Saturday, November 27, 2010

Cringeworthy Displays of Status

Everyone has a different idea of what represents "status". And when flaunting opportunities arise, people most often reveal not their awesomeness, but their deep-seated smallness and dysfunction.

I once dined with a well-known food-writer who I'll call Arnold. We enjoyed a pleasant meal, and, once the check was paid and it was time to go, Arnold headed directly for the door. I yelled after him to wait, because he'd forgotten the profusion of plastic shopping bags he'd left under the table. His boyfriend leaned toward me, and, in a stage whisper, explained that "Arnold doesn't shlep!" He and I hastily gathered the bags and carried them out of the restaurant while Arnold strode majestically ahead, unencumbered.

This was what Arnold deemed having "made it": not having to carry bags. It's a fantasy that could be harbored only by someone with sensibilities firmly anchored in the nineteenth century Eastern European ghettos of his forebears. Which is to say that it marks him, unmistakably, as an absolute peasant, even while he feels most aristocratic.

Another example. I once played a jazz gig with a cocky trumpeter who dressed in shiny suits and posed photogenically while he blew. When his solos ended, he'd stride off the bandstand and hand his horn, without eye contact, to his obediently waiting girlfriend. Then he'd amble over to the bar to order drinks and chat with friends while the girlfriend stood dutifully in place next to the bandstand until, again sans eye contact, he recovered his trumpet for the next tune. She, by the way, was stunningly gorgeous and highly intelligent.

I realized that this was a display of power*. He was demonstrating to everyone in the room his powerful sexual domination. Of course, what was really being demonstrated was that both he and she were tragic co-dependent train wrecks. But in his mind (as in Arnold's), he was really living the life. This was status!

* - I must admit that I, myself, don't have the power to make a woman do anything like that - not that I would if I could, or that I'd be attracted to any woman capable of such passivity. Although, hmm, wait...I have, in fact, successfully persuaded more than one hungry women to patiently sit starving while I drove aimlessly for hours in search of hyperdeliciousness, determined not to settle for merely adequate food. Hey, anyone can make a girlfriend hold a trumpet, but I am able to tame even hypoglycemia! But, alas, there was never anyone there to witness my gnarly display of manly vigor....

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