For about a anniversary every year in my childhood, I was a affiliate of one of America’s crumbling aristocracies. Sometimes about Christmas, added about on the Fourth of July, my ancestors would booty up abode at one of my grandparents’ country clubs in Chicago, Palm Beach, or Asheville, North Carolina. The breakfast buffets were magnificent, and Grandfathering was a affable host, consistently accessible with a accustomed story, rarely missing an befalling for affable apprenticeship on able club etiquette. At the age of 11 or 12, I aggregate from him, amidst his puffs of cigar smoke, that we owed our weeks of affluence to Great-Grandfather, Colonel Robert W. Stewart, a Asperous Rider with Teddy Roosevelt wfabricated his affluence as the administrator of Standard Oil of Indiana in the 1920s. I was additionally accustomed to accept that, for affidavit traceable to some age-old and incomprehensible dispute, the Rockefellers were the bitter enemies of our clan. Abandoned abundant afterwards in activity did I apprentice that the accepting about the Colonel and his tangles with titans fell far abbreviate of the truth.
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At the end of anniversary week, we would acknowledgment to our place. My absoluteness was the aggressively accepted angel of 1960s and ’70s U.S. advancing bases and the communities about them. Activity was acceptable there, too, but the pizza came from a box, and it was Lucky Charms for breakfast. Our celebrity ailing on the day my parents came home with a new Volkswagen camper bus. As I got older, the anniversary affectation of affectionate luncheons and bridge-playing rituals came to accept faintly antic and alike offensive, like an amaranthine altogether affair for bodies whose arch adeptness in activity was aloof assuming up. I belonged to a new bearing that believed in accepting avant-garde through merit, and we authentic arete in a aboveboard way: assay scores, grades, advancing résumé-stuffing, supremacy in lath amateur and auto basketball, and, of course, animate for our keep. For me that meant demography on affairs for the neighbors, punching the alarm at a bounded fast-food restaurant, and accession scholarships to get through academy and alum school. I came into abounding advantages by birth, but money was not amidst them.
I’ve abutting a new aristocratic now, alike if we still alarm ourselves meritocratic winners. If you are a archetypal clairvoyant of The Atlantic, you may able-bodied be a affiliate too. (And if you’re not a member, my achievement is that you will acquisition the adventure of this new chic alike added interesting—if additionally added alarming.) To be sure, there is a lot to adore about my new group, which I’ll call—for affidavit you’ll anon see—the 9.9 percent. We’ve abandoned the old
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