Privilege Blog

The Inheritance, Part 2

The inheritance is a key component of the High WASP species. That’s how we develop the attitude and the taste. Growing up in privilege means growing up surrounded by deep resources and things of great beauty. Growing up with inherited money means that there is no associated person in the household risking themselves at a very difficult job, nor late night conference calls, nor extended trips to Japan, nor companies on the brink of running out of capital. It is possible that life after a fabled IPO is similar. That I can’t know.

In a life of privilege you acquire knowledge and experience that you do not have to earn. That may in fact be at a level beyond your capabilities to earn in the world of hunters and gatherers and counters and sorters. But there they are, knowledge, experience, and props. Oh, yes, the props. The silver baby bowl, the family locket with an old daguerretype of someone you don’t know, the tweed hunting jacket from your grandmother. The props aren’t worth agonizing over. I see nothing worthwhile to do but enjoy the ivory dressing table brush, the gilt mirror with primitive cherubs, the early American bedstead. But the unearned experience bumps along with you, it goes to work with you, it raises your children with you. And at some point you have to figure out is there anything you are going to do with it.

Is there? Well-to-do liberal guilt seems silly to me. I mean, what, I got to go to Jamaica for Christmas when I was 18 but now since I feel bad about it we’re OK? I’ll just feel bad here for a little minute and then time to polish the forks? No, there is no happy ending to this. No cue the strings , allegro, crescendo, off she goes to save the world. I have to work for a living and anyway I admit that I don’t really have the disposition to save the world. It’s an ongoing debate for self to have with self.

*shakes head. unable to find answer*

2 Responses

  1. LPC, you are fascinating. I did not grow up in this world. I am interested in whether you grew up with household help and how that has impacted you.

  2. I am at the tail end of this family fortune. Growing up, my mother’s family had a maid and a nanny and a cook. My father’s family had somewhat more of a staff. We only had someone come to clean the house twice a week, and the neighborhood girl across the way when my mom had 3 kids under 5. We did for a while live in a house with 35 rooms, and have students living in the servants’ quarters. I don’t think that counts. And I thank you but I do think everyone is fascinating if they are willing and foolhardy enough to share details.

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