The ‘self-indulgence’ category

Voting to Aspire

April 6th, 2019

Joslyn McIntyre freelance writer Outside Eye Consulting

Bespoke Etsy sweatshirt: check. Handmade artisanal earrings: check. Smug look: check.

Week 14: The 2019 Voting with My Dollar Project

I was listening to an episode of the podcast Hidden Brain about the new “Aspirational” social class:

This elite group is highly educated. Its members breast-feed their children. They spend money on things like organic produce and expensive Pilates classes.

I felt called out. Swap Pilates for yin yoga and guided snowshoe hikes, and that’s definitely me.

Two weekends ago I enrolled my family in a community dinner at the grange. For those of you who don’t live in a rural hippie-dom like Southern Vermont, the grange is the local secular community meeting spot. In the case of my town, our grange is being renovated and retrofitted to the tune of several mill in order to transform into a real community hub. A lot of people are involved in this effort, and it’s pretty exciting.

There are a lot of events planned at the grange this year to drum up excitement about the change, and I am keen to participate, because, as someone who just moved to this town two years ago, I have a fervid and somewhat misplaced sense of wanting to belong to the local community.

This community dinner, like most, was a potluck. I emailed the organizer and volunteered to bring a dish. He requested a dessert of some sort. I eagerly complied. As the day approached, I decided to bring Indian pudding. This is one of my favorite old-timey New England desserts. It’s a tragically un-PC name for a dish that’s really quite delicious, made out of cornmeal, molasses, milk, eggs, and maple syrup.

I have tried to make Indian pudding before, but it hadn’t turned out as I had hoped, so I looked for a different recipe this time. Unfortunately, as is usually the case, while I was trying to make the dish, my kids were all over me. I was extra tired that day, because it was a weekend that Jon worked. I had been up with the kids since dawn, running around and doing activities up the yin yang. This is why I accidentally used twice the prescribed amount of butter.

Indian pudding is not the most appetizing-looking dish in the first place, and mine was particularly un-so. (The taste really does make up for it.) We ended up leaving the potluck before dessert was laid out, and when I went back to fetch the casserole dish two days later, I found the pudding entirely untouched in the grange fridge. Knowing it had been out all night and was dubiously cooked in the first place, I decided to toss it.

Grouchy, I thought about the out-of-the-way trip I had made to the market to get cornmeal, and the hours I spent making it, not to mention the harrowing ride to the grange with a full-to-the-brim dish of pudding the consistency and temperature of molten lava as we jostled over bumpy, muddy dirt roads. I also snootishly derided the other options at the potluck in my mind. “What was wrong with my pudding?” I whined to myself. Then, “Hippies.”

After the potluck dinner, Jon and I had a funny conversation about how, in any given crowd, we always feel like either the dirtbag hippies or the soulless yuppies. In the case of grange potlucks, we are definitely the yuppies. At our daughters’ fancy Montessori school, we’re the hippies. In any case, we never quite fit in.

But as a category, I still prescribe to the definition of aspirational class, sheepishly. Case in point:

  • I’m currently taking part in a Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy group.

  • I buy most of my clothes from makers on Etsy.

  • I live in Vermont, and have no problem buying bananas year round, but berries must be seasonal. (Why? No idea.)

  • I will make an Indian pudding from scratch, but I’m also willing to throw it out. 

I laugh at myself, but I’m okay with it. I’d rather spend my money on expensive pantry items than designer purses. My kids’ education is more important to me than living in a fancy house. One day perhaps I’ll own an old Mercedes with leather bench seats. In the meantime, I’m happy with the ultimate status symbol of the aspirational class in Vermont: an Outback with tinted windows.

What I’m eating:

Not Indian pudding, but next time I’m going to try this New York Times recipe.

What I’m watching:

Eagerly looking forward to having time (someday) to catch up on Veep, Queer Eye, and Barry.

What I’m reading:

Speaking of the nonsensical mores of the aspirational class, I cleaved to this New York Times article on antivaccers in the homeschooling community.

What I’m listening to:

Hidden Brain

What I’m working on:

One of my clients, Strivr, was just named to Fast Company’s list of World’s Most Innovative Companies for 2019.

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