I received an email the other day. The person suggested that I painted a little too rosy of a picture in regards to Old Money Guys and Gals. They pointed out that plenty of born-rich trust fund babies are obnoxious and incorrigible, racist, misogynistic, homophobic, and anti-Semitic.
To which I replied, Oh, most certainly. And let me add arrogant, cheap, fascist, greedy, condescending, and just plain mean.
To clarify, I don’t like any of the above characteristics or their incumbent behaviors. But I focus more on the Core Values of Old Money, the Smart and the Good of America’s Upper Class, the Wise and the Noble Aspects of the Privileged.
Anyone can be a critic. Frank Sinatra famously said that being a critic was like being a sniper in a schoolyard: easy pickings. But to articulate and promote the good…I think this is more helpful to more people over the long haul.
But let me offer an example of an all too common (and I mean that in every sense of the word) Old Money Guy I know who is not that nice. Not to worry. He won’t bother to read this blog, our mutual acquaintances would completely agree with my assessment, and there’ll be no love lost in any event.
He was born into a family with some money, but not a lot of money. He attended a good prep school and a small college in the northeast. He graduated, just barely, and fancied himself a writer. He parked himself in Boston, rented a cheap studio apartment, and began to slap out the odd article and essay for this and that every now and again.
Proceeds from his trust fund kept him in tweeds and khakis. Proceeds from his writing barely bought beans and rice. Nonetheless, he was able to regularly hold forth at Beacon Hill social events on subjects grand and small, an inexperienced expert, an amateur arbiter. His one true talent became the subtle putdown, what some today call the micro-aggression: the insult or criticism so slight and nuanced that it’s difficult to recognize at first and tricky to call out or contradict.
Nothing was every quite good enough. No one was ever up to snuff. Accomplishment by others was suspect. Accomplishment on his part, truth be told, was nonexistent. Potential dating partners were initially impressed with his pedigree-adjacent family tree. Authentic Old Money Gals knew the score before the game began and wouldn’t touch him with a ten foot pole. Aspirational candidates sometimes fell under his spell, but soon got wise. There was nothing there.
As inflation kicked in, the proceeds from the trust and the bar tab at the tavern came to blows. An actual paying job was required to referee. A few desk positions came and went quickly when the numbers behind the name and the alumni connections didn’t cut the mustard when there was actual work to be done. A marriage hit the rocks shortly after having set sail. Thankfully, no children were involved when the divorce ran its course.
Luckily, a relative died and replenished the coffers. He had the funds to join a club, but no one would have him. As a consolation prize, he and his circle of wanna-bees and like-minded sloths formed a social/emotional life raft in the corner booth of a neighborhood watering hole. One friend of mine likened the scene to a wildlife documentary in which endangered species congregate for protection. My guess that the predators in this scenario would be real life and people who actually have a life. Not that the latter would have any interest in this group.
Self-preservation, indeed. As another friend complained, ‘This is guy’s giving us all a bad name.’ When I asked for clarification, he simply looked at me and replied, ‘Us.’
Ah, yes, us. Old Money. WASPs. The Establishment who actually behave properly and contribute to society. That ‘us’.
So, yes, there’s a demographic of Not Very Nice People in Old Money culture, but take heart: we’ll al most always focus on the positive here.
And we’ll take a lesson from my fellow Parisians who, when encountering something unpleasant, simply ignore it. Tres elegant.