Let’s Be Honest; There’s a Little Snobbery in Each of Us

September 29, 2017 Barbara Ballinger & Margaret Crane

Nobody likes a snob—except, perhaps, other snobs. Yet, on some level, there’s a bit of snobbery in each of us. 

The topic came up after Margaret reread recently Little Dorrit, a Dicken’s novel that satirizes the British class system with its hierarchy and titles. This got us thinking about what it means to be a snob. Down deep, we think snobbery is borne of insecurity that surfaces as the “I am better than you” syndrome. Put someone down and maybe you feel better. Or do you? 

Snobs come in a variety of shapes, sizes and forms. There are wine snobs. Clothing snobs. Artistic snobs. Intellectual snobs. Musical snobs.  Food snobs. Judging people on where they live snobs or where they went to school snobs. And so on. Sometimes, those last two types of snobbism are what folks ask when they meet someone new; a way to size them up financially or intellectually. 

In the spirit of introspection, we asked ourselves: Are we snobs and in what way? Margaret fessed up that she can be snobby about someone’s grammar. She also considers herself a cooking snob—someone who has to use the best ingredients and that includes the finest chocolate, butter, flour, and even wine. (If you don’t like to drink cheap wine, why would you cook with it?) Snobby? Well, probably.   

Barbara says she’s snobby about where people went to college, although it doesn’t matter as much after she started dating, post divorce, since many were smart men who went to colleges she had never heard of. She’s also snobby about quality, not quantity. (I would never give her a Hallmark card, only Papyrus—the ones with the extra thick paper and little gold circles you adhere to the back of the envelope as a seal of approval of sorts.) She used to like people with good pedigrees besides college—nice communities or city neighborhoods but that’s changed dramatically through the years as she met a wider diversity of individuals. And she now surrounds herself with good down-to-earth, honest folks who challenge her intellectually, are great fun, like to be active and see the world. 

To support our theory that most people have a snobby side, we conducted a snob survey among 12 friends. 

Friend #1: She freaked that Margaret was eating something with chemicals. “I only eat organic,” she said with her nose in the air. 

Friend #2:  “What do you mean you went in that part of town? I would never do that. What could you have in common with those people?” another one said. 

Friend #3: “I won’t spend time with people who are overweight (is it contagious?)” came from yet a third. You’re getting the drift, right? 

Friend #4: “Sipping a $10 cab? Why when you can buy a good Pinot at the corner wine shop for under $20?”  

Friend #5: “Why would anyone wear a schemata from Target when she could afford to buy something at Neiman’s or better yet Bergdorf Goodman?” 

Friend #6: “I hate bad manners. Those who chew with their mouths open, grab and don’t offer you some food first. They take a sip of their drink before they toast you, and order before they check with everyone else if it’s going to be a shared meal.” 

Friend #7: “I can be snobby about where someone lives. As I’ve aged, I’m less snobby about this. But I’m adamant that I won’t date someone who is fat or unattractive." 

Friend #8: “I won’t go out on a date with somebody unless they went to an Ivy League college.” 

Friend #9: “I won’t be seen with people who are loud, chew gum, and wear too much bling.” 

Friend #10: “I abhor stupid conversations. That’s why I try to associate mostly with people who are smart and have impressive jobs.” 

Friend #11: “I could never be good friends with anybody who reads trashy magazines like ‘Us’ or watches TV shows like ‘The Bachelor.’” 

Friend #12: “Why would someone walk or take a public bus when they could grab a cab or call Uber? And worse would be taking the subway in New York City; can’t imagine that and surviving!” 

Do you see yourself in any of these scenarios? 

We read in the New York Times (Wed. April 19, 2017) “Who Doesn’t Hate Snobs: Yet, Who Isn’t One, Somehow?” by Dwight Garner, who reviews “The New Book of Snobs: A Definitive Guide to Modern Snobbery.” We all know snobs. Thackery, the piece states, wrote: “The book of Snobs” in 1848 in which he defines a snob as “someone who meanly admires mean things.” More recent and popular examples of blatant snobbery is the PBS hit series: Downton Abbey. How about lady Catherine de Bourgh in Pride and Prejudice or Carolyn Bingley…”Jane is a sweet girl but that family…” 

So we say, STOP. Stop putting people and things on a pedestal. We are all frail, faulty, and flawed. Let’s admire rather than admonish. So and so might have awful taste in clothing, but she’s really kind, funny and a good friend. Do not assume that “Nancy” is not as smart as “Jane”. There are different kinds of intelligences. Think about what constitutes beauty, honesty, luxury, and simplicity. What connects us all say, for example, a CEO and a single mother running a household? We are a composite of materials, slabs made from leftover bits and pieces of our lives held together by our common humanity. 

In this spirit, let’s focus on change through what we call our 12-step snob recovery regimen.

  • Be aware of your snobbery. She could afford to dress better. He was blackballed from the country club. Why not? His wife is loud and shrill and comes from nothing.  You’re friends with her? She’s so dull. Hello. Are you listening to yourselves?
  • Be respectful of others. Disregard social status, family income, abilities, or other criteria as a benchmark of any kind.
  • Be a good neighbor. It’s the decent thing to do. Anyway, you can’t choose your neighbors so you might as well accept them for who they are. When Margaret was a little girl, the neighbor across the street would sit outside on the porch in his undershirt. It would repulse the neighbor next store who was an attorney. “He brings the neighborhood down,” he’d say to her parents.
  • Be a good sport and give someone the benefit of the doubt. “Did you hear that stupid comment Sue made?” Maybe she was having a bad day, no sleep, couldn’t hear right---a liability at this age.
  • Do not humiliate others in private or public. Be respectful of the hotel clerk, the server, the man behind the desk at your cleaners or drug store. You can really tell a lot about people by how they treat those who wait or serve them. Put downs are unacceptable unless the person you are confronting is rude or abusive. However, there are better ways to communicate with rude people than a put down. Remember: You get more bees with honey.
  • Disagree if you must. Give the other person a chance to voice her or his opinion.
  • Acknowledge other people’s accomplishments. It’s always harder to tout someone than be there when they’re sad. Be their cheerleader; says a lot about you.
  • Do not take credit for something someone else did. Be gracious and again toot their horn.
  • Be prepared when a snob makes a rude comment or asks a rude question. React matter of factly. Try not to get defensive. However, if the comment is about someone else, stick up for that person tactfully.
  • Make a concerted effort to spend time with people of all walks of life. Fill your lives with diversity. Everyone has something special. Accept people for who they are. And listen to what they have to say. You’ll appreciate the same.
  • Count to 10 if you’re about to make a nasty comment. You see a friend carrying a cheap purse with a good dress and shoes. Take a deep breath, and zip your lip. Why would you need to hurt them?
  • Snobbery is negative energy. Instead of turning on someone else, turn inward and work on yourself. Be happy for everyone and try to be positive. 

Each of us has the power to reboot our lives and walk away from our snobbery. Let's try to take a respite from this type of thought. Then we may return “home” hopefully refreshed and enlightened. Just think how much better we will all get along.

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