Rich People Are Stupider Than You and Me
Rich people, F. Scott Fitzgerald famously said, are different from you and me, and there was a doozy of an article in the New York Times last Thursday that proved it. The story was about rich people who send their kids away to ritzy boarding schools and then buy or rent houses near those boarding schools so they can stay close to their kids.
Let me repeat: These rich people send their kids away to boarding schools and then buy or rent houses near those schools so they can stay close to their kids. This shows precisely how rich people are different from you and me: They’re batshit insane.
I’ve never really understood the whole boarding school thing. So you put up with your kid through all the years of teething and colic and diapers and tantrums, and then, just about the time when he or she becomes sentient and civilized and possibly even useful, you send that child away? You wait until your kids actually become proficient at a sport or the viola to get them out of the house? You wait till they can drive? Where’s the sense in that? You know what we need instead? We need boarding schools that will keep your kid from the time it’s born until it’s seven. I’d send my kid to a school like that in a heartbeat. But no; these parents do it the other way around.
Somewhat predictably, it’s those sports and the viola that the rich people in the Times piece are afraid of missing out on. Take Barbara Weiss, who, when her three children were attending Hotchkiss (current cost: $52,430 per year), moved to a series of houses there with her husband, Marc, who then commuted to his job in New Jersey. (Mrs. Weiss is — wait for it — an interior designer.) “I couldn’t have asked for a better way to bring up our kids,” Barbara told the Times. “We got to see all their games.” You know how else you can see all their games, Barbara? Send them to your freaking local public school. I’m pretty sure you don’t live in Camden when you’re not at Hotchkiss.
But going away to boarding school can be hard — though not for the kids so much as their parents. Consider the plight of poor Kristine Moshem, who lives in Miami. She sent her daughter Megan to the Millbrook School, which is way the hell up in Dutchess County, New York (and costs $53,500 per year). “Megan is super-independent and fine with the adjustment of boarding school,” Kristine says. “It was just us, as parents. She’s our youngest child. She’s a dancer and plays soccer.” So naturally, Mrs. Moshem moved to Dutchess County herself. What did Megan think of this idea? She “fought us tooth and nail,” Kristine says. Gee, ya think? (One parent confides, “Certainly it’s easier to think about this change having the monetary flexibility.” And, apparently, no common sense.)
You have to pity Megan and her classmates, who, having spent 12 or 14 years being seriously helicoptered by their moms, think they’ve broken free and made it several states away — only to have mom start house-hunting nearby. One mom spins a picture of life away at boarding school that’s quite touching in its quiet intimacy: “My daughter and I struck a wonderful balance. She could drop by after sit-down dinners for an hour or two to do her homework in a quiet setting. She wouldn’t spend the night or the weekend to participate in all that is Deerfield. Deerfield set all the rules. …” Deerfield should; it costs $54,850 a year. Deerfield had better stamp this sort of silliness out.
Because there are potential dangers to uprooting yourself and moving to the town where your kid is going to prep school. Children can sometimes be a disappointment. The Times tells the cautionary tale of one moved-to-prep-school-town family whose kid got kicked out of said school in October of his sophomore year. They wound up stuck with a house they had leased through May in a town about which, I’m betting, they no longer felt fondly. What’s next — they sue the offending school? Why not? These people have money, literally, to burn. And, um, maybe not enough to do? “Occasionally there is a family that spends a lot of time on campus,” one school administrator told the Times, under the cloak of anonymity, “and I think that can really hamper a student’s experience.” There are no quotes in the article from the prep-school students themselves, which is certainly an interesting omission.
The Times does quote a real estate agent in Connecticut, though. She says she first noticed the trend of parents following their kids to boarding school after 9/11, and adds that the pace picked up five years ago; such relocations now make up 30 percent of her business. But why stop at boarding school? Why not follow your kid on to college, too? My husband Doug was talking to the athletic director at a local public high school the other day about “helicopter parents.” The A.D. laughed: “More like lawn-mower parents,” he said.
“Lawn-mower?” Doug asked.
The A.D. pushed his hand forward as though it was plowing through sand: “They just keep going and going and going.”
Remember that Occupy thing a couple of years back? I don’t think we gave it enough of a chance, friends. I think we should revive that whole movement again. How hard can it be to overthrow people who spend vast sums of money to send their kids away, and then spend even vaster amounts to move closer to them? Our time is now! Seize the moment! Viva la revolución!
Follow @SandyHingston on Twitter.