You’d think that for locales of similar income and a mere twenty miles apart, my hometown of Baltimore, MD and temporary residence of McLean, VA would be practically identical. However, the prep havens display some striking differences.
- Dogs. The Baltimore prep’s dog is some ten-pound ball of fluff that probably sits in the back of your mom’s Range Rover all day and yips at you. In McLean, people actually WALK THEIR DOGS. There are dogs everywhere! Dogs in the neighborhood! Dogs in the coffee shop! Dogs at Chipotle! These are some seriously athletic dogs, and they get out and about. I actually like it a lot.
- Cigarettes. Maybe this is the byproduct of some law that I missed, but you never see people smoking in Maryland. They smoke everywhere here. I can’t sit outside at the local Starbucks without contracting black lung.
- Fat Rich Kids. It didn’t strike me until I lived in McLean - where there are buckets of chubby rich girls dressing like they’re Twiggy - that not a single girl in the 1% in Baltimore is overweight. Seriously. We did not have a single fat girl in my entire high school. The administration probably forced her to transfer. Here in McLean, there is a serious quotient of chubbsters wearing periwinkle nail polish chatting on their iPhones talking about their vacation in St. Barth’s last week. It’s weird.
- Hipsters. In McLean, if you see someone with pink hair and tattered clothing, they probably have a trust fund. In Baltimore, if you see someone with pink hair and tattered clothing, they’re probably broke as shit.
- Volkswagen-Engineered Cars. I don’t know why, but Baltimore never got the message that the folks over at Volkswagen and Audi make seriously great cars. McLean folks are much smarter about their car choices, whether they’re proletarian or bourgeois.
- Thai Restaurants. As much as I complain about the lack of good ones in McLean, I have never actually seen a Thai restaurant in the entire Baltimore metro area.
So there are my thoughts.
True Prep: Shoes and Shirt Required
This is neither a clothing nor gastronomic addition to the series - it’s a combination of both. My family went to Annapolis for dinner today, as we are wont to do during the summer months. Gazing upon the Annapolis Yacht Club during my cream of crab soup, another maxim of preppiness struck me: preps always dress to a level inversely proportional to that which one would expect them to display at any given restaurant / bar / drinking event, etc.
This is probably one of the more universally applicable True Prep assertions I’ll make. From Martha’s Vineyard to Palm Beach, preps everywhere love wearing diamond jewelry to shrimp shacks and flip flops to expensive restaurants. Preps everywhere love horse races or polo matches, too, as days they can spend in custom-made millinery while drinking Budweiser. During my dining experience tonight, I watched Sperry-clad patron after Sperry-clad patron pour into the well-appointed restaurant at which we ate dinner. At first, I was mildly appalled, and then realized that I, too, fall prey to this phenomenon.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve inhaled a crabcake dinner in sandals and an Orioles t-shirt post-sail, or shown up to Seewee Restaurant, a veritable hut on the side of SC Highway 17, in Lilly Pulitzer. I’m not going to try to explain a causal mechanism for this, but if I did, I’d hypothesize that this phenomenon is closely linked to the nature of prep vacation activities. A simpler explanation would just be that preps have enough money to do whatever they want. I think I’m going to go with that answer.
True Prep: Alma Mater, Hail
I’ve turned back to writing these blurbs as a distraction from my current obsessive compulsion - researching cosmetic products. I shit you not, I have been compiling a detailed list in my commonplace book of mascaras and the like for a good three weeks.
The true prep goes to a much narrower range of college than one may think. After all, any college campus - even my own - has its fair share of Longchamp-toters glomping around in Hunter rainboots on muddy days. However, just because your daddy is a Beltway bandit and bought you an assortment of Lilly Pulitzer dresses and / or planner, iPhone case, and set of tumblers does not make you a prep. It just means you went to public school in McLean.
While there are exceptions to every rule - and I am genuinely lucky to have great, truly preppy friends at my own college, which does not belong to any of the following categories - the true prep matriculates to one of three colleges:
1) The Expensive East Coast School. Encompassing the Ivy League, Georgetown, Duke, UVA, and all those schools that offer you free shuttle rides to their private ski slopes, the intelligent prep will attend one of these schools. Likely the son or daughter of an alumnus or multiple alumni, the ECLA prep has become less common as time has worn on. ECLA preps are more likely to be male or boarding school preps than female or day school preps, as male preps, realizing they are actually going to have to appear to have a career at some point, often do much better in high school than female preps, while boarding school preps have the advantage of long and storied school relationships with certain colleges as well as more challenging and interesting curricula during their high school years.
If you, like me, painfully remember the college admissions process, you may be surprised by the ECLA prep’s existence. After all, I certainly wouldn’t qualify the average prep of anywhere near the intelligence required to get into an Ivy League school these days, when you hear about the absolutely insane caliber of the students being admitted. Yes, the stereotypical Georgetown townhouse party and Princeton eating club shindig still exist, but I suspect that these social outings are increasingly becoming farther from the norm for these academic institutions. Indeed, ECLA preps are far outnumbered by their brethren of a second kind at:
2) The Southern Football School. This is where upwards of 80% of preps actually matriculate. For girls, the decision is simple: warm days with easy classes are a winning combo. You find less male preps here, but the sunny campuses of SMU and Clemson are awash in bowtied boys as well. The SFS is a perfect fit for the majority of those preps whose parents have little to no expectation that their children ever need to have any sort of intellectual achievement. Furthermore, your hard-begged dollar goes a lot further on beer in Mississippi or Alabama than on your Adams Morgan tab.
I can’t really expound more upon the SFS, because it mostly makes me nauseous to think about.
3) The School that No One in Real Life Has Heard of Except for Preps: When you’re in prep school, there are these schools that everyone and their sister seems to have gone to - I’m talking about High Point, Washington & Lee, Roanoke, UNCW, and the like. Populated by a disproportionate amount of women, it appears that everyone you know is going to one of these schools, until you get into the real world and realize that NO ONE, except preps, has ever even heard of these schools. Seriously.
True Prep: Car Edition.
This is one of those counterintuitive things: while you would expect the general high socioeconomic status of preps to mean that they get new cars when they come of legal driving age, preps very rarely get new cars. NFL players, Kardashians, and other nouveau riche plebes get their children new cars for their sweet sixteens. Preps do not. The one exception to this rule is the Jeep. Preps love getting shiny new blue or black Jeep Grand Cherokees or Liberty-s.
However, in general, preps inherit their first vehicle from their parents. These vehicles are most often:
- 1980’s-era Mercedes-Benz sedans in ugly colors;
- Range Rovers;
- BMW sedans; or
- Any model of any Volvo that’s ever been made.
Preps enjoy using these cars as mobile locker rooms (see: upcoming “Sports Edition,”) or as methods for getting lunch takeout and after-school pastries (see: upcoming “School-day Food Edition,” not to be confused with “Brunch” or “Mediocre Chain Dining Establishment Fixation”).
True Prep: Hair Addendum.
True preps never dye their hair lighter, because they’re generally born with naturally light hair. All preps go through a phase around their sophomore or junior year in high school when they dye their hair brown, thinking it looks good. It generally just makes them look chubby.