Friday, March 31, 2006

Speaking of entitlement,

I just read the Dear Prudence column in Thursday's (yesterday) Slate. Usually I don't have a problem with the responses because the original Prudence was typically right on target. However, this new Prudence I'm not sure gets it and the very first bit of *advice* proves it.

Dear Prudence,

For the past few years, I've been dating a man in a significantly different socioeconomic class from mine. Between the two of us, this isn't much of a problem because his wealthy parents raised him with humility and social awareness, but among some of his friends, I often feel horrified by their entitled attitudes. They complain about having three weeks in Italy this summer and how boring that will get. They turn to me and ask which is my favorite thing about France, the city or the countryside? When I politely remind them of my status, which includes having been really hungry with nothing to fall back on, never having traveled to Europe, and paying for my own education, they say, "Oh, how lovely to have had that experience! You should write a novel about it!" How can a poor person politely explain to a wealthy one that their bourgeois dilemmas are hurtful to hear about, and that having one's painful experiences ironically aestheticized is no favor?

—Ex-Redneck Grad Student
This all seems reasonable to me as many of us have had the distinct pleasure of being around people like what Ex-Redneck mentions. You know the kind; as soon as you tell them you drive an '89 Ford Taurus, they ho-hum for a bit before excusing themselves.

Now for Dear Prudie's answer:

Dear Ex,

Maybe you've been watching too much Masterpiece Theatre—these people aren't viscounts and duchesses and you're not the scullery maid, they just grew up with more money than you. You made it out from poverty and are putting yourself through graduate school, where you can flaunt your vocabulary—"ironically aestheticized" indeed. Yes, it is obnoxious to assume everyone's traveled to France. But in response to your self-pitying tale, suggesting you write a novel was certainly more polite than pointing out that the chip on your shoulder is the size of the Appalachians. Spending the evening referring to your financial status makes you a bore—and that's true whether you're rich or poor. If you can't find more congenial topics to discuss when you're with these people, at least you can have some laughs with your boyfriend later about their cruel fate at having to spend three weeks in Italy.

I'm wondering where exactly the big chip on Ex-Redneck's shoulder lies, aren't you? I also don't recall her saying she has spent entire nights discussing her financial status with "those people". For the record, I would not find someone telling me "Oh, how lovely to have had that experience! You should write a novel about it!" as polite so much that I would find it patronizing and condescending being as they just whined about spending 3 boring weeks in Italy.

Prudie contends that because Ex-Redneck has a large vocabulary, she should be able to fit right in. Um, the last time I checked, the use of $10 words did not guarantee an individual's inclusion into the elite societies of the rich or that they would feel comfortable when there. When one considers that some young'uns lack the ability to use such words, being rich does not automatically mean smarter, especially if you were born into money instead of making it for yourself. Being rich generally means entitlement because people will suck up to you, hence the reason for Ex-Rednecks claim I think.

So, I am left thinking this new Prudie is experiencing her own sense of entitlement and, perhaps, Ex-Redneck's comment hit a nerve, yes? Prudie's response does seem to take on that lovely tone of defensiveness, which is usually a knee-jerk reaction when someone's called another out.