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.)

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About jeninher30s

A writer and procrastinator.

5 responses to “Snobby McSnob Snob”

  1. vivisunoriginal says :

    I think most people have ideas above their station to a certain extent, as you say it’s what pushes us to try to do better. People also have different ideas of what makes someone a snob. My neighbours think I’m a snob because I don’t talk to them much, it’s not because I think I’m better than them, it’s because I’m quite shy. My mother thinks I’m pretentious because I like to look around galleries and museums, I’m not, I just find them way more interesting than Marks & Spencers. I think I’m a bit of a snob because Primark and Farmfoods make me cringe and want to run away screaming. Good blog.

    An interesting point was made about sky on a BBC2/Open University programme last year about how our lives have changed in the past 30 years, I wish I could remember exactly what the point was, something about how the social status of having a sky dish changed over the years. The series was called electric dreams, very interesting if you can still find it on iplayer or anywhere.

  2. Evan says :

    I don’t remember you being a snob at all. But I do remember you being able to enjoy both the high and the low–I remember the girl who enjoyed spray cheese while at the same time talking about being interested in becoming a cheese monger. Maybe you just wanted to have a title with “monger” in it.

    • jmb252 says :

      Being a monger is very appealing. Cheese is probably the least offensive type of monger you could be, too.

  3. julian says :

    I think you’re right, snobbery comes from always wanting more. When you have nothing (or next to), you can’t be a snob, there is only one way to go and that is up.

    Snobbery is all part of belonging to a western, consumerist society. If no-one wanted ‘more’ then brands wouldn’t sell more, and people at the top of the food chain wouldn’t be able to afford their oversized ‘urban’ cars etc, bankers wouldn’t be able to charge stupid APR on credit cards or loans and people would generally be a lot happier. Don’t get me wrong, I think that the desire to better yourself is a good thing, but we shouldn’t mix bettering yourself with wanting more.

    I spent the best part of my adult life (so far) chasing something I now realise is probably out of my reach. I thought that having good (by good I mean expensive, which I now realise do not mean the same thing) things, the latest TV or games console and spending a vast amount of money on things for the house that I’d be happy. I thought it was important to be seen in the ‘right’ clubs and bars and to drive the ‘right’ car. Most importantly I thought it was important what others thought. I though that all this would make me happy (or happier). I was wrong. What actually happened was I spent too much money that wasn’t mine to spend and as a result nearly lost my mind.

    The most important thing I have learnt, through all this is, that I don’t need material things to make me happy. I still want them, but I realise I don’t need them. I still find myself standing in a queue in a store with items I don’t need, but now I can see the difference between needing them and wanting them. Nine times out of ten, I put the items back. I see friends talking about their latest buys and think what a waste of money. We’re bred to buy. We’re bred to think that we’re never good enough and if we just buy ‘this’ or ‘that’ our lives would be so much better.

    I think it’s important to be cultured, visiting galleries or knowing what makes a good coffee is important because it’s what ‘grows your mind’. Do away with the consumerist wants and keep the things that make you a ‘better person’.

  4. Nessa says :

    I fear that I’m a snob as well. I’ve grown up always being below the poverty line, and I chuckled to myself when you said you never had more than a week’s worth of clothes. I can assure you, nobody noticed. I was the same way (sadly, still am) and have never noticed that about others, though I’ve always been aware of it in myself.

    I also understand wanting more, and being smart enough to really understand how much more there is. Coffee is a great example. You used to be happy with instant until you realized how much more was out there. Now I would rather go without coffee than not have fresh ground brewed in a French press, or a latte.

    I’m still below the povery line and have been all my life. Doesn’t keep me from sticking my nose in the air at my neighbors in the ‘ghetto’.

    I recognize it, I hate it, I can’t change it.

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