Privilege Blog

High WASP Stuff Stories, Or, Saturday Morning at 10:58am

A glass tumbler painted with a pennant inscribed SS May and two flags, with white roses

In the very early days of this blog, I told, anonymously, stories of what I called “High WASP” culture. Never mind if I had anything insightful to say–I think my early readers enjoyed the artifacts. Simple stuff, in other words.

Stuff tells stories when we let it. That glass, the gold-bordered lip of which, curved outward, we cannot see, comes from a yacht owned by my great-grandfather Mr. Bliss. Or maybe my great-great grandfather, also conveniently known as Mr. Bliss.  Hand-painted: May, as in the SS May. The crossed flags represent a) The New York Yacht Club and b) a personal insignia Mr. Bliss must have invented himself. Everyone who registered their yachts at the NYYC seems to have invented their own flags.

In fact, my siblings and I now have a veritable raft of yacht tableware, which we riotously refer to as “yacht china,” pounding the back of non-yacht sofas in laughter, hanging out in someone’s living. We joke with some shared pain and happiness about the Bliss motto, Semper Sursum AKA Always Aim High. Because what else is there to do? Never knew our unvoiced family culture was in fact painted on a dozen-ish Spode plates.

(We plan to sell this stuff to whoever wants it, someone or someones who might get a kick out of idea of yacht china, make of it some transformed experience nothing to do with family.)

I have come to believe with all my heart that the very rich, as Mr. Bliss was, don’t amass stuff because they always wanted stuff. Does a young boy starting up a dry goods business in New York, even one that will become a banking concern, dream, as he stocks shelves, of a yacht with monogrammed china with a Greek key border? We think not.

The stuff of wealth, and this holds today, in my opinion, is about expanding one’s sense of self. Agency of personhood; the hunger to feel bigger. People call it power, but it doesn’t have to mean power over others, just power over the inexplicable reality of being alive.

Which poses the question, why do so few feed this hunger with service to others? Why stuff? Well, not why stuff, why so much so very big stuff? I have no idea. I can only imagine it’s to do with our drive to survive, which does not seem to know when to stand down. At least that’s a morally neutral interpretation. The SS May was eventually commandeered for war service and sunk in combat. I hope no one was lost.

Lover of sparkly things and fancy hotel linens though I have been, I have no desire whatsoever to own a yacht, instead having, as a reader once suggested, gotten over the fading family fortune. I no longer wish for Wendover.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend.


How Long Has It Been Since You Thought About Paisley, Or, Saturday Morning at 10:26am

The only piece of clothing I’m craving at the moment is a brand-new, no pilling, no fading, no sunscreen-bleaching-at-the-neck patterned t-shirt. Most recently in this category I’ve worn a Ted Baker floral. Florals are nice, and the cleverness of the word cloud would appeal if it were half the price,   and yet, this year, no idea why, I’m thinking paisley. Yes? No?   The imagined outfit to look something like this, adding linen lantern pants, a cropped olive utility jacket, orange Birkenstocks and gold disc earrings-not small, not large, hammered for texture. With baggy trousers I like a cropped

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An Exhibition At Milan Design Week, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:10am

WORK. This is the work of my son, in fact. This is a photo of Jonathan Anderson, of Loewe,  J.W. Anderson and many other inspirations of culture, and my son, Patrick Carroll. During Milan Design Week 2024 (closing tomorrow) Anderson presented a collection of my son’s work at his flagship J.W. Anderson store. Apparently the opening crowd extended to the sidewalk outside. I could look at this all day. That one pennant. The exhibition has been written up in Vogue, Dezeen, Wallpaper, and for those of you who can read Italian, which does not include me, Marie Claire and Vogue

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The Relief, Or, Saturday Morning at 8:57am

It was a relief to discover that my small and particular anxieties are not the center of the universe. Which is to say on Sunday I flew to Houston, picked up a rental car, drove three hours to Austin (stopping at a convenience store because said car required an adapter I didn’t have for phone charging), showed up at my friend’s parents’ house because I’d keyed in the wrong address, drove 15 more minutes, ate dinner my friend had so kindly kept waiting, talked into the night, went to sleep, woke up, and around midday went to her kids’ school

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