An old high school buddy of mine recently got an honorable (sic?) mention in the alumni magazine for having gotten another honorable (again, sic?) mention as one of the Forty Under Forty in the regional business rag. The details inspiring this recursive conferral of honor are so pedestrian that they hardly even interest me (it’s not like he’s become a farmer, or been fucking around in a backyard garden from time to time), and there’s definitely a big fish in a small pond thing going on here. When I mentioned the business journal award (or whatever the fuck they call it, as if I care) to my dad, he said it might be the publishing arm of a businessmen’s mutual flattery society or a pay-for-play thing along the lines of those full-page ads in in-flight magazines for Some of the Best Doctors in America, which use exactly the same format as ads in the same magazines for the Best Steakhouses and the Best Seafood Restaurants, so DO NOT BELIEVE A FUCKING WORD OF THEM. There’s definitely an element of bullshit to business awards, so again, you’d be a fool to take them at face value, but not nearly the fool you’d be for choosing an oncologist based on an ad in American Way.
The interesting things about this dude’s making Forty Under Forty are entirely extrinsic to his being such a fucking winner. He and I had a close but acrimonious and often weird relationship in high school, then fell completely out of touch after graduation. The only things I’ve heard about him since came from a mutual friend who himself was assimilated, hardcore Star Trek-style, into the Bay Area tech business. One of these secondhand stories was that he’d taken a job as an EMT, resulting in his locking himself into the back of an ambulance to protect himself from a crackhead and calling 911. We went to a prep school, so if anyone from our class was going to end up doing that, he was a strong candidate. This dude was goofy enough that my paternal grandmother, rarely one to speak unkindly of other people, needed only watch him walk for his diploma to pronounce him a goofball. I must have become inured enough to him from chronic exposure not to fully notice how off he was; I knew he was odd, but not odd enough to be called “that goofy boy” by strangers at first sight. It seemed to come from a combination of ADHD, obesity, modestly odd facial features, and the effects of an affluent but rootless upbringing in at least three countries on two continents (and after my own disruptive experiences being moved domestically as a child, I have no hesitation letting a goofball take a mulligan for that). Dude was not voted most likely to marry an Argentine dancer, so you’ll never guess who married an Argentine dancer.
Personally, I was nominated most likely to operate a bratwurst cart in Germany. The yearbook committee advisor vetoed that nomination because Day School, but frankly, the only thing that ever bothered me about that prediction was the Twilight Zone prophecy of my being stuck in Germany, with my friends and family back home far away. The guy who nominated (nah, tried to nominate) me for future wurst in class is now an engineer married to a lawyer, also a classmate, half of a yuppie power couple gentrifying Manayunk and Adams-Morgan or some shit.
So what the fuck did I do wrong? Ask and ye shall perhaps not be answered. It can be inscrutable. Then again, alumni updates are the products of strategic sampling biases. That’s why we all got to hear about Forty Under Forty and a chick who was inducted into our alma mater athletic hall of fame. We don’t letter at the Day School (and it’s just as well), but we have our ways, which do not include FOOTBALL but do include very competitive boys’ and girls’ lacrosse and Monty Robinson for Sheriff. Well, shit, chieftain, how did that slip in there, you lying boreal drunk? But that’s a distraction; I’m here to make fun of White People. Why say “literally” too damn often and sloppily when you can instead overuse “Melissa Ann Shepard?” But again, that’s the wrong kind of white bearing the wrong kind of poison. The problem with the cultural appropriation of lacrosse is the crowd that appropriates it. I’d rather reappropriate some frybread. A man can stress-eat in silence in his secret place, or at Dunkin’, but assertions of white privilege aesthetics in public are microaggressions against us all.
I’ll probably stand by that statement, more or less, even after I’ve recovered from my train ride overnight, which had me between a fat, ostentatiously sighing Chinaman and at least two black guys who were of a mind to reach across me and smack him for snoring if I wouldn’t do them this favor myself, stuck in the middle with THEM?! A cold Chicago morning to you and yours, too. Point is, preppy assholes know how to aggressively assert their own privilege in ways subtle enough to make those they’re scheming to subordinate look like cranks or whiners for trying to break their frame. There are ways to rock the Lacoste and the Capri pants without being an asshole, but that means not being an asshole, and if you’re wearing that shit, there’s a good chance that modesty and goodwill aren’t why you donned it in the first place.
This is the mindset that alumni magazines are edited to confirm. When I was still in school, stories occasionally circulated in hushed whispers about our community drunks and druggies, as well as our girls rumored to be in trouble, whom the school was said to quietly expel. *Very Bristol Palin voice* Bitch please. What’s the actual prevalence of substance abuse, mental illness, and other obstacles to proper success in the LCDS alumni community? Having fallen mostly out of the loop, I can only guess. The alumni rag is a gaslighting prop, so it’s useless. Perhaps more to the point, what’s the prevalence of alumni who have somehow figured out how to relate to the poor as something like equals? They won’t tell us a thing about that, either. The whole point was to breed it out of us. We were of a certain class, and the poors were of a certain other class. Promiscuous mixing might result in, oh, dilution of family fortunes and, I dunno, say, fix me another Old Fashioned, Thomas, I’m of a mind to get classily trashed.
By Ghomeshi, that’s better than saying “literally” all the time, too. Some constituencies at Lancaster Country Day, especially the hardline Optimates, get really sore and constipated-looking whenever anyone tarnished their meticulously arranged world of fussy propriety by speaking candidly of the real world beyond. Their moral sense of purity is ordered not to an increase of actual cleanliness but to the censorship of any admission that certain things, probably not directly pertinent to their school, are dirty and could do to be cleaned up. In point of fact, my world includes Pot-o-Shit Friend. That’s just the way it it; some things will never change until you call code enforcement and maybe the police. I was never the one aspiring to collect trash cans full of human shit under the auspices of a business in which I’m invested; I’m the one who altered code enforcement to the shit shack. But it’s still an all too pertinent part of my life, so why the hell should I defer to requests that we discuss something more pleasant, like golf, from people who have frankly bought their way out of exposure to the poor and adverse dealings with the sorts of bottomfeeders who exploit the poor? If you’re gonna haidt-fuck me that hard, turn Big Ears Teddy back around, for I demand that he bear full witness.
That’s the thing about the stuffy rich. They have no problem with the existence of horrors, even in their own hometowns, as long as they’re personally shielded from the truth, and there is no one they won’t belittle or intimidate to ensure that they remain shielded. That’s why I’d be happy to nominate Pot-o-Shit Friend as a Western Regional Forty Under Forty Shitshacker. (In Midwest regionals, he’d be up against tweakers who fill bathtubs, so that’d be a bit ambitious.) Not wanting to talk about shit just for the hell of it because one was cornered by a scatologist is reasonable; refusing to talk about piles of shit that endanger health and life because it’s less pleasant than half an hour of play-by-play recapitulation of the back nine this morning is not reasonable at all.
Besides, some of these people would be improved with a reminder that they, too, are of the flesh. In the Catholic Church, this is traditionally done on Ash Wednesday, which I missed again this year, through my most grievous derp (and various forms of chaos that I can’t discuss with the proper because doing so would almost certainly be taken as a breach of decorum and consequently a cause for offense). Smearing charcoal on a guy’s forehead and telling him he’s gonna die? Dude, It’s Rude (TM). But I maintain that the most powerful rudenesses are not the deep solemnities, which so often inspire thoughts of transcendence or communion with martyrs and other saints through suffering or eventual restful reward or joyful hope of some reincarnation in due course of time, but the day-to-day vulgarities, which call to mind nothing but unmentionable body parts and bodily functions. Charity ball stuffies shit, too, so it’s appropriate to remind them that, when they shit in toilets, it is because they have bought toilets and access to toilets, which Pot-o-Shit Friend was apparently unable to do. Their shit would stink, too, if the Ragin’ Canajun had to put his big boy coveralls on and dispose of a trash can full of it.
This isn’t just a version of a CFO’s daughter becoming a goth for the shock value; I sincerely do not want people defecating in the open in my country on account of their poverty, but there’s no way to solve a problem whose existence one refuses to discuss. There are Americans who deserve to find turds in their neighborhoods, even on their property, but that’s because they’re responsible for poverty and marginalization that they will not do a thing to mitigate until it becomes their problem, too.
At the same time, there’s nothing particularly wrong with needling the stuffy upper classes with these rude truths as a socioeconomic leveler. It can be like Beavis and Butthead’s tour of the Hoover Dam. “Uh, yeah, I have a question. Is it a god dam?” No, son, it is a dam of men, a man dam, if you will, the work of Ozymandian civil servants who were rewarded with the sleep of the just as recompense for their labors to provide electricity and attendant magicks to the poor in the countryside. But before you accuse me of joining Walt Whitman for his evening constitutional across the Ben Franklin Bridge, may I ask, are you by chance familiar with Headmaster Dick Johnson?
Uh, you just said, uh, what’s that again?
Headmaster Dick Johnson.
No, you just made that up.
No, I did not.
Whoa. Hehheh hehheh. Hehheh. Hehheh.