NYC aristocracy

Okay, I'm finally following up on my impressions of How to Lose Friends and Alienate People by Toby Young. I read this book and did a quick post about it back in winter, when my world seemed dim. There's something about Chicago winters, an uneventful work life, and bland social life that create a dismal mix. So I somehow could relate to his book, even though it was about his life in New York while he was at Vanity Fair.

I followed up in spring with a post that included an excerpt from the book, and said that I would post another excerpt. But then I got really busy with work and distracted by other postworthy stuff. So now that the summer is here, I might as well post another excerpt. Even though I'm in a different frame of mind and it's been a while since I've read that book, I still highly recommend it. So if you haven't read it, you should.

Toby Young found himself in the thick of the snobby New York City scene, to the point of yearning for the class system in England. This is what he said about how New Yorkers judged him when he failed:

The various setbacks I suffered at the end of 1997 brought home to me the extent to which New Yorkers judge you according to how well or badly you're doing. When I'd first arrived and people had asked me what I did at parties, a noticeable change would come over them when I said I worked at Vanity Fair. They'd stop looking over my shoulder for a second and give me the once over. Occasionally, they'd even talk to me. Evidently, I was someone worth knowing. However, after I was taken off the masthead I vanished from the radar screen. Neither rich, successful, good looking, nor well connected, I wasn't worth bothering with. No sooner had the words "I'm just a freelance hack" come out of my mouth than the person I was talking to was hastily backing away, wondering how they could politely ask for their business card back. It was a sobering experience. I'd assumed that people liked me for who I was, not what I did, but in Manhattan you are what you do.

And this is how New Yorkers judge each other (according to him):

Why do New Yorkers attach such importance to the state of your career? To a certain extent, they define each other according to the usual demographic categories--gender, ethnic origin, religious background, etc.--but these things pale into insignificance beside the jobs they do. It's as if there are no alternative sources of identity. In particular, they don't define people according to what class they belong to.

Basically, he says, they don't go beyond what you do, and if you can't help them and aren't well-connected or important, "you might as well not exist."

Sounds like a wonderful way to live (not). I wonder how many snobs like that get their come-uppance.

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