Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
The Cap’n caught ol’ Robbo out in the post below in identifying Lisa Birnbach’s The Official Preppy Handbook as a major influence on my then-15 y.o. life.
Well, what can I say? I wasn’t born an Eastern Blue-blood myself, but I was raised with aspirations to Eastern Blue-blood values and style, so the book was a natural fit for me. Still have a lot of said values and stylistic goals, although 35 years of experience has, of course, modified my outlook summat. Isn’t that pretty much what life is about?
Anyhoo, I bring this up because I’m reminded of a curious little scandal associated with this book which came back to me because of teh Cap’n’s remark. You see, the section of said book dealing with “preppy” colleges makes reference to a number of Virginia private schools – Sweet Briar, Hampden-Sydney, Hollins, etc., – but there is absolutely no mention of Washington & Lee University (or “Dubyuhnell” as we like to call it). This puzzled ol’ Robbo, once he became acclimated to the Dubyuhnell ethos as a law student, because he thought the place was exactly what Birnbach ought to have had in mind when putting together her list.
Well. A couple years later, I heard an explanation for what was going on. You see, according to my source (a college administration employee in the area), while she was writing the OPH, Birnbach apparently was engaged in a relationship with somebody in the Dubyuhnell administration (in the admissions office, IIRC). The story goes that they had a very messy break-up, and that Birnbach black-listed Dubyuhnell in her book out of pure spite.
So there you are. The politickal sometimes can be the personal. Or the other way round. Whichever.
Incidentally, I can’t help citing this book without noting Birnbach’s “updated” version which came out a few years ago, True Prep. I cannot decide whether she is satirizing the New Order or licking its collective boots with this book, but either way, the thing is appalling. Gone are the old values of tradition, restraint, refinement, and decorum. In their place are conspicuous consumerism, garish display, rampant narcissism, embracement of “pop culture” and the jettison of traditional morality. Put it this way, the Obamas are mentioned more than once as role-models.