Monday, March 19, 2007

The Way of the WASP

Mr. J. M. Garcia III (a Junta member) explains the mystery that is the "Social Register"...It, of course, is not Debrett's, but, then again, treating poorly dressed actors, thuggish athletes and vulgar performers like royalty makes up for it, don't you know...

"...The matter of social class in the United States is intriguing, because as a democratic republic we ostensibly did away with all aristocracy. While this affords a measure of fluidity to the various strata of society similar to the fluidity available in the economic strata (albeit with something of a lag), it also means the notions of class are a difficult target to keep in one’s sights. In places such as the United Kingdom, the matter is far more rigid. There is a monarch as well as dukes, earls, barons and viscounts, plus tomes such as “Debrett’s Peerage” to help everyone keep all these details straight. Fortunately, here in the United States we have something similar; the aforesaid “Social Register.”

While the whole getting-in process is gilded with a glittering lack of specifics, it is a very safe wager this is one of those invitation-only affairs. As near as I can tell, it seems anyone eager to get listed therein must be sponsored and seconded by a number of people already listed. If time is of the essence one may, of course, marry a listee, which seems to work well for women marrying a listee. Men who marry a listee usually see their listee metamorphose into a former listee. Why the Y chromosome should prove a more reliable indicator of NOKDness is something yet to be clarified, but we must accept it as fact. Regardless of your marriage(s), you are not guaranteed Thing One, listing-wise. Pretty much the only guarantee is winning a presidential election. It once was the case Presidents used to be among the listed even before getting so much as elected dogcatcher. This all changed with Harry Truman, who was not 1945’s idea of a Society man.

Afterwards, all Presidents get themselves listed.

When you’re as impertinent as I am, you notice there are aspects of the “Social Register” which seem suffused with special sort of irony. Twist your synapses around this little factoid: There are about 25,000 families in the Republic who presumably delight themselves on “The Social Register’s” exclusivity, yet somehow freely consent to have their addresses and phone numbers in a book available in every public library.

Still, as always, we live in a time of poseurs and arrivistes, and the “Social Register” method, while flawed, provides an acid-test for separating lottery-winnin’ yokels from people of breeding. The doubtlessly stringent and almost certainly Byzantine screening process leaves the reader confident those allowed to grace the “Social Register” pages aren’t merely wealthy, they’re OKd. There isn’t much carved in marble about these people except they are ostensibly tasteful, affluent and discreet, and likely descended from same. Any other desirable and/or deplorable attribute beyond these may readily find refuge among the listees, seemingly at random..."