Snobby McSnob Snob
I wonder when I became a snob.
I wasn’t raised as a snob. Anything but, actually. We were poor. We got by, but there wasn’t a lot of room for luxury and certainly no tolerance for snobbiness.
Growing up, I lived on E 69th Street. It’s the part of Long Beach that almost isn’t Long Beach anymore. North Long Beach. A street of modest three-bedroom houses, all a single storey, with peeling paint on stucco walls and a decent structure on top of the crawl space. My address put me as an outsider, as did my 633-prefixed phone number (633 is generally allocated to phones in Compton, world-famous ghetto).
Being in the gifted programs meant I was shipped off to schools outside my neighbourhood. I was allowed to go to Minnie Gant because my mom was a student at CSULB, and because I had been at a Montessori school directly opposite. I had friends, but I didn’t belong there. All of my classmates happily walked home. I got picked up, and chatted away with my mom for the 30 mintue drive to the other end of the city.
When it came to middle school, Hughes was a bit closer, and I began to meet people who didn’t live quite so far away. But even though Bixby Knolls is closer, it’s still a lifestyle apart. As social status became more important with puberty, I was still in no man’s land. I was still living north of the 91.
High school, at Poly, meant we were almost all shipped in. Few in PACE lived in walking distance of 1600 Atlantic Ave. Even so, there was a money division. Most of the people I actually interacted with had lots more than I did. Not all of them, but most. There were brand name clothes, expensive shoes, and that soon gave way to brand new cars.
I remember feeling very conscious of the fact that I really only ever had a week’s worth of clothing to wear to school. I wondered if people noticed, or if they didn’t care enough to notice. Probably the latter. We were, after all, self-obsessed teenagers.
So when did the snob come in? When did I go from drinking instant coffee with creamer to having a knowing preference for Indonesian beans? When did I start knowing about fine foods, luxury brands, and insisting on having Sky?
Maybe it’s the tech boom and Starbucks. Maybe it’s time spent in New York. (Even in NY, I would ride the bus to the neighbourhoods of the E or W 70s and 80s, and walk around as though I belonged there, before shuffling back to Flatbush.)
I’ve always had ideas above my station. It makes me try harder and constantly be miserable. I never have enough, what I have is never good enough. It never will be. I don’t know why.
I have Sky, but not HD+ with all the packages. I have good coffee, but it isn’t freshly roast and ground. I have a house, but it’s only three bedrooms and I don’t own it, and it’s only semi-detached.
I struggle with this constantly. I have constant feelings of inferiority, but also a constant feeling that I must deserve better. Is this normal? Is this simply an odd but positive thing, some American ideal of bootstrapped aspiration?
Whatever it is, it pushes me forward. It forces me to want better. It forces me to not be satisfied with good enough. It can destroy me, too. It has destroyed me, several times. But I think I can harness it for good. I hope so, anyway.
(As a footnote, the title of this post comes from a sweatshirt I have. I became known so much for my snobbiness, I was gifted with a specially printed sweatshirt with this affectionate (no, really!) nickname.)