Don’t Get Stepped On By Main Line Social Climbers!

Beware a breed that racks up debt, lies about where they're from, and stalks "desirable friends"

If you hang around any area where successful people reside, you’re bound to run into social climbers. Here on the Main Line, there are lots of them. There are the usual keep-up-with-the-Joneses variety, who live beyond their means for appearances. And there are the social stalkers, who target specific people they want to be friends with to further their own agenda. Then, there are the really scary ones who must get vertigo from climbing so high. These are the stop-at-nothing, take-no-prisoners climbers who leave footprints on the foreheads of people they use and/or discard to get to their desired social destination — the highest rung.[SIGNUP]

One woman I’m acquainted with is all about appearances, splurging on designer clothes and gilding her lilypad. When her husband realized the staggering debt she’d accumulated, she simply suggested they just declare bankruptcy rather than tame her spending ways. This is in direct contrast to the other type of keeping-up-with people I’ve met who buy really huge houses that are a labyrinth of empty rooms they can’t afford to furnish. I was in one McMansion and the entire first floor was empty. I innocently assumed they’d just moved in, only to discover they’d been in their house for two years.

Another climber I’ve had the misfortune of encountering is the stalker type. Upon discovering a celebrity couple had moved to the general vicinity, she began staking out a local playground — nowhere near her house — where she heard they took their children to play. She even joined the club they belonged to and, with hard work, eventually did manage to befriend them. She is so proud of this relationship she flaunts it constantly, dropping their names and even sending out large group emails with their email address included, which no doubt thrills the privacy-seeking celebs. I heard from others who are acquainted with them that they call her a star-fucker behind her back.

Finally, there is the scary type. I know one woman, who upon moving to the Main Line, already had her agenda in place: Get the kids into the best private school, whether they can afford the tuition or not; and schmooze and get on committees to chair as many galas as possible in an effort to meet the “right” people. I once overheard a conversation she had with another mother, touting the wonderful education at our local public schools, although she herself had no intention of sending her children there. It’s always entertaining to watch these people zero in on their prize targets, ignoring anyone less socially desirable. I’ve come across person after offended person with stories about the trail of victims a particular climber has left in her wake. In her quest to reach the top, wherever that may be, she has even resorted to lying about her nationality. Tragically (for her), she’s merely an American — so much more appealing to be from somewhere exotic.

For casual observers watching the action from the sidelines, it’s amazing that these climbers think people don’t notice what they’re doing. Or think the people they deem desirable don’t know they’re being kissed up to. It’s comical, really. For those of us who value our friendships and take people for who they are and not what they’re worth or their station in life, these obsessive climbers are enigmas. It must be exhausting to be constantly scheming to get ahead, planning to conquer, or worrying about your financial house of cards falling down. You have to feel sorry for anyone who doesn’t feel good enough about their lot in life to be comfortable with themselves or feels compelled to use their children as social pawns. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to smile politely at cocktail parties and dodge the shoe bottoms of the climbers who are only too happy to pass me on the lower rung where I am most comfortable. Some of us are afraid of heights, after all.