without destroying yourself.
- What to do while waiting for one which may or may not ever arrive.
12. A Brief History Of The Golden Age And Will Its Like Ever Come Again?
- Social life in New York at the end of the 19th century, AKA the making of the High WASPs.
- How did the Age of Innocence compare to other periods of wealth?
- What groups, if any, might wealth create now?
13. The Wistful Future Of The High WASP
- Removing the veil, and the myth in popular literature. What we are, what we are not.
- Moving beyond the acronym to the values.
- Politics, education, style.
And there you have it. If you’re new to the blog, I’m glad you will have read some of my Saturday posts before this – sets the right context, I think. If you’ve been reading for a while, you’ll notice that I’ve already written some of these chapters as posts, or maybe you’ll remind me of some topics you might have expected to see. In any case, it feels like a good resting place for the thoughts.