I had a fairly unpleasant high school experience. In the middle of my tenth grade year, my family moved from the coast of South Carolina to the Piedmont of North Carolina. My new high school had two distinct social groups: tobacco farmers’ kids and the privileged children of fairly affluent parents from Bermuda Run Country Club, a gated community. Oh, there was a tiny, third social group of transplant kids from the Sea Islands of SC… me.
Universally, the tobacco kids were unsophisticated, but emotionally mature. Each worked on the farm from a young age and gained an adult-like tempering from being productive and from contributing to the welfare of his/her family. The Bermuda Run children were emotionally infantile and inflicted a smug, judgmental snobbery on each other and on the rest of us. Prior to the move, I was honestly unaware of the phenomenon called, “name brand.” I quickly learned that wearing shirts with the wrong animal embroidered on the chest or sneakers with the wrong stripe on the side meant ridicule and a sense of shame.
In retrospect, I give the Bermuda Run children a pass. They were simply mimicking their parents. I can understand this level of immaturity in high schoolers, but am always surprised that any adult would want to extend such puerile behaviors beyond adolescence. Pretentiousness is rare in the upper class, but pervasive to the middle and upper middle-classes. Most Bermuda Runners fell into these latter categories. Bermuda Run parents universally applied the absurd costumes and manners of sociological “wannabes.” Ironically, pretentiousness does not result from feelings of superiority. It is conversely, a manifestation of extreme insecurity. Snobbery is a desperate clinging to the superficial in the absence of genuine self-worth.
Pretentiousness is a “passive-aggressive” behavior that demonstrates craven hostility. The intent of snobbery is to inflict emotional harm on others. It can effectively harm the immature, but ultimately causes greater harm to the snob him/herself. Snobbery is born of fear, vulnerability, and social incompetence. It serves as a mechanism for generating scraps of esteem in people so small inside that these tiny perceived victories are of value. Pretentiousness is a “short game” that sacrifices intimacy and meaningful relationships for pettiness and cruelty.