Fitting In

By Keith Weller, USDA ARS – This image was released by the Agricultural Research Service, the research agency of the United States Department of Agriculture, Public Domain,

Years ago, I worked at a community college in an offbeat part of town. A well-known duo, elderly Pansy and her son George, added to the quirky nature of the neighborhood. The couple, known everywhere, never went out without their finery, so as to be prepared for any social event serving food, whether they were invited or not.

Recently, my husband and I were invited to a birthday party and a thank-you event for donors to a university, two functions with a super-wealthy crowd. Unlike the Pansys and Georges of the world, we were on the guest lists, but still felt like we didn’t belong. The parties led us to reflect on our middle-class upbringing and the world it prepared us for, socially. Definitely not the new worlds we just visited.

One thing stood out in both events: the excellent food. We dined on filet mignon, salmon, spectacular hors de’ oeuvres, including caviar, and at least four kinds of desserts. These treats helped compensate for any discomfort we felt in our attempts to fit in.

At the birthday party, I was assigned a dinner seat next to a professional football player’s wife. Conversation was pleasant but limited. At the same party I sat near a woman whose wrist bling was blinding. My wrist also stood out, because I wore what I always wear: a bright pink rubber Fitbit to track my steps for the day.

We knew no one among the few hundred attendees at the university party, but after the speeches ended, a couple standing near us introduced themselves and asked which university programs we had an interest in supporting. 

From our brief conversation, I learned that the couple had told their adult children they would not receive all the inheritance they might have hoped for, due to the parents’ priorities for giving.

Nice to know the children wouldn’t be surprised, but up until that point it hadn’t crossed my mind to worry.

Among other things, the couple was funding a full-ride for one student. They’d meet with him often for updates on his academic performance and experiences, because, “when you’re donating six figures you want to know where your money is going.”

Indeed, they would, but did we?

These social events with the super-rich made me want to know more. 

I found a few answers on the website of a law firm specializing in business law, titled, “Subtle signs a person is wealthy.”

We recognized many of these subtle signs at the parties we attended.

“The wealthy possess a wealth of social graces.” Indeed, those were what my husband and I concluded we were missing. The closest I came to preparation for life in a different social class was the ballroom dancing course my mother made me attend in eighth grade. Her goal was to tune up the social graces she found lacking in me, but the class didn’t meet her needs, nor come close to meeting mine, which was not to be there.

“The wealthy possess subtle style.” Tailored, non-showy but expensive clothing was the order of both evenings, though at the university affair, faculty members also attended the program, so some unconventional dress and hairstyles were on full display. 

Do we plan to attend any more of these awkward events?  Yes. Like Pansy and George we might as well go for the good food and stop worrying about fitting in.

There is one thing I will change in the future. Another subtle sign of the super wealthy is, “They know how to accessorize.” This one made me laugh.  At future parties, I will leave my Fitbit at home.

About stillalife

I retired June 30, 2010 after working for 40 years in the field of education and most recently doing school public relations/community outreach in a mid-size urban school district. I wrote for superintendents and school board members. Now I'm writing for me and I hope for you. In this blog, I offer my own views coupled with the latest research on how to preserve our physical and mental health as we age, delve into issues most of us over 50 can relate to like noticing wrinkles and forgetting where we left our keys, discuss the pros and cons of different ways to engage our minds and bodies after we leave the workplace, and throw in an occasional book review, all peppered with a touch of humor, irony, and just plain silliness. Also, I'm on the third draft of my second novel since retirement.
This entry was posted in humor, personal reflections, stress and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Fitting In

  1. Karen Clark says:

    This was great!

    Sent from my iPhone


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  2. Sharon Howard says:

    Very fun !


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  3. Martha says:

    OK – I checked the article on how to spot the signs of wealth and I have the number one – EMPHASIZE EDUCATION. Does that mean I qualify?

  4. Darlene Bishop says:

    I would have loved to be a fly on the wall or rather on your shoulder, unobserved of course.

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