I’ve read your book, and I have mixed emotions about it.
In some respects I feel like you’ve pulled back the curtain and explained a little too much to people who might use the information to pose and climb. At other moments, I feel like you’ve advocated for us, stating our case without the silliness of most pop culture products.
So this isn’t a full endorsement, only an amendment. You asked me about my life the other day and if I’d share some insights. I had never really thought of it. Now, as I reflect, I can only summarize. I’m too close to it.
Our lives are defined by rituals, by behavior that is appropriate, by duty, and by optimism. That’s what really separates us from other people. We lead structured lives. We attend school from a certain age to a certain age. We take a flyer between graduation and starting a career. We all read many of the same books. We travel. We marry later, and less often. We have annual family gatherings. We’re slow with new friends.
We dress a particular way for a particular event or activity. We adhere to a set of rules. People are polite and punctual. This makes socializing easier for everyone. People know what to expect and what’s expected. Call it boring if you want, but I’ve been at parties where people show up whenever they like, dress however they like, and say whatever they like. It’s not fun.
There are some things we want to do, and we do them. More often, there are things that we know we need to do or should do, and we do them. That’s the responsibility of being born in this position. That’s the line we walk.
We must remain optimistic, even in light of current events. We don’t associate with pessimistic people. Progress will be made, even in the most adverse of circumstances. I would venture to say, probably the best things humans accomplish are done during challenging times. We rise to the occasion. We look for the best. It’s the only way to live.
My father’s side of the family is Hudson River Valley. My mother’s side is French, the faded aristocracy that doesn’t mean anything anymore unless you’re in a particular region there.
We are unique individuals, but as a class we share a common understanding and perspective. If someone aspires to join the ranks, I have no suggestions. Education, hard work, contributions to the public welfare and a good marriage will start things. Having children who learn early what is expected will be essential. But it’s three or four generations before you know if it’s held, and you aren’t usually around to see it.
You can only hope. That’s the rub.