My classmates at Hudson High School had their 30-year reunion last weekend. I did not attend, because high school memories are for me approximately three-quarters bad and one quarter blank. My only contribution to the Ohio proceedings was to remark on Facebook, from Chicago that the reason I didn't go was that the school's culture was characterized by "WASPy, insulated arrogance."
I almost wrote "privileged" as part of that list.
But I didn't. Because I wasn't only trying to make people mad.
No person should ever call another person privileged—at least, if the person is trying to communicate.
Why? Because no matter how privileged a person may be thanks to his or her class, race, gender, physique, nation of origin, region of origin, city of origin, neighborhood of origin or block of origin—no one ever feels privileged.
That's because even the most privileged person had an alcoholic mother, teenage acne, adult psoriasis, a permanent case of impostor syndrome, panic attacks, weight issues, relationship issues, gambling issues—or all of the above.
And everyone—even the most gifted of us—feels from day to day that he or she has fought like a dog to get to cocktail hour: Has climbed out of a warm bed in the cold dark, beaten traffic, tolerated crazy co-workers, sated bottomless customers, and slogged through more traffic home while on the phone with a narcissistic relative only to be told upon walking in the back door that the fucking dishwasher is leaking.
At what point in that day is that person open—even if it's a Yale grad and the traffic is another Lear jet ahead of him on the corporate strip and his crazy co-worker is Bill Gates and the washing machine is on his yacht—to being called "privileged"?
"Privileged" is a term for the academy. When it comes to polite conversation, it's pure fighting words. If you're trying to charm people, you're better off calling them WASPy, insulated and arrogant.
Let us be clear: There is white privilege, there is male privilege, there is class privilege.
But it's sociological term, not a psychological one.
It's for essays, not for communication.
And yes, I know: By so blithely saying so, I'm showing my privilege.