There is only one thing that tickles me more than being called a gentrifier by white hipsters who were getting drunk on cooking wine in Narberth when I bought my house in West Philly (from an Asian couple who bought it from a British lady). And that is being called a yuppie. Here’s why.
I grew up in the eighties, the heyday of yuppies. My dad repaired marine electronics for a living, and he grumbled about yuppies all the time. I learned that while commercial fisherman were cool, yuppies were very bad people who cared only about yachts and when their lorans would be ready.
But in middle school, my opinion of yuppies changed. When my dad dropped me off in his beat-up station wagon, I was embarrassed. Shannon Reed’s mom, who was a lawyer, dropped her off in a zippy red Mercedes convertible. Remember, hipsters did not yet exist, so it was waaaayyy cooler to get dropped off in a Mercedes than a Chevy Vega.
I started to secretly wish that my Dad was a yuppie, so that I too could fly down to Jupiter Beach for Christmas break, or get ski tags that I could leave on my Land’s End anorak for the duration of the winter. Maybe even my Dad secretly wanted to be a yuppie. You see here in this picture that he put a suit on for Easter Sunday. But even if had wanted to, it would not have been possible, because in those days, it was harder to be a yuppie. You had to have a job which required you to wear a suit. You had to commute to the nearest big city and work long hours. You had to have lots of money.
When I grew up, I felt bad for wishing that the kindest and most generous man that I’ll ever know had been any different, but I still wanted to be a yuppie. When I married a carpenter from South Carolina (remember there still were no hipsters so being a carpenter was not yet cool) and had a baby at age 23 via Medicaid because I didn’t have health insurance, I thought that if I were a yuppie I could have a better doctor. If I’d been a yuppie I could have paid for cheese and juice with an American Express Platinum card instead of WIC vouchers.
My wishing to be a yuppie peaked I was twenty-five, living with my parents and husband and firstborn, and waitressing at the Golf Club where the very classmates whose vacations and Victorian mansions and outerwear I had coveted were members. One time I ran into the boy who was Most Popular in eighth grade. We did a little catching up while I waited for a drink order at the bar.
“Can you get me a rum and Coke?” he asked.
I asked the bartender, and asked again when it hadn’t materialized after five minutes.
“I gave it to him,” the bartender said with a frown,”He didn’t need to ask you when he was standing right here.”
When a grade-school friend with whom I’d lost touch got married, I requested not to be assigned to the wait staff at her wedding. My boss was a very sweet lady and she obliged, but she also told me that food service was her profession and that I should never be ashamed of honest work. She was so right, and I was deeply embarrassed for denigrating her vocation (Jackie, I was a snot and I hope you forgive me!) I will never forget that lesson.
During this time I was very conscious of how the other mothers were a good ten to fifteen years older than me, and took their kids to the park outfitted in Dansko clogs and Range Rovers. I picked up an Ann Taylor twinset at a yard sale and strategically placed The Week In Review section of the New York Times beside me on the park bench, but the proletarian Honda Prelude that I drove might as well have had a bumper sticker on it that read “Not a Yuppie.”
Fast forward to 2015, where the onerous restrictions on both federal campaign donations and being a yuppie have been joyfully lifted. Fast forward to the sheer delight that I felt, when after my piece criticizing people who let their dogs run off leash at Woodlands Cemetery was published in West Philly Local, I enraged a motley collection of hipsters, Anarchists, dog-lovers, and the generally disgruntled who called me a yuppie. You don’t have to have a Range Rover! Forget about the house on Nantucket! You don’t even need a briefcase! All you have to do is strike a yoga pose and request that dog owners follow the rules.
It was a Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz moment for me. I’d had the power to achieve yuppiedom all along, I just never knew it.
I was baffled and amused, but the irony was not lost on me. Haters, where were you in middle school? Where were you in my twenties? Where were you when I needed you the most?
I am especially pleased that even though the majority of my income comes from Social Security Survivor benefits (yes, commenter-named-Samantha, you correctly intuited that the dog bite I got was the worst thing that ever happened to me, far worse than discovering the dead body of my husband on the floor) even though I make my living as a part-time TA and yoga teacher (how do you think I have the time to write this blog?), I can still, proudly, identify as a yuppie. I’m going to see if I can wrangle a discounted membership to the University City Swim Club next summer.
Marco Rubio is right. This is the land of opportunity.