24 March 2008...3:15 pm

You Couldn’t Lose Me If You Tried

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The following is an excerpt from a letter I wrote to a friend a few weeks ago. He had voiced some concern about the classism on display in this post; the man is a life-long advocate for dental hygienists. We can’t fault him for trying.

The Spitzer scandal is also discussed.

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I am classist above all things. Like many of my worse and some of my better traits, I think the classism began in middle school, when I lived with my family in one neighborhood and all of my social acquaintances—the white social acquaintances—lived with their families in a different one.

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I have probably told you this before, but none of my friends’ mothers would ever drive me home from anywhere. Carpooling seemed very foreign to a girl who had moved to South Orange from Jersey City; the only carpooling I knew about was when my mother, Hannah and I would drive the Bird family back to the projects after church. For some time, I thought I hated “carpooling.” It soon became clear that carpooling, in fact, was when Ali Robinton’s mother drove her, Carly Scher, and Bari Rogoff home from school, or when Alana Gottlieb’s dad picked me, Ali and Ashley Behrens up at the mall.

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Carpooling became endless fascinating and stayed damningly foreign. When my neighbor Tyrone’s father was deployed in the first Gulf War, my father would bring both of us to school in the morning. Tyrone was quiet, and awkward, and I thought it was my special curse that I had to both show up with him at South Orange Middle School and sit across the table from him in Ms. Zimmerman’s math class.

To tell you the truth, I had a little bit of a crush on him. Crushing on people was how I dealt with my problems; you heard it here first. I hated him too, of course, but a little loathing hasn’t stopped any of my crushes yet.

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A certain kind of classism was how I dealt with my feelings of socio-economic inferiority. My family wasn’t rich, and I didn’t get to have a bat mitzvah, but I did have a ton of books to read, and my parents did take me to a lot of theater. My classism is cultural; I began reading my grandparents’ copies of The Nation at a tender age, and I have not looked back, except to pride myself on being even farther to the left than my parents.

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My mother is currently in love with everyone at her dentist’s office. I had to ask her once if she had a serious mouth problem; that is how frequently she seems to go to see Dr. Farouki, DDS. The answer was no, thank goodness. My mother’s love of Dr. Farouki and her secretary, Fanny, is notable especially because she hated my orthodontist. His name was Dr. Persily, he was even shorter than she is, his office was in snooty Livingston, New Jersey, and his waiting room was, unsurprisingly, always populated by snooty residents of said Livingston. I also think he hit on her a lot, but that is something I have understood only in hindsight.

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My mother had an especially tense relationship with his assistant, who I would call a dental hygienist. This dental hygienist came into the room where I was diagonal, back on the chair, and my mother was sitting next to me, reading the New Yorker and telling me how insufferable my orthodontist was. The hygienist told my mother she loved her highlights. My mother has never dyed her hair in her life; she only started wearing makeup after my grandmother bought her some on her fortieth birthday.

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My mother told the dental hygienist that she didn’t dye her hair, but thanks. The dental hygienist scrunched up her eyes and said Oh, you can tell me. My mother said she knew she could tell her, she just didn’t dye her hair. This time the dental hygienist rolled her eyes, and said it was impossible that my mother didn’t dye her hair. My mother said Really? I just don’t. The dental hygienist sighed and said Oh-kay as though now, she had really seen it all. I was very uncomfortable, and then Dr. Persily breezed in and yanked at my palate expander.

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In conclusion, I am classist, so is my mother, and we once had an obnoxious experience with a dental hygienist. I would love to go to a Yankees game with you, which is saying a lot, because I hate the Yankees and going to games at their stadium makes me feel like I am being date raped. I was on a date recently and the man I was with told me that it was unbecoming to talk about date rape as much as I do. It was titillating to realize I have a chip on my shoulder. I am probably the last person in the universe to realize that about myself.

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I’m not against all forms of prostitution, but I do think the illegal sex trade is a really great opportunity for economically and socially empowered men to take advantage of women who are poor, undocumented, or otherwise beyond the pale. An obvious way to alleviate those concerns would be to legalize the sex trade, but there also exist plenty of legal ways to take advantage of women in the subaltern, so I am not convinced that’s the answer.

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In a moral sense, Clinton’s indiscretions may be worse than Spitzer’s, although it’s not really my place to judge. (Don’t I sound nice and libertarian right now?) As a citizen, I was furious at Spitzer because he broke a law that he had politically benefited from enforcing. Clinton gave Lewinsky a copy of Leaves of Grass? That’s very nice, although she probably should have read Whitman by the time she was twenty-four, or however old she was.

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[Buy more Tom Tom Club here. Godspeed your merry purchases.]

[For Thanksgiving Brown, there are special instructions. Email peter [dot] agoston [at] gmail [dot] com, and you can buy a unique album compiled especially for you! Nothing but the best, dear readers.]

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