Wednesday, September 23, 2009

are you a wasp?

As Tad Friend (author of “The Ex Files” in this month’s Vogue) points out in his new memoir, Cheerful Money: Me, My Family, and the Last Days of WASP Splendor, “Elvis Presley was a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant, as is Bill Clinton, but they are not what anyone means by WASP.” So what, exactly, is a WASP? And how can you tell if you are one? The long answer can be found in Friend’s book. Below is Vogue’s cheat sheet—the WASP Rules, as it were—freely and loosely adapted from the memoir to help anyone with a polo shirt quickly locate himself (or herself) on the WASP index.
  1. Your full name is at least six syllables, but you have a clubby nickname like Bootsy or Scrote.
  2. There is really nothing to eat in your fridge, which contains only marmalade, wilted scallions, out-of-season grapes, seltzer, expired dairy products, and vodka. Atop the fridge is some chewy or salty or otherwise challenging snack.
  3. Your desk is accessorized with dry pens from defunct banks, postage meters for sending first-class letters in 1971, and a classroom’s worth of wooden rulers.
  4. You play a sport, such as crew, polo, sailing, court tennis, paddle tennis, golf, or skiing, that typically requires a large or intricately carpentered space unusable for any other purpose, expensive equipment, and a willingness to endure cold and/or discomfort.
  5. You own a sporting-breed dog, named after a strong liquor.
  6. (For men) You will never experience the pleasures of leather pants or a shark’s tooth on a thong dangling in your chest hair.
  7. Your temperament alternates between affable and peevish.
  8. You don’t articulate your upper body in sections; it moves en masse or not at all.
  9. You are slow to pitch in on manual labor and not particularly handy, though you may pride yourself on the rarely called-for ability to carve a watermelon into the shape of a whale.
  10. As a youth, you wore Lacoste shirts in a vibrant effusion of pinks, yellows, and greens, flipping up the collar points to appear, in theory, studly. 
  11. You now wear dull, molting colors of khaki and battleship gray, and tweeds.
  12. In winter, you wear down vests and cardigan sweaters over turtlenecks like an old-time skier (to compensate for setting the thermostat at 60°).
  13. Your guest room features hand irons for doorstops, ladder-backed chairs with suspect caning, and change dishes inscribed with French sayings—ne parlez pas d’amour—faites le!—and filled with safety pins and bobby pins and orphaned screws.
  14. You are reserved upon first meeting, used to being told you are intimidating, and slow to depend on people because you hate being disappointed. This has often led people to read you as aloof or smug.
  15. Your tableware consists of anything that abhors the dishwasher: gold-rimmed chargers, etched-crystal wineglasses, pedestaled fruit plates, egg spoons of translucent horn.
  16. You subscribe to the belief that you don’t have to do anything you don’t feel like doing in order to establish your financial security, because there will eventually be some sort of inheritance to tide you along.
  17. You are fiercely—but privately—emotional.
  18. Your written correspondence is laden with plus signs and ampersands, their deployment suggesting the management of untold complexities unbearably tedious to relate.
  19. No matter how down in the dumps you are, you respond to “How are you?” with a reflexive “Tip-top!”

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