Friday, October 18, 2013

From Paris to Gristedes

-It's another day, so there are yet more instructions on how to look French. It's the usual, though - Frenchwomen don't go to the gym, don't use much makeup, do use a lot of moisturizers, and get medical pedicures. (I remember seeing those places all over Paris - had I been there as a beauty writer and not, you know, a grad student with a croissants-and-discounted-t-shirts budget, I might have had to investigate.) Frenchwomen look "natural," although what this means is that whatever they do, they call "natural," even if it involves injections of something that isn't Botox, but is instead "natural." (Isn't botulism natural? Isn't injecting anything into your face reasonably high up on the artifice spectrum?) And there's once again the French-hair recommendation, which those of us without the "French" hair texture can go on ignoring.

-The latest twist in YPIS: insufferable Thought Catalog essays on how terrible it is to be hated for one's privilege. What I suspect, but couldn't prove, is that what's brought this merry band of poor-little-rich-girls* to this topic - to this spiral of guilt and defensiveness - isn't, as they claim, that those who have less are making them feel bad. Rather, it's that there's a whole lot of YPIS being hurled among those of comparable levels of privilege, and a certain number of rich kids fail to catch on. While it's not impossible that a cashier at Gristedes is judging her for having shopped at a sample sale, my guess is that this young woman (who lives in a "West Village Apartment" [sic], because she's so rich, "apartment" must be capitalized?) has learned just how fancy and schmancy she is from peers who are just a bit more discreet. Peers who know it's not socially acceptable (in the UK maybe, but not here) to condemn someone for seeming gauche and nouveau-riche, and who then channel that sentiment into sanctimonious claims about how terrible the Gristedes cashiers must feel when ringing up some college kid with a discounted but likely still expensive handbag.

My theory, then, is that somehow all that YPIS gets unfairly projected onto the actual not-so-privileged, who are likely far more interested in when their shift at Gristedes ends than in whether the woman whose Diet Coke they're ringing up has student loans and if so, whether her parents are helping her pay them back. Which... I'm not sure what to conclude. There have always been ostentatious types who self-present as unashamed rich girls, in a Real Housewife-type way. But now, at least in some circles, the message has gotten through that there should be some embarrassment at unearned advantage. Which, I guess, why not? But as much as it's fun to mock the rich and oblivious, it seems as though the fight against obliviousness ends up subsuming whichever fight against inequality. Reduced obliviousness among the Gristedes customer base doesn't do much to help Gristedes workers. Whether it does anything is its own discussion.

*The gender angle here is huge, too huge to properly get to in this post, although it's kind of like what I was saying here.


caryatis said...

"I try to be chipper and ask the cashier how her day is and she doesn’t answer me. She just looks down and scans my items not saying a word or even glancing in my direction."

Yeah, that's called a normal interaction with a cashier you don't know. Just shows you how sheltered this girl is that she is outraged by any interaction in which someone is not pleasant to her.

Phoebe said...

Is it being sheltered, or something more like narcissism, or even paranoia? It's quite clear that she's projecting something she thinks about herself onto people who don't know her and likely didn't notice her. ("They then both glare at me with my shopping bag and my Coco Lite snack cakes and Diet Coke as if to say here’s daddy’s little princess wasting money, that little piece of shit.") Without the proper psychiatric-textual-analysis training, I couldn't say exactly what's going on here, but she sounds angry. There's a distance from reality, but it's not clear how much of it is a rich-girl distance and how much is, she should see someone about this issue.

In any case, for me, the bigger issue is, yes, it's hilarious when people are clueless, but what's the end game? Is cluelessness what props up social inequality, or is it just bad manners? Let's say this young woman stopped having bizarre, neurotic inner monologues about her interactions at the supermarket checkout. Would this improve labor conditions for the cashier? And is the author's cluelessness more a problem for the cashier/working-class people generally, or for herself, as it will alienate her from other wealthy people in her circles?

caryatis said...

Seems to me this is the sort of insecurity that leads to bullying efforts to make others feel insecure. I could easily imagine this woman turning around and making fun of her poorer acquaintances for not having access to the sample sale and the Diet Coke (?)