This is the first of a two-part post.
Driving with Anne, I suggested we stop at a simple neighbourhood place for lunch. "Oh, she said, I would never eat there, let's go to to that cute café in the Beach. I'm a such a snob!"
I became interested in this word.
Snob: the term, beyond its sparse dictionary definition, is explored here.
It's often used lightly, as Anne did. But I don't think she's a snob, just picky.
Faux snobs like Anne abound, trying when you just want a quick bite, but not the real deal. I would like women to reconsider, before merrily adopting the label, whether the shoe really fits. It is, in its accurate use, not an admirable quality.
For snobbery is not simply a matter of taste or discernment. To be a true snob, you will be concerned with status and your elevation. Snobs are invested in the social confirmation that differentiates them from the masses– or from a group which threatens them. (Stalin has been called the world's greatest snob.)
You can be a snob about anything: book snob, eco snob, school snob, religion snob, bike snob– or go whole-hog snob, which must be exhausting. Snob is a job– and when you think you're at the top of your game, someone hisses, parvenu.
Not necessarily snobs
The connoisseur, having honed his eye, can't stand substandard goods. Snob friends might applaud his taste and hold out the golden apple of social approval. The connoisseur appreciates the quality of his Gieves and Hawkes suit, the snob is quite comforted by the firm's possession of all three main Royal Warrants.
The bon vivant loves the good life, revels in pleasure; she is only a snob if she thinks her talent for enjoyment confers superiority. The bon vivant likes the idea of meeting for a glass after work, the snob will be sure to meet at the right bar.
The proud person is just plain happy to be–and declare herself– whatever: Canadian, Parent of an Honour Student, gay, owner of a Shih Tzu– the list is endless, go ahead and Google it. The snob believes that membership confers superiority, and the more exclusive or restrictive the membership, the better.
"Bons": reverse snobs
The reverse snob eschews anything "too fine" "intellectual" or "snooty". Reverse snobs are common among adolescents, who usually grow out of it after trying the patience of their capitalist running-dog parents. (True snobs rarely change.) "Bons" behaviour includes the return of gifts they deem too nice, the deliberate choice of grotty restaurants, and acute embarrassment or boredom if dragged to highbrow cultural events.
Sharply critical of anyone for "forgetting their roots", the reverse snob's theme is a lusty rendition of this:
Snobs' secret longings
If you pull back the plush velvet curtain of snobbery, you often find insecurity.
Joanna dressed her children in exquisite clothes from a luxury boutique. She compensated for her destitute childhood– and said so. But Jo wasn't a snob: she didn't care whether others noticed or what they thought of her choice.
Dianne patronized the boutique because the label telegraphed her social connection to the élite: "I just picked up the cutest sweater for Elodie at Bonpoint, where I saw Madame X buying the same one!" Name-dropping is the snob's oxygen.
Calling oneself a snob is a backhanded boast: I have arrived, or I have more (as in, for example, intellectual snobbery). It also pre-empts being chastised by others. Like calling yourself a ditz, the snob excuses the attribute by being the first to name it.
Snobbery reveals what one needs to feel welcome and safe in the world. The urge to establish superior status may be a coping mechanism developed over many thousands of years as a means for survival. That is, until the concept of revolution caught on.
We all reassure ourselves with some kind of security blanket. The snob's will be Scottish cashmere, but it's a blankie nonetheless.
How to treat a snob
First, most people who call themselves snobs aren't. But a real snob might respond to being told that we love him just the way he is, before you even think of reformation. He has so much of his identity invested in his status. And your snob probably has other, more admirable qualities.
A snob might benefit from a little gently-rendered ribbing. If so, you could respond the way my brother did when a colleague offered to drive him home in his new Rolls Royce.
Dr X: Have you ever been in a Rolls before, Denny?
Bro: Well... not in front.
Tomorrow: Snobs: Part two