I was struck by this post by Amanda, reflecting on Roxanne’s New Year’s resolution, snobbery, and intelligence:
I had a conversation a few months ago with a friend who drunkenly told me that I am sort of amusing because I apparently make like I’m some punk rock chick but deep down inside I’m really bright and educated and I just told him that I didn’t really think the two were opposites or anything. He was mildly humbled and corrected himself, but I knew what he meant.
I told him I disapprove of the division between high and low art. But obviously, the distinction still stings or I wouldn’t have a post like this. But I did quote the Ramones to make my point, and it was pretty funny. So it’s very confusing.
I’m stung by snobbiness. By no means do I think Rox is a snob, because true rejection of snobbiness would mean embracing high and low art without double-checking it or anything. I am acutely aware that many aspiring and educated people I know have sneered at me for having my rock music habits. And many of my good friends who didn’t study what I did in college or didn’t go at all sometimes worry that I think I’m better or something lame like that. The worst is people who come from the snotty, educated background but like to hang out with a sort of wide-eyed wonder at how cool they are being by being near the rock and roll, what they perceive as thuggish types that are many of my friends. Or, to put it more succiently, they’re slumming.
I’ve always viewed my open snobbery as a fun digression into playful competition. Almost a year ago I wrote on this very subject:
…things I am snobbish about include celebrity worship and fansites (trash), materialism (stupid), misplaced wealth (I might be jealous), video games (waste of time, unless it’s a game I like and play myself), music (the more obscure the better), fashion (“classic” looks only, please), and snobbishness.
Even as I look down on snobbery, which suspiciously seems like snobbery, I know that I am a snob. I don’t know of any of us that aren’t.
The commenters on this post were asked to list their snobbish habits and which forms of snobbery are unacceptable — a very interesting thread. But over the last few weeks I’ve been thinking about elitism of another sort, the same sort that Amanda references.
Earlier today I went on my biyearly trip to the hair salon. I was musing on a potential writing project aimed at young single parents, born from my ruminations on the weird ways I save money and the weirder ways I spend it. My hairdresser and I were talking about antiques, high school, Nikki Sixx, and dating.
“You and I are alike,” she said. “Kind of weird, unwilling to accept the standard.” She was referring to men.
Agreed. I’ve never been one attracted to the guys in crew cuts and polo shirts, or those whose interests don’t go beyond football, Victoria’s Secret catalogs and Smallville. And in my experience, in this town, that leaves me with a select few, a population who must be combed of those whose hobbies include a never-ending ingestion of illegal drugs and those who engage in LARP. One of my sisters suggested that what I need is a nice graduate student, but even these are a chaparral of football-loving, Victoria’s Secret-gazing, Smallville-watching, pot-smoking, live action role playing kind of crew. Or for that matter, unforgivably snobbish. In the bad way.
Finding women my age with whom I’d like to spend time is just as frustrating. I find myself navigating a sea of competition and infighting for male attention not worth having, the arrangement of an unspoken pecking order, or for some reason, younger women all too eager to pander to my feminism and just as willing to degrade themselves for the attention of football-loving, Victoria’s Secret-gazing, Smallville-watching, pot-smoking, live action role playing men. This is why I was pleased when my hairdresser gave me her phone number and encouraged me to come out with her sometime. And why I was also pleased when another two women I have long admired invited me out to play over the holidays. I’m shy enough to have trouble approaching people for anything more than a pen or a stick of gum. I don’t make new friends very well and I hold on tight to the ones I have.
This is something my mother, and the many people I know who believe as she does, has never understood, how I could be a reasonably successful, intelligent, (on my way to) well-educated person and surround myself with people Mom might describe as “tacky.” Where she sees someone’s lack of formal education or perhaps a few past digressions, I see whole people. When I have pointed out to her that if someone judged me on my past, my language, or my easily shifting demeanor, I wouldn’t be able to get anywhere, she dismisses that as somehow different. When she laments their tattoos, I remind her that I have tattoos. Weird hair? I have weird hair. Spurious circumstances? I have spurious circumstances in some circles. And when she suggests that I am somehow a wide-eyed voyeur in a “thuggish” world, I want to take her hand and show her that the lives of blue-collar workers, gays and lesbians, people of other colors and cultures, aren’t that much different from ours except in the most meaningless ways. But usually I remind her that in many realities, my reality is less than desirable.
Sometimes I wish Mom had met Tammy. Hell, I wish everyone could meet Tammy.
What it really comes down to, as Amanda put it, is offense at the taste of others. I’ll never understand my poor mother (who I have apparently decided to pick on in this post) and her penchant for manufactured pottery, and I imagine she’ll never understand my thing for red wine (a maybe once per week thing she has deemed “too much”) and obscure music (“the drums are so loud! it’s just so noisy”). She’ll never understand my compulsion toward male-centered homoerotic novels or why I use the F-word far too much in adult company. So be it. She has to love me. It’s practically a law.
The incongruities between perception and reality are difficult to reconcile to someone who remains and will choose to remain an outsider of different realities, why Amanda and I sting at the assertion that being “some punk rock chick but deep down inside I’m really bright and educated and I just told him that I didn’t really think the two were opposites or anything” because they aren’t opposites or anything. And this is why, to pick on the parental units again, that I continuously feel the need to defend my choice of friends and mates across the four-decade generation gap between me and my parents. A lack of formal education does not equal a lack of intelligence or a lack of worth.
And believe you me, when I find someone worth my time I drink it in. Intelligent people don’t waste good company on faulty preconceptions.
[To anyone interested in football, Victoria’s Secret catalogues, Smallville, marijuana, or LARP: Present company always excluded. I swear.]