Thursday, November 03, 2005

Fabulousness for all!

Matthew Yglesias and Susan Konig have two very different takes on perceived class differences at Upper East Side private schools. I'd have to say I'm with Yglesias on this--you knew who had money and who didn't. That's putting it mildly. Susan Konig's description sounds about right for Stuyvesant, where the super-rich generally did everything they could to hide that fact, and where the more moderately well-off were still quite embarassed about it, but it does not ring true for a private school like, say, Spence.

Konig writes:

We had kids who lived on Park Avenue and went off to beautiful country houses every weekend (heck, we even had Kennedys). Other kids at our school were on scholarship — their families struggled to get by. My family was somewhere in the middle — between the Kennedys and the struggling. But we kids never knew which was which, or who had what — there was no contest of ostentatious wealth. We were all just kids together.

Ah yes. "My family was somewhere in the middle." Nearly everyone at Spence, myself included, would have said this about their family, and it was meaningless in any real-world sense. "We're just normal," or, "We're middle-class." "Middle-class" being, of course, anyone whose family owned just one horse, or whose summer house was not in the most exclusive Hampton. The sense I always got--one thoroughly confirmed when it became known that I was transferring to Stuyvesant--was that NYC public school students--specialized science high school students included--were assumed to be destitute, about the same as the children Sally Struthers wants so desperately to save. I've written about this before (see link above), but I'm writing on this subject again as a segue into a discussion of a far more glaring inequality: Some of us are closely related to Vogue editor Anna Wintour and others are not. See, merely being Anna Wintour's daughter makes you an authority on all things fabulous:

Bee Shaffer, the daughter of Anna Wintour, the Vogue editor, said she first met Mr. Theyskens at the Costume Institute gala last year, when her dress by the designer was nearly ruined during a rainstorm upon her arrival. Mr. Theyskens took her to a restroom where he rescued her evening with the slow and methodical application of paper towels.

"It was literally the first time we had met," Ms. Shaffer said. "He's really so sweet." She said it was unusual to meet a fashion designer whom she could not imagine doing anything else as a career, although Mr. Theyskens told her at a luncheon last week that he had also considered working as a florist.


And, since this post has not yet veered into total free association, I must add that a man taking a girl into a restroom and doing anything "slow and methodical" is only a family-friendly story if the man in question is a fashion designer who, as a little boy, wished he were a girl.

4 comments:

petey said...

"I must add that a man taking a girl into a restroom and doing anything "slow and methodical" is only a family-friendly story if the man in question is a fashion designer who, as a little boy, wished he were a girl."

Non-family-friendly restroom escapades are never "slow and methodical".

dio said...

Is it possible that attitudes differ from school to school? Indeed, they might all be UES private schools, but the tradition behind each school (whether episcopalian or jewish, co-ed or single-sex, etc) might result in different zeitgeists.

Matticus said...

Question: Is Trinity School one of the "exclusive private institutions" of which you speak? I've always assumed so, but my knowledge of New York is about nil, and I don't like to presume.

Phoebe said...

There are (at least) two Trinities--one is an elite private school in NYC, and the other, the one presumably mentioned in "Prep," is a preppy but not Dartmouth-level-exclusive college in Connecticut that I know almost nothing about.