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The High WASP Code of Conduct

High WASPs may or may not be religious. They may or may not have attended an Ivy League college. They may or may not live in a large house with stables out back. But they all subscribe to the High WASP code of conduct. You learn tenets of the code as you grow up, starting as a very young child, and continuing throughout your life.

Note that this is a draft. My sister hasn’t confirmed yet that I have this right. Others may also have ideas. High WASPs believe in the civil exchange of opposing opinions.

The High WASP Code of Conduct

1. Look people in the eye when you shake hands.

2. Stand up straight. High WASPs are obsessed with posture.

3. Do what you said you would do. Including show up on time. Five minutes early is even better.

4. Assume that others will behave as you do. That others also know the rules. Play by the rules.

5. Speak about others only as you are prepared to have them speak about you. Never, ever try to make anyone feel bad.

6. Vote and give to charitable causes.

7. Use your good silver and linen tablecloths as often as you can.

8. When you are beaten, or badly treated, forgive when possible rather than seek revenge. Revenge is childish.

9. Bad taste, vulgarity, and ostentation, however, are most difficult to forgive. This will make #5 a very difficult tenet to adhere to.

10. Send sincere, thoughtful condolences in the event of death.

11. Always, always remember: A simple thank you will suffice.

12. (Added in hindsight) Never complain.

13 Responses

  1. This is a good list, although you would think I could actually add something to the conversation. Tonight’s case of ‘fried brain’ seems to be precluding any meaningful contribution.


  2. I'm reminded of the three cardinal virtues of WASPness: alcoholism, mental illness, and politeness.

    Seriously, I concur. I'll emphasize that politeness is a) free and b) the strongest indicator of WASP tribal identity. Failing all else, that's all you need to join the club.

  3. Dear Lisa,
    I almost overread this sentence in this unknown posting:
    "High WASPs believe in the civil exchange of opposing opinions." Let me call you my rolemodel when it comes to exchanging opposing opinions. greetings, Paula

  4. An excellent code to live by and I agree with everything you’ve said. I especially like do what you say you and the look in the eye when shaking hands. I always try to take the high road. Good manners and upbringing make up for a lot of things in life.

    When we moved to a tiny island in the middle of the Atlantic, I had to say good-bye to many things, including some precious antiques, that would not fit in our tiny cottage. So I decided to keep only the best, including the sterling silver and good china. No one expected to find those kind of things on my dinner table on a tropical island and it was fabulous to see the look on their face when I served dinner.

  5. Although I am not a high wasp, I was raised as one.
    My family is American Indian (Sicangu Lakota) but throughly Episcopalian for at least four to five generations. Among my families closest friends were those that were Episcopalian missionaries from back east. My great great grandfather was sent back east to Episcopalian boarding school. My mother and her sisters attended an Episcopalian boarding school for Indian girls. I attended the same school for a brief period to time. I can spot another Episcopalian boarding school Indian by their table manners. My mother died in 2007 at the age of ninety and she was probably the last of the Episcopalian matriarchs of my home reservation. There are several wonderful moral things about the high WASP Code of Conduct that I feel privileged to share. Plus I can tell (despite having no money) old money from new money at the bat of an eye. Thanks for a great blog!

  6. I’m glad you remembered to add #12. But isn’t it inseparable from “never explain?”

  7. I accidentally dropped in via another blog and as an original English bloke I find your site quite fascinating, and your espousal of the WASP code of conduct admirable, although in pitifully short supply in England at the moment. There! I’ve already broken one of the tenets by complaining, but that is the proverbial fly in the ointment for an Englishman; a contradiction, if you like, for there is nothing we like better than to complain!

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