Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pink Julep Reads: True Prep by Lisa Birnbach with Chip Kidd

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If it hadn't been for some fellow bloggers I've been following for years, chances are I wouldn't know anything about preps other than that A.C. Slater called Zack Morris "Preppy" on Saved by the Bell. As a young girl then, I obviously didn't give much thought into why Slater called him that... that would've required too much unneccessary brain power for a Saturday morning!

I had read the many musings on the infamous Official Preppy Handbook by Lisa Birnbach, since I started blogging in 2008, however this is a book that I have yet to ever see. I did once ask the bookstore in Grand Cayman if they had it because I was intrigued, but when they said no, I left it at that. I mean, I was never a prep so why would I really care? For me, reading The Official Preppy Handbook at that time would've been an exercise in trying to relate to my peers in the blogosphere. These girls have educated me on a subculture of American sophisticates that I had never really noticed before and while intrigued, I decided I was way too cool to be included in that group mainly because while I love y'all (you know who you are) I would never wear pink and green pants with giant crabs on them and like Charlotte York on SATC, I think mallard decoys are horrendous and slightly scary. But far be it for me to judge... we all have our own styles and taste. As my mother-in-law would say, "how boring it would be if we were all the same." How right she is.

I decided it might be a good idea to read True Prep as an experiment for this blog. I didn't expect to gain any important knowledge from it other than an anthropological type study on a group of which I am not a member. Then I noticed that Vanity Fair was doing a big push for the book and I bought it. I didn't read it right away. I simply didn't have time. Then there was an article in a newspaper that I can't remember about the hopeful preppy spirit of Americans as opposed to the attitudes of the British towards upward mobilization and possibility that hubby saved for me and I realized I HAD to start reading this book to get some understanding of this cultural label that keeps popping up all over the place! I didn't expect to like it. Because I'm not a preppy gal... I refuse to be labeled. I'm above that... or am I?

I couldn't put the book down! I loved it! It's very informative and hilarious in a self-depricating, light-hearted way. It reads very quickly and the pictures are great! Have you ever wondered why your very wealthy boss drives a new Jag, but carries an old beat up brief case and has frayed collars on his shirts? True Prep explains that and then some! You can learn how to behave at a tennis match (cause you never know when you'll get tickets to the US Open or Wimbledon), what kind of thank you note is appropriate when, and how to approach hiring staff for your life (nanny, driver, personal trainer). There are even a few recipes included for both food and drinks!

As I read True Prep, you can imagine my surprise as I figured out just how much I might have in common with this group of people. I didn't attend a prep school (but I begged my mother to send me to boarding school for years), but I did go to a university with great sports teams and I studied theatre management (not too far a stretch from art history, especially in terms of job prospects). I also figured out why I'm constantly telling hubby that really expensive watches (hundreds of thousands of dollars expensive) and the most expensive car in the world (you know, the one from Top Gear) are tacky... and maybe why I keep saying to him, forget the dreams of owning a Lambo... let's go for a sensible Audi or Lexus instead if we decided to get a car. Somehow magically we have ended up (at my choosing) in the neighborhood of London with the most sailing clubs, Putney, home of the start of the Oxford/Cambridge boat race every year. And you can imagine my further surprise to find out that some of my favorite designers and style icons, while having little to do with Lilly Pulitzer and crab pants as far as I can tell, are indeed described as preppy.... Designers being Hermes, Vera Wang, Tory Burch, Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein and style icons including Uma Thurman, Caroline Bissett Kennedy and Gwenyth Paltrow. I have a strong desire to travel (one of the main reasons we moved to London - great hub for European travel!) and have been eager about learning to ski! I have always found Europe to be the most important of travel destinations and I actually relocated to the country ranked as #1 in True Prep's important countries to visit in Europe. I'm also hoping to find a place to play badminton in the spring (raquet sports anyone?) and I previously worked in fundraising and events planning for non-profits. Could it be? Could I be a closeted prep?

Other things in the book I found I disagree with entirely. I'm not a Philistine and I hope to never be described as one. I try to be a well-read as possible, I enjoy seeing as many films as I can and I have always been a lover of both the visual and performing arts! I don't like blazers with patches on them... EVER. I don't care who you are or how long they last... I hate them. While I think bow ties can be cute for certain occasions, I do not think they are appropriate in the office... they are distracting at best. I have never in my life had my shoes resoled and while I like to keep and preserve a lot of things, I like new stuff too. I don't see anything to gain or anything more preppy or desireable in an all boys school... or all girls school for that matter. We were all put on this earth to co-exist and learn from each other. I just don't see the point of the segregation and I don't think it's any better... if anything I think it might be worse, but that's just my opinion.

The point is, whether you bleed pink and green and wear Lilly Pulitzer with your TB Revas every single day or you think being called a prep is the worst insult possible because you are a sophisticated woman or man who is above labels, this is a good book! It's informative and very funny! There are mini-biographies of lots of different people from Barack Obama to Oliver Stone. This is a book that could be enjoyed by anyone and I highly recommend it! And you never know... you might find out you've got a little prep in you too!

Click here to buy it in the UK.

Click here to buy it in the US.

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