Tuesday, June 10, 2014

What THEY are really like

I grew up in a lower middle class community, and we had ideas about what rich and successful people were like. THEY were exclusive and cold. THEY saw people as tools and weren't genuinely interested in anyone that couldn't benefit them somehow. THEY were surely unhappy from a lack of true human connection. THEY took themselves and their work too seriously.

This weekend we attended a milestone reunion for Hub's university, an extremely selective institution. He/we had never attended a reunion before, so we expected for there to be a lot of THEM there, as we are in some of the prime earning years of our middle-aged lives. Hub and I were fully prepared to mentally strain to overcome our intimidation of THEM and the inevitable comparisons that would ensue.

What follows is a random-ish list of observations of Hub's classmates at the reunion. Please note that there is an inherent bias, as attendees of a class reunion are a group more interested and skilled in socializing than their non-attending peers. But, this was presumably still a good sample of highly successful people (THEYs).

1. I expected more obvious trappings of wealth than I actually observed. Jewelry, clothing, etc was not showy in most cases.
2. Not a single person smoked.
3. I didn't see anyone look at their phones during the social events we attended.
4. These families in their late 40's had a lot of small kids, even babies. This was a topic of discussion among us.
5. People were very gracious and graceful at initiating and taking leave of conversations. I felt more awkward than usual. I want to learn these social graces better.
6. Conversations felt truly genuine. Each person seemed to be "present" in the converstions.
7. People made easy eye contact in the crowd and did not tightly self-segregate into groups.
8. Everyone knew not to ask intimidating questions. "What do you do?" came up naturally and comparisons were very few.
9. There were a few comparisons of children's accomplishments, but it was done graciously with the spirit of respect and admiration for the kids. This was also in the context of "my kid does such-and-such and can't even get into Alma Mater".
10. There were several "less-accomplished" folks un-intimidated to share their position in life.
11. There was also a bitter classmate- "My education cost twice as much as our house, and I suffered blatant discrimination at work, so I quit working". Discrimination is an ugly thing, and can derail even people like THEM. It's not just a birthright of us lower-class folk.

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