A few nights ago, I dragged my ass off the couch and dug out some appropriate clothing to attend a political fundraiser for young 'uns. When I received the phone call, I was in my office (the living room couch) watching the riveting tale of the Patriots 2001 Super Bowl win on ESPN Classic. There seemed to be an annoying misplaced siren sound in the background; turned out there was a fire next door. I live in a very heavily populated area, where the buildings are just feet apart, and for a moment I panicked that my building was on fire and no one bothered to tell me. No one else outside seemed to be panicking so I went back to watching TV. And all the firefighters looked like the married types anyway. Bah.
I was concerned that I would not be home in time for the O.C., but my escort for the evening assured me he'd have me home in time. I grew up in a very politically active community and missed being part of the action, so part of me was intrigued about what political activism looks like as a young professional. I had to peel myself away from the 2001 Super Bowl game (luckily I've seen it already) and ditch the denim skirt, Tshirt, and flipflops for something more appropriate. Then I realized that I gave my mom the last remnants I had of my cash (which I never carry) for my Luna bars and mini-Cokes (snack foods are essential).
I stood perched outside on the sidewalk in a skirt and open-toed heels waiting for my date and hoping I didn't look out of place in the GHETTO that my mom's neighborhood has become. There were families milling about and a group of about 8 firefighters hanging out taking reports from the fire next door. It was one of those awkward social situations in which I'm in close proximity to a lot of people I don't really know because the neighborhood has had such high turnover, but who are standing close to me and live next door to me. So I was doing that avoiding eye contact thing, trying to stand comfortably without sinking my heels into the sidewalk or the grass while emergency response teams crawled all over the place.
Finally my date arrived and we went off to the event. It was an informal, comfortable event. There was beer. Enough said.
For the first time in my life, I felt like I had some sort of social status thrust upon me by virtue of my education. I grew up in a working class family and have never really felt comfortable in such potentially pretentious social situations. I've always felt like I was smart enough and hard-working enough, but felt like I was lacking that social veneer that others possess that makes me uncomfortable. Last night, when I looked around, I think I realized that somewhere along the way I had surpassed something. I'm not sure what, exactly. I didn't feel uncomfortable or out of place, but I also wasn't particularly driven to impress anyone. For some reason, I think that my overpriced law school education has somehow validated me. It's hard to articulate any more than that without using derisive words that I don't want to use.
I suppose I will use an example that had my mom laughing so hard she choked. I was in a group of people and talk turned to politcking at polls, and the art of the political handshake. The host of the event smoothly mentioned that he just happened to be reading a biography of Theodore Roosevelt, and the host wasn't sure if we read a lot of biographies or not, or whether we had read this one, but the book mentions that Teddy at one time held the Guiness Record for most handshakes in a day. One of the individuals in my conversation group was just a little older than the rest of us, and is a political player in the state, and asked the host who wrote it. The host stumbled a bit, not sure of the author, but invited him inside to look at his biography collection.
During this conversation, I looked on with a detached amusement. I was enjoying participating in the conversation, but the part of me removed from the conversation was just processing how much I don't want to be like that. I don't want to name-drop biographies to look impressive, which in actuality achieved the opposite result for this guy. Then I giggled in my head, thinking about how much fun it would be to reveal, at a political party function, that I am currently working my way through a biography of a Marxist guerrilla because I saw a movie on it and Gael Garcia Bernal is just sooooo cute?
"Welcome to the world of intellectual elitism," my escort said to me the next day, when I revealed my personal astonishment at the tenor of the event. It's true, I suppose. I think I'm good at identifying good people in a crowd. For instance, one of the smartest people at that party was someone who has been working towards a college degree for several years now and is in restaurant management. I hope my intellectual elitism remains finely tuned enough to weed out the vapid educated individuals from the intelligent hard-working individuals.