Monday, May 15, 2006

The Social Season

It is May, and we are in the midst of the Brandeis Hillel Day School social season. Everyone who has participated in any committee or event is invited to various parties, where they can meet other people who've participated and talk about people who have not participated.

Our introverted, saintly (can I say that in regards to a Jew?) Head of School must attend all of these parties. He usually shows up, is brown-nosed, makes an elegant, low-key speech of some kind, and then quickly ducks out. This is in stark contrast to our former head of school, who loved the spotlight so much that he even took the mic to belt out "Mustang Sally" each year when the old school baby bommer parents' band plays at the Walk-a-thon.

As the most powerful poor person at BHDS, I attend many of these parties. It's understood that they will take place in homes much more lavish than mine. Last Saturday's IA (Institutional Advancement, i.e. fund-raising) party was an extreme example of this. Held at an impressive Presidio Terrace home and yet oddly co-hosted by our own Director of Institutional Advancement, this party promised "jeans, casual dress," which I later found to mean "small tassel loafers, pressed jeans and a silk shirt and/or sportcoat. I made the scene in my usual Banana Republic wear, accompanied by the Hammer, who stood in for Sandra Bullock while the latter babysat both our Jawa and hers.

We arrived early. Too early. Early enough to spend a few minutes gawking at the party being held a few houses away at the home of Senator Dianne Feinstein. DiFi's party was not casual, not even in a loafers and sportcoat way. Mercedes SUVs lined the street. Hispanic men in white coats served as valets. Inside DiFi's enormous, thatched-roofed home, San Francisco society flitted from room to room. Outside, feeling more than a little Oliver Twist-like, the Hammer and I pulled our coats around us to block the wind.

Our school is in a period of transition. It is moving from a hippie-centric parent paradigm to a more traditional private school population. In other words, the establishment has crashed the party.

I'm cool with that. They bring money, which makes it easier for the school to get new buildings, keep teachers, and throw a little bit of tuition assistance our way. I do not cringe in the presence of wealth. Or at least I try not to.

I do, however, cower in the presence of accomplishment. Early in the IA party, I found myself talking to our host, Big Exec 3B, finding that he is in the same industry as Sandra Bullock. Given that his home is 10x the size of mine, I'll assume that when he says he "works" at a company, he means "runs" the company. I stood there bathed in sweat, trying semi-successfully to hold up my end of the conversation. At least now I can say "realtor" when people ask what I do, which leads to a short exchange about "the market." Imagine what it was like when all I had to offer was "high school teacher" and/or "some kind of writer."

There was no beer at this party. I know this, because I asked one of the caterers. I feel a connection to caterers since, like most people pretending to pursue a career in "the arts," I spent plenty of time with a tray in my hand during my 20s. Now, though I walk among heads of companies, mothers wearing impractical pashminas, and political operatives, I like to take at least a moment to be nice to the caterers, because, you see, I am a man of the people. Some of the people, anyway.

A half-hour into the party, wrung out, sweaty, incongruously holding a glass of white wine and not daring to eat, lest I drop a big chunk of Brie on the Persian rug, I defaulted back to my comfort zone. Barely a polite handshake went to the Marin campus parents -- all of whom were easily identifiable as Marin parents, due to their casually hip style and complete lack of potato shoes -- and I began searching for a safe spot.

I found it in the corner among a gaggle of Sun Devils. Unique to our school and formerly of Phoenix, Arizona, by the year 2009 the Sun Devils (including their rebellious Wildcat brother) will comprise a full 2% of the BHDS student population. Tonight the clan was well-represented by the 2 goateed brothers and their wives. I knew them barely before tonight, but I got a good vibe. And besides, I've been curious about Sun Devils and their mysterious, vaguely blue-collar "family business" for awhile. We deconstructed the party, bemoaned the limited alcohol selection and marvelled at the sheer size and scope of our hosts' possessions.

The party ended early, as such parties do. This is not a place of Cheever-esque excesses. Nobody threw their keys into a bowl or drank too much scotch and embarassed their wife in front of the boss. No teenagers stole a bottle of wine and disappeared downstairs. This is not New England and we are not frustrated ad execs taking the train into The City. Everyone thanked everyone else and the men in sportcoats disappeared into their sensible cars -- we are, after all, not DiFi's guests but only humble parents brought together for a common cause: our children.

Not me, man, and not Sun Devils or the Hammer. We went to a bar.

10 Comments:

Anonymous The Hammer said...

And a good time was had by all.

2:47 PM  
Anonymous flush puppy said...

public school (in the land of rust, anyway) is way lower maintenance. having just finished our second Auction, I can report our parents actually take pride in being the one who doesn't recall any of the festivities, or losing their certificates after puking in the street. and WE all went to the roanoke after!

6:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

two things.

one, i am glad to hear this is an experience common to at least some of the family population at our school because it is certainly one shared by many of the faculty who can get dressed up and play the game Rich And Famous Yet Understated when necessary this time of year but who often park a block or two away to conceal the fact that they drove a seven-year-old jetta to the party from their one-bedroom apartment in the inner sunset. none of this, of course, conceals the fact that while some of the parents work in The Industry and other parents run The Industry, we spend our entire day living in awareness of the fact that one of your kids might puke on us at any moment. that is why we wear machine-washable clothes. you've been a teacher, lefty, you know.

two, we go out afterwards too. usually to el rio or zeitgeist. most of the time--if it's a school night--things are tame but if it's a weekend (rare) we have been known to stage our own productions of videos available for purchase on late-night TV, i.e. Teachers Gone Wild.

three (unannounced at the beginning, sorry), if i am really going to be not just a blog-lurker but also a comment-poster i have to come up with a good name for myself, not just 'anonymous' all the time.

9:41 PM  
Blogger Lefty said...

Well, my dad went from "anonymous" to his Hebrew name. You have several options. You could invent a hip-hop monicker and be "The edUKATor". Or, if I'm guessing correctly on which teacher this is, you could draw on recent experiences and be the New Jew Revue.

Perhaps an inside jokey "Cult of Chaim," or the simple "WWCD?" Even more BHDS-specific, you could call yourself "Scared of Felicks," which wouldn't narrow it too much because, face it, most of us are.

2:15 PM  
Blogger SFSusan said...

I take issue with your whiny self-proclaimed title of "the most powerful poor person at BHDS" Show me your W2 (or 1099) If you're anything like the other poor parents at BHDS then you're middle class and bitter because you think you're so special you should be upper middle class. This is such a Jewish thing. (It's also what artist who don't make or can't handel the money they do make say) I say this after 9 years at BHDS and 10 years of being married to a Jew.
Oh yes I'm Irish, Catholic, I grew up in the sunset when it was 90% white, thereby giving me a sense of entitlement to this city. Reality hit hard with the invasion of pseudo liberal East Coast/Midwest overeducated, trust fund wielding, Noe Valley whiner (they drive volvos). This meant I had to change my game plan and find a way to stay in this town and enjoy it. Although I'm not a college graduate (but I'm this close) I did figure out how to buy a house in SF, (so did many of my childhood friends who also didn't attend college) you just have to live below your means and not compare your material possessions to others and never use credit.

Did you go to college? If you did, why are you overly impressed by the possessions in the house where you attended Saturday's party? By the way, you could have just said no, I did. We have museums in SF so you can learn to tell the real deal from the fakes, you just have to develop an eye for it. This is what sets a Catholic school education apart from a private school: Catholic schools spend a great deal of time teaching one how to distinguish shit from shinola.
As for the tasseled loafers I'm sure you have some equally pompous footwear that screams "misunderstood artist"
You are in need of a trip to the dark side. Now that The Lodge (I can say proudly that my late father owned this bar in Glen Park. Used to be a nice neighborhood, see above reference to Noe Valley) and the SandBar are gone your best bets are Tradr Sams, O'Keefe's, Shamrock, TK's, Dovre Club and any bar in the Excelsior part of Mission Street.
After this trip you won't be whining about an eight year old Subaru

1:34 PM  
Blogger Lefty said...

My shoes are pompous?

4:07 PM  
Anonymous flush puppy said...

lefty's shoes rock!! i should know - they're my husband's hand-me-downs. btw, i find it ironic that sfsusan sends her kid to a private school after that rant.

5:28 PM  
Anonymous Noodle's Mom said...

Is it my imagination or is sfsusan slighly anti-semitic? If anything, Lefty, she has the whining thing down pat and I find it hard to feel sorry for someone who sends their kid to an $18,000 a year school. I do, however, pity her. Apparently she misses the days of "90% white" and being a true San Franciscan felt the need to fit in with her liberal surroundings and so married a jew. Obciously it didn't work out. I wonder why........??? To you, sfsusan, maybe you need to leave your beloved SF and gain a little perspective on life, because yours is quite narrow. After your self-indulgent rant I might suggest your own blog where other angry single white women can bemoan their fate and feel superior to anyone who wasn't conceived in the "city by the bay".

6:03 PM  
Anonymous flush puppy said...

you go, noodles'mom!

8:44 AM  
Anonymous The hammer said...

Ouch! Someone got up on the wrong side of the bed.

Speaking as a university educated (and degreed) person, born and raised in S.F., married to another S.F. native, raised Italian-Catholic and educated at a parish school, on to a now very popular Catholic high school, I think that SFSusan is quite mistaken about you and clearly misses the point. I too attended the event in question, because I worked hard on the various committees and appreciated the work of others, as well as the generosity and graciousness of the hosts. BTW, the host's home was the "real deal". My husband can tell you quite a bit about what SF Catholic schools taught in the 50's and it sure as heck wasn't the "real deal". For what it's worth, my husband finds the Judiasm taught at BHDS much more palatable than the Catholicism he was force-fed as a youth. He often comments on how Judiasm Brandeis-style much more reflects reality.

SFSusan, if you don't like Lefty's commentaries or shoes, don't read the blog. Problem solved.

5:53 PM  

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