Privilege Blog

My Son’s Graduation, Part II. What I Wore.

I must reiterate. I know and knew that my feelings about my son’s graduation were unnecessary. I knew that I shouldn’t care that these women had more money than I do, that they looked fancier, that they participated in a world I couldn’t join. I should have been able to hold my chin high, and march into that environment without a qualm. For whatever reason (and I do have my theories), I couldn’t.

For now just grant me that I was determined to attend my son’s graduation free from social anxieties. What to do? I couldn’t exactly walk around with a copy of the Declaration of Independence hanging from my neck, ancestors’ names marked with yellow highlighter. I suppose I could have purchased a whole new set of clothes. I could have sold some stock – the market was still high. Or I could have worn my gold cuff bracelet ornamented with an old mine diamond brooch from the family. But then I would have been openly competing. And worse than losing in trophy mom polo is letting on that you are in fact trying to win. In the end, this is pretty much what I wore.

Why? I am not surprised that you ask. It’s all about the social signaling. Now I could lie, and say it’s because the clothes were comfortable and appropriate, but you would all know it was untrue. I wore these clothes because I felt that they said, and I quote with some embarrassment, “I have money too, and what’s more I am still in decent shape despite my age. I am cool enough to wear jeans and sensible enough to wear flat shoes so that I will not sink into the grass.”

I confess my motivation. High WASP or no High WASP, Fashion is still a game of identities. And as a High WASP I was honor bound to look like I wasn’t trying. Like I wore an older Chanel jacket rather than a new one – on purpose. No one had to know I had no other. To win my secret battle, without betraying the High WASP code of conduct, I could say, “Look how au courant I am. My tunic is longer than my jacket.” But I had to say it in such a way that I could deny the statement even as I made it.

I am not proud. But humans signal each other. It is one of our most salient characteristics. Better I should make an effort to comprehend the need than to suppress the activity. Or so I tell myself.

8 Responses

  1. “I couldn’t exactly walk around with a copy of the Declaration of Independence hanging from my neck, ancestors’ names marked with yellow highlighter.”

    I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at that image!

  2. I know, I also laughed at the idea of highlighting the signers in the family. Maybe I should try that someday. You could also join the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence society and wear some huge pin with their logo. Although, really, I don’t often feel that those people (who like to compete with flashiness) even deserve to know about our family and our history.

    I spent years in school with girls who reminded everyone of their grandmother’s last name every other day, flew to Paris for the weekend for prom dresses, and seemed to have a mandate to mention any relative’s Upper East Side pent at least once a week. I never said a peep because, really, what’s the point when they’re too wrapped up in themselves to listen?

    There are “plastics” at every age. Even though we know that they’re tacky, ostentatious, and trying too hard, it can sometimes be difficult to convince ourselves not to care. Still, in my eyes, my mother is always the classiest woman by far at those events. I’m sure your children feel the same.

  3. well done! perhaps secret battles such as yours drives us to a greater sense of what is fashionable and age appropriate…i have similar battles myself–as unecessary as they may be :)

  4. … what a perfectly pitched outfit- i actually clapped and said “yesss” under my breath when i saw it.

  5. Nice outfit. My daughter’s graduation is coming up in June. Hope I do as well…

  6. nice outfit! Be sure to swing by the Perfect Palette today to enter our give a way for a chance to win a gift certificate to Ink Obsession Designs!!

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