I graduated from law school wanting to help people. I started practicing in a rough neighborhood, representing people who otherwise couldn’t afford a decent attorney. I ate at the local cafe and engaged people socially and tried to become part of the community. It wasn’t working.
I’d been raised in New Haven. I was young and thought I was worldly, a guy who could relate to everybody. I wasn’t. I couldn’t. I thought I was failing, even though I was making a difference.
I spoke with my father about it. He said, Socialize with your own kind. Advocate for mankind. Don’t apologize for either.
I thought it was an elitist comment, and maybe it was. But I heard it. I stopped trying to fit in where I didn’t and just represent my clients. With that boundary and reality set up, my relations with everyone improved. I wasn’t trying. I was doing my job.
So those are the Old Money words I remember. Socialize with your own kind. Advocate for mankind.
11 thoughts on “Old Money: In Their Own Words”
This post is a good reminder to reframe my perspective when needed. I’m not OM but come from a cultured, educated family. Living in a minority, working class town my experience is that generally people stick to their own kind. As an advocate and activist I’ve reached beyond my milieu to befriend others and some don’t welcome that. I’ve learned to accept their rejection and not take for granted those few who, like me, are willing to be friends despite our difference in backgrounds. I’ve found that my “own kind” can have several different definitions that are worthwhile. When my own kind means the same as the author’s I no longer feel bad about it.
“If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch”
This was brilliant, the old money life style as I interpret it hast o do with carefully curated choices and proper deportment. .
The author specify’s he is or was from New Haven, which is a brilliant example in terms of keeping to your own kind. When I was there I met some brilliant eccentric people that could not be classified as working class. For example
Rather than buying a new house in the New Haven suburbs, purchase an old victorian in New Haven for a fraction of the cost. Upgrade the mechanicals, but keep the gas lights!
No special entertainment room, but a library instead.
Yes I have streaming services and internet, but a big NO to cable TV. PBS really has a fine selection and I would rather my son which some select sports.
Nothing like a well maintained older Volvo.
Keep the outside of the house maintained and remember to have a kitchen Potager and share the bounty of your harvest.
I worked on Upper east side for a time in NYC and people had tattoos all over the place, not well read and dressed like bums. Nothing against. but I was thinking, I just can’t pretend to be like this.
It better to deport oneself with the utmost in kindest and humanity but in terms of socialization it’s better to be a recluse than not be with your own kind.
I love this. Trey, what your father said was correct, especially the part about not apologizing for either. There is way too much of that going on nowadays to the point where people feel guilty about being privileged or coming from a good family. That’s neither fair nor does it make any sense.
Rather, it puts us in a great position to advocate for mankind.
I’m a firm believer that if you work hard and are persistent, you will succeed. Thus, those for whom we advocate can improve their own lives and perhaps be in a position some day to do the same.
Trey, I read your entry early yesterday morning, and have been mulling it over since then. Your dad spoke well! I especially like the advocate for mankind part. It’s too easy to stay in our little worlds, and forget the need out there. Many thanks.
This post is right on point. I have found myself in a similar situation working in an rural town. It took a while for me to understand the disconnect and sometimes dislike. Once I did everything workout much better.
Glad to finally see someone say that, and good point. Thank you. It’s very similar to speaking Spanish with working class Latinos in the U.S. for example. I’ve made that mistake (among many others). For the most part, it does not work, only succeeds in highlighting an already vast social gulf, and most of the time does not establish the hoped for relaxed interaction. Trying too hard produces a stilted, awkward dynamic that is difficult to get around and probably does more harm than good if we’re honest about it.
Absolutely love that saying! If it seem elitist, then too bad. I couldn’t agree with it more.
Thanks, Dario. I hope you and the family are healthy and safe. – BGT
This is very true. This is not to say that it isn’t possible to cross class lines, because there are exceptions but for most of us it is extremely difficult.
I also speak Spanish and have learned that the middle class world I learned in is vastly different from the Latino working class world.
My boss came from a family of immigrant farm workers, went to college and ended up in social service. The bosses like yes men so she was promoted. With her background she’s deathly afraid of questioning authority about anything so she doesn’t advocate for her employees. You can imagine the kinds of problems that causes. Her idea of being a manager consist of throwing her weight around and bullying everyone. That’s what a migrant worker would experience, so it makes sense.
I and 2 other middle class colleagues speak more educated Spanish than she does and are better traveled and better read than she is. She makes life as hard as she can for us. I never leave cultured reading lying around in my cubicle. I made that mistake and responded to her comment as if I were in grad school (fresh out at that time). She turned red and took all my work assignments away for 9 months. I was put in the call center full time. Even now when she’s in a bad mood, my assignments may be suddenly taken away, as a way of reminding me that she’s the boss. She won’t touch the upper class employees though, especially not the Latinos.
I recount this not for pity, but as an example of how class insecurities can make everyone’s life miserable. Obviously, this woman is in a position that is out of her league class wise.
Class differences are real.
Thank you, Mary. Great insights into the complexity of culture. Much appreciated. – BGT