It’s disconcerting how the word yuppie is still being used a decade into this millennium. I thought it had died in the early ‘90s. Using the term makes you sound like an aging, out-of-touch punk rocker (another antiquated concept). To me, if feels particularly tone deaf because the consumerism so reviled in the ‘80s has simply become standard. Yuppie is now synonymous with middle-to-upper class American. Watch cable for an afternoon or crack open a fashion or food magazine; it’s all big houses, $80,000 renovations, new cars, organic produce, $5,000 purses, granite, travertine, Tuscany. Everyone seems way more affluent than 20 years ago even if a bulk of it is all aspirations and bought on credit.
What’s a modern yuppie, anyway? The dreaded hipster, that catchall for anyone young with a style or behavior that’s annoying? A Bobo or even worse, as coined in The Observer last week: a Brobo? While it’s true that vast swaths of Brooklyn are insufferably smug and cute, all I took away from the article was that wealthy 20-somethings who went to Ivy League schools and work in nonprofits and at prestigious publications and live in either Manhattan or Brooklyn, are kind of unlikeable.
However, I did agree with this sentiment from one of those young New Yorker editorial assistants on side Manhattan:
"Sometimes I'll go to a bar there where people are playing bocce and feel like I'm missing out on something, and then I remember I don't really care…This crazy pseudo-bohemian circus life sounds pretty fun, but I don't really have time to be part of it right now. It takes a certain amount of energy to do all these fabulous Brooklyn things. … I'd rather just sort of go to the Gap and come home. I'm not really engaged by, like, playing Frisbee and riding bikes."
Maybe I’m just worried that I will be pegged as a yuppie? Nearly a decade ago someone called me that on Chowhound because I said the food in Ridgewood, Queens was shit. It was and still is mostly fast food and pizza. As if someone who would prefer not to eat McDonald’s daily lives on Chardonnay and brie. Even then, in the early ‘00s, I was surprised to see the dated label thrown around.
Yesterday I joined The Rumpus’ book club. You pay $25 a month you receive a non-blockbuster-type book that hasn’t been released yet and you can join in an online discussion of it (I probably won’t because I’m an observer, not a web commenter). I’m at a point in my life where $25 a month doesn’t sound like a lot of money, but there were some bemoaning the cost prohibitive nature of this venture, particularly for writers (clearly not those Brobos in publishing with huge apartments and yards). I have a day job, can afford 12 books a year and think literature is something worth discussing. Does that make me a yuppie?
I have a few nice things that I wouldn’t if I were single. Well, not really things like objects because I don’t buy expensive gadgets, clothing, etc. I mean more of a general non-stressed lifestyle, which is a luxury in many ways. I’m frugal and pay my own way. Or at least I thought I did. James was talking about a coworker and his wife, both late 20s from the Ukraine. The coworker, who never went to college, paid for his wife’s MBA, an investment in their combined futures. I was all, “You should give me $37,000 to pay off my student loans.” Facetiously, of course. My logic was that I could then cough up the extra $300 a month for rent instead. “I am paying your loans, then,” James countered. I had never really thought about it, but yes, I’m being subsidized.
But I don’t know if that makes me a yuppie. Our apartment is good-sized and we have a washer and dryer and a dishwasher. Those are nicer amenities than average for NYC but it’s not even close to luxury. The décor is bland, functional, the kitchen can barely fit one person at a time, we don’t have a dining room or place for more than four people to sit at once.
Tomorrow I have family visiting, a middle-income, mostly non-college-educated crew who buy new cars, know about wine and take Disney cruises, not atypical Americans. My nice-by-local-standards apartment will seem cramped and shabby by suburban west coast perception. We’ll have to eat on mismatched chairs scattered around the living room, plates on laps. My dishes and cutlery are piecemeal from Target. It's going to be hot but we haven't had time to install the air conditioners; the annual ritual is a pain in the ass. This is a residence in a coveted, tree-lined neighborhood, but it’s not the way 24-year-old married couples buying new garish homes with Great Rooms (I seriously don’t know what the fuck that is—I grew up with knowledge of living, family, rec rooms or a den) on 100% financing live. Perhaps I have been watching too much, “My First Place.”