La La How The Life Goes On

True Grit

Posted on: March 12, 2014

You want to see me pop a blood vessel? Just show me anything written, produced or inspired by “Tiger Mom” Amy Chua. Good lord. This woman. Her latest book, written with her professor husband, details the ways in which certain ethnic groups are superior to others.

Boy howdy, that’s guaranteed to sell. Which is why I think she does it. She is a trolly person trolling America, saying things that are sure to set people like me off and get others to part with their money. Which is why there is no link to her book in this post.

Here is her premise: that all “successful” groups share three characteristics.
1. A belief that their way is superior
2. Insecurity/a need to prove themselves
3. Impulse control/ability to delay gratification

Fair enough, if that’s what she believes the data reflects. Successful people all share these characteristics. Fine. But what irritates me is the immediate belief in the inverse: that if you are not “successful” then you must NOT have these characteristics. So if we could just get these lazy, poor, overly-gratified no-goodniks to inculcate these values into their communities–VOILA! Success for all Americans!!

I have one thing to say to that: BULLSHIT. Please allow me to go on my Former Poor Kid Rant, something the BabyDaddy allows me periodically when someone in our upper middle class town says something moronically “rich person” sounding and I have to bite my lip and pinch my wrist to forestall obvious eye-rolling and shade-throwing.

Let’s take these tenets one by one.
A belief that your way is superior.This is nonsensical. Everyone thinks their way is superior. That’s why they do what they do. My Scottish immigrant parents obviously thought that their way of raising us was superior to “American permissiveness.” We had curfews where my friends had none. We had rock-solid punishments for stuff that my friends got away with. We had epic shouting arguments about how much my parents obviously hated me because they would not allow me to do stuff everyone else was doing years earlier. Even parents raising their kids to be hooligans probably think they are doing it right. That their culture is better than those tight-assed parents with all of their rules. So-this is just Tiger Mom’s way of trolling for support among the groups she considers superior. Don’t fall for it, Jewish Mormon Nigerians!

Insecurity/Need to Prove Oneself:
You want insecurity? Try applying to colleges when no one you know has ever applied to a college before. You have no idea how to even fill out the application. I wrote my essays in handwriting. I shit you not. Didn’t have a word processor, folks. Just a real nice BIC pen. And I’m not alone. And that’s assuming you can even afford the application fee. I applied to 4 colleges. Four. Because that’s what we could afford, at $50-$100 per application. So please do not think for a minute I didn’t understand FULLY that I had something to prove. I remember being asked what my “safety” school was and being mystified. What? There is no “safety”! I better get into them all! Or I’ve wasted the application fee! And have nowhere to go! Are you kidding me? Safety school? Spoken like someone with money to burn…and “successful” parents. The very notion that there is a “safety” is a privilege that the “haves” do not seem to fully comprehend. I always knew that if I didn’t get into college, flunked out of college, or lost my job that I was (pardon my language) FUCKED. I knew it. My parents could not have supported me, nor would i have wanted them to. If I failed I was screwed. No trip home to the old bedroom, no free dinners made by mommy. Nothing. Just plain old screwed. The default state of every single “unsuccessful” kid in the world. So please take your “safety school” and shove it up your cluelessly privileged behind.

Impulse Control:
As a kid who grew up poor I can tell you that NO ONE does delayed gratification and impulse control like poor people. You know why? Because we HAVE to. Sure would like some yogurt for breakfast. Too bad Dad’s check doesn’t arrive until the 15th of the month which is therefore grocery day. Which is when you shall have your yogurt. Until then, store brand super sugar crisp is your breakfast. A poor kid’s life is NOTHING BUT delayed gratification, assholes. Please believe that I see more lapses in impulse control among children of “successful” people than you can imagine. My college was filled with rich kids “impulsing” all over the place. They still somehow managed to land sweet jobs at investment banks! I simply have NO IDEA how that happened. Do you?! I sure hope they didn’t receive some kind of preferential treatment! (Sarcasm detection level: HIGH). So to insinuate–to say flat-out!–that people are not successful because they lack impulse control is slander, when there are epic, legendary examples of quote-unqote successful people grossly lacking it.

My issue with this book and others like it (does your child have grit? how to raise resilient kids!), is that it breeds a certain smugness among the “successful.” See? We’re doing it right. And worse, it becomes just one more thing for “successful” parents to turn into a goddamned contest. I look forward to “Grit Coaches” popping up all over my town. 200 bucks an hour to give your kid the “grit edge.” Which is entirely my point: that a kid in Roxbury could have every single one of these characteristics in quantities your coddled kid from one of the “W-Towns” (Wellesley, Weston, Wayland) could only dream about–and STILL not reach the success of your child. It’s just a fact. It’s a fact. A fact. A fact. A fact. Because that kid won’t have coaches. He may not even have someone who knows how to fill out a college application. He may not have the money to fill out but one application. He can be as insecure and gratification delayed as all get-out, but he remains at a disadvantage. YOUR kid will get in somewhere and do just fine, grit coaching or not. So let’s stop kidding ourselves that we are doing something better than others. We are just lucky to live where we do, to have the support that we do, and–it’s time to own it folks–to have the money that we do.


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