I don’t know if you’ve caught on yet, but it may have occurred to anyone who reads my posts on a regular basis that I’m not living the Lifestyle of the Rich and Famous here in the mountains of Virginia.
In fact, one might say I’m not even living the Lifestyle of the Moderately Wealthy and Vaguely Familiar; but I’m not poor and faceless either.
You might say I live the Lifestyle of the
cheap Thrifty and Anonymous. And if there is one thing we T and A’s can sniff out in an instant, it’s pretension. And we love doing it too.
Oh, sure. We get our jollies reading about the Hollywood crowd, but that has long since transcended pretension into downright trashiness. But this is to be expected since the combined disparity between brain surface areas and annual incomes in Southern California is a number not yet assigned a name by physicists. Where else would a memo be issued limiting the length of one’s limo. . . to 38 feet? And, as I guessed, it’s Hollywood that started the trend of what I thought impossible: a Hummer limo is even tackier than the original street vehicle.
So we view Hollywood as a little glass bubble of concentrated self-importance and roll our eyes. But oh, the subtlety of eastern pomposity where, on a hot summer night from Boston to Miami, you can hear the pitter-patter of names being dropped.
But pretension isn’t just a regional phenomenon. The art world capitalizes on it, as I’ve already explored. And certainly just about every industry and pastime has its share of snobs (as a purebred dog owner I can assure you this is true).
And then there are those rare, but amusing, cases where regional superciliousness meets industry conceit, as in this New York Times piece. Writer Zarah Crawford, acting as a “critical shopper,” decided to slum it to find out why fashion designer Vera Wang would lower herself to create a line for a store like Kohl’s.
Let me tell you something about Kohl’s around here and, I imagine, in most communities. We go to Nordstrom and Lord and Taylor to browse the clearance rack, and we may even buy off the clearance rack for, say, a wedding. But when our sons need black pants that evening for a school concert he’s known about for four weeks but neglected to tell us until 3 o’clock the day of the event, we go to Kohl’s. Kohl’s is our high-end store because we are people who have kids to put through a $20,000+ a year college. So rather than spending almost $100 on a blouse that has to be dry cleaned and will be out of style by next year, we spend $25 on a classic that will be serviceable until Finster finally gets his degree.
I assume Crawford’s reference to “the occasional matron in a tracksuit” is a way to highlight just how incredulous is the pairing of an “A-list celebrity” (am I the only one who cringes at that phrase?) like Wang with a “value-oriented” store like Kohl’s; a store that has these very un-chic people “shuffling” around. Why, they might even be. . . God help us. . . unattractive.
But, showing true
condescension democratization, Crawford bravely deigns to purchase some clothes if only, I guess, to be able to tell the story at her next cocktail party about how it is actually possible to shop for clothing in Brooklyn.
People are pretty down-to-earth around here in the Shenandoah Valley. But, as in probably any community, we have our share of people with more money than sense. Every now and then some celebrity or other, impressed with our lovely landscape and rural rusticity, decides to set up housekeeping in one of the slowly dwindling high-acre farms. They stay for a year or two, attend a few community functions acting all folksy and earthy, until it occurs to them that damn, this really is the country, and in the spring you don’t so much smell the honeysuckle as smell the biosolids the real farmers spray on the fields; and the only regular socializing is Tupperware parties and having a beer down at the Moose. They soon move on, back over the mountain, and buy one of the faux-farms that entertain D.C. Sunday drivers looking for country atmosphere, only with reliable plumbing and trash pickup service.
I humbly submit that even I am not immune to a certain amount of pretension, as my son reminded me recently when I placed a little dish with sea salt on the dinner table along with the usual salt shaker, which he immediately reached for.
“Why don’t you use the sea salt?” I asked.
“I don’t use bourgeois salt. I use the salt of the people,” he snarled, then added politely, “Can I have $50 for gas?”