Understanding, part one

“People in the suburbs buy SUVs instead of minivans not because they need the four-wheel-drive capabilities, but because the SUVs lack the minivan’s close association with low-prestige activities like parenting, and instead provide the aura of high-prestige activities like whitewater kayaking. Why should kayaking be more prestigious than parenting? Because parenting isn’t prestigious in our society. If it were, childless people would drive minivans just to partake of the aura.”

Conservative blogger Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit.com) via OpinionJournal WSJ



2 responses to “Understanding, part one

  1. …Her parents were not immune to the competitive pressure, however. Because they had never applied to an American educational institution, they hired Katherine Cohen, founder of IvyWise, a private counseling service, and author of ”Rock Hard Apps: How to Write the Killer College Application.” At the time IvyWise charged $10,000 to $20,000 for two years of college preparation services, spread over a student’s junior and senior years…

    Despite Ms. Viswanathan and her parents’ protestations that only the smallest details in the book are autobiographical (”I do drive a Range Rover,” her father [a brain surgeon] said), her parents and Opal’s do share a slightly over-the-top quality when it comes to celebrating their daughters. One of the key moments in the book has Opal giving a party at her house after her parents outfit the place with Ping-Pong, foosball and pool tables, a fully stocked bar and a sound system to ”crank up the scene.”
    Ms. Viswanathan’s own parents have been intent on giving her a book party when she gets home from college this summer.



  2. The cars gather in front of the 92nd Street YMCA in Manhattan about 8:30 a.m. In the front seats sit hired drivers (nobody uses the term chauffeur anymore). The cars are mostly big and mostly black luxury-edition sport utility vehicles like the Mercedes GL-Class or the GMC Yukon Denali. They fill the lanes in front of the Y’s entrance on Lexington Avenue, often two or three rows deep.
    It looks like the outside of an arbitrage house just before trading hours, or perhaps the Knicks’ private entrance to Madison Square Garden on game day. Until, that is, the drivers open the back-seat doors and the passengers’ feet emerge. These are not the feet of profit-takers or NBA players. These feet wear Sonnet Maryjanes and Primigi sneakers with Velcro closure straps.
    These feet are only a half-foot long.
    The children — ages 3 through 5 — are enrolled at the Y’s famous nursery school. The livery convention on Lexington Avenue occurs most every weekday. Neighbors of the Y and parents with children in the nursery school say they have seen the number of cars and drivers increase considerably over the past couple of years.
    In exasperation, the director of the school, Nancy Schulman, drafted a letter to all families insisting that the drivers wait somewhere else while parents or baby sitters take the children in: Find a legal parking space, or take their cars for a few spins around the block.
    In the letter, which parents received once in the spring of 2006 and twice this school year, Schulman played perhaps the only bargaining chip she has, stating that failure to observe this rule could hinder their children’s chances of getting into the kindergarten of their choice.

    Most of the cars belonged to families who live between Lexington and Fifth Avenues and 70th to 86th Streets. Subsequent research found that an overwhelming majority of the fathers in these families earn a living in capital management — running money for hedge funds or private equity funds — though there was one television executive and one professional athlete. (Most couples are in their late 30s and got married at least 10 years ago; many of the parents did not grow up in Manhattan but on Long Island or in Westchester; many of the fathers come from middle-class backgrounds; and a good number of the mothers were raised in notably wealthier circumstances than their husbands).

    Over the past couple of weeks, a staff member from the Y’s nursery school has been seen directing waiting cars away from the school. The chauffeurs idled in double-parked formation one block farther down Lexington, or around the corner on 91st Street. Posters to the New York bulletin board of the Web site Urbanbaby.com, which is popular with mothers of young children, have occasionally made note of the scene. “So this morning I was at the 92nd Street Y and there were 10 black Escalades and Range Rovers double- parked with huge guys in black suits,” one wrote last month.


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