What is a Totebagger?

by Grace aka costofcollege

What is your definition of a Totebagger?  Can you list the essential qualities/values/behaviors of a TB?  I’d be curious to see what you write before you read any comments already posted.

While the TB profile may be crystal clear to most of you, I find it hard to describe with precision.  It probably contains an important core component, along with squishy edges that meld into other categories of people.

How Totebaggy are you?  100%, or considerably less?  What are your most Totebaggy values or behaviors, and what are your least?

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187 thoughts on “What is a Totebagger?

  1. Agree that WFI had the best definition.
    Socially liberal (mostly) – check
    Economically conservative (mostly) – check
    Financially stable (yes, independently wealthy, no) – check
    Parent (DDs now teens, but were younger 4 years ago) – check

    I look fairly totebaggy to me. And, yes, I too have my hobby horse issues!

  2. I’d say totebag values are founded on extremely high levels of prudence and executive function.

  3. mini-hijack – after what seemed like forever since my DD#1 selected classes, she received her schedule yesterday. Until then, you don’t know for sure what you have, but needed to already start your summer homework. Good news – she got everything she wanted. I think the sigh of relief could be hear across the street!

  4. Austin,
    good for your daughter…but that school’s system seems fairly antiquated to me. My two college agers just register when it’s their turn and build the schedule in real time so by the time they log off they know they have “the perfect schedule” or one that “totally sucks.”

  5. WFI said it most eloquently. I use “totebag” to define the hypocrisy embedded in UMC and wanna-be UMC life. The “I’m driving a prius so I’m saving the planet” mentality. The thought that people are only doing something because it’s “cool” and “trendy”. Which was the ultimate start to the Totebag… those damn WF “I’m not a plastic bag” totes. Celebrities carried them. They sold out. You were saving the planet using this bag… that never made an appearance after that summer.

    Am I totebaggy? Yup, but not as totebaggy as some. Do I fit into WFI’s definition – mostly. I don’t think I’m financially stable at all, though we are not living paycheck to paycheck, so there’s that. And I only became a parent 1.5 years ago… for 6.5 years of the Juggle and Totebag I was child free.

    I grew up on the poorer side of MC. My view of the world is skewed by that. You did the best with what you had, regardless of popularity. DH grew up on the richer side of MC/UMC. Those views are still evident in how we approach things. Not just financially, but in how we view education, family, needs/wants, etc.

    I do like the view from this side – I make more alone than my parents did combined. But I like the idea of financial stability more. So I’ll strive to get rid of debt, increase savings, and work to not be house poor, even if that means we are a little cozy in our cottage.

  6. When I went off to grad school, at a university located in a pseudo-rural location in New England, I remember calling home to my mother and telling her all about what I termed “the totebag ladies”, who populated the area. These were well to do middle aged ladies, who lived in the nice houses with the 2 acre zoning, but being good New England ladies, they always had a certain parsimoniousness to them. They could be found at the organic food coop, or driving their Subarus, or volunteering for the local Congregational church. And they always had a totebag with them, preferably LLBean. Inside that totebag, one might find a knitting project, a NYTimes, and an apple. Always an apple.

    So when this blog got named The Totebag, I just started laughing. So appropriate.

  7. Austin, you are lucky. Here, the HS’ers don’t get their schedules until August. I am very concerned as to whether my oldest is going to get into all the classes he needs and wants.

    Worse yet, they didn’t put the report cards online until Wed night, but the teachers had all left for the summer last Friday. Very convenient, because it means there is no way for a kid to ask questions about his or her grade.

  8. The main thing I think of is people who derive intense enjoyment out of fake deprivation. The opposite of conspicuous consumption.

  9. “I’d say totebag values are founded on extremely high levels of prudence and executive function.”

    You know, I think this might get to the core of it. You cannot be wild and crazy but still be a totebagger. Of course, the other characteristics noted are also important.

  10. Of course, occasionally you throw caution to the wind. But you always find the path back to the straight and narrow.

  11. My favorite are the people who claim poverty (we can’t afford to hire a housekeeper, oh no dinner out is too expensive), but always have the newest gadgets and gizmos. No, you’re not poor. You just are prioritizing your life such that your house is always dirty and you never go out but you have shiny objects. But that makes you happy.

  12. “Of course, occasionally you throw caution to the wind. But you always find the path back to the straight and narrow.”

    No, you throw caution into the wind only when your 401k is fully funded, and your house is 80-95% paid off (or scheduled to be paid off X years early) and your savings covers 6 months of living expenses.

    If you go off the path any time before that you are doomed to a life of squalor.

  13. Fred, It’s a pretty small school – 400 students. Until the kids submit the schedules, they don’t know how many classes of each they need. For example, last year they only had one section of AP World History, in the past four years they had enough students taking it to need two sections. Last year a lot of kids were excluded from band, almost all of them because of AP class conflicts. They said this year they would not schedule any AP classes over the band block. It appears that happened as my DD got in.

    MM – My DD#2, going to public HS – got her class list last week. That means those are the classes she will have, we just don’t know when each is scheduled. However, at one public HS, they find out on the first day of school. Then they have two weeks to fix their schedule…that is really messed up IMO.

    On a related note, AP test score start to be released on Tuesday.

  14. Of course, the other characteristics noted are also important.

    Like an excessive faith in the value of education. Or, perhaps, an overestimation of how much pure academic prowess translates into overall life success.

    Example 81,821: I am very concerned as to whether my oldest is going to get into all the classes he needs and wants.

    I would guestemate the typical UMC parent is more concerned about prom dates and making the team than would be the case for the typical totebagger.

  15. No, you throw caution into the wind only when…

    Oh no, you never would. You end up like Meme’s mom practically eating cat food because you’re trying to pay the taxes on your RMDs out of your SS and pension income.

  16. And being highly concerned as to whether your kid is going to make the team is somehow more virtuous?

  17. Well, I guess I’m not a very good Totebagger. I’ve thrown or expelled more things into the wind in my lifetime that I care to think about.

    How do I get my cred back, Rhett?

  18. And being highly concerned as to whether your kid is going to make the team is somehow more virtuous?

    Not at all. Both sides are overestimating the importance of what they value.

  19. I fall on the flashier side of Totebaginess. So those gold totebags that Rhett hands out would represent me, rather than plain Totebags. However, at different junctures I chose the more prudent path, so there’s that. A mix, with a live and let live attitude.

  20. Off topic – I’m working on reviews of a report I wrote… and one reviewer comes across as very bitchy. Her word choice just screams “I’m better than you and you need to know that”. In person she sometimes comes across the same way. I sorta wanna go across town and punch her in the face right now.

  21. I don’t know that I am a totebaggers very much. Socially liberal, yes, because I can’t muster the energy to care that much about someone else’s life. Economically conservative, yes. Financially stable? Maybe. Since I’m basically a speculator in overseas commodity markets, maybe, and Brevit didn’t help,

    Parent…yes…oldest ready to go off to college, holding tight to Mem’s words,that they may come back.

    Hobby horses, got a herd of them.

    Believe in education…..YES…it is a way into UMC if you aren’t there already.

  22. The reality of most UMC parents that I know is that they are highly concerned with both – whether their kid gets into the right classes AND whether the kid makes the travel soccer team. The travel soccer team prompts more Facebook posts though.

  23. It is hard to write a Facebook post about your kid getting the right class. Much easier to put up a photo of some cute kids on the travel soccer team.

  24. I am socially liberal, but at least in the political realm, not much of an economic conservative. Can I still be a Totebagger?

  25. I actually don’t know many (any?) Totebaggers in real life, as WFI described them. I just read about them in the NYT.

  26. Rhett what % of UMC would you classify as Totebaggy?

    Nationally? About 20%. In certain areas (Palo Alto, Bethesda, Newton) maybe as high as 40%.

  27. Like an excessive faith in the value of education. Or, perhaps, an overestimation of how much pure academic prowess translates into overall life success.

    I would simplify that to “having an obsession with college admissions.”

  28. My friend just posted about which colleges she is visiting with her DD. I have not been to any of the campuses but the thing that struck me is that some are close to their home and some are on the west coast. I stopped myself from going into a conversation on college choices ;-). Many of my friends already have high schoolers or recent grads, there has been a spate of prom and graduation pictures.

  29. What is your definition of a Totebagger? Can you list the essential qualities/values/behaviors of a TB? posting my answer before reading the other replies

    Hmm a good totebagger values education (Calculus!) nutritional food (half cookies only) reads books for pleasure (with plenty of nonfiction and literary fiction), avoids too much screen time, donates to NPR, emphasizes importance of sports, and doesn’t wear white sneakers on their vacations to Europe.

    I do value education and reading (but have plenty of not so guilty pleasure books and TV shows)
    I probably take my son to McDonalds more than the average TB
    I donate to NPR, drive a Prius, and have a literary totebag from Out of Print :)
    (and a “so it goes” necklace)

  30. PTM — haha I thought of you when I wrote about throwing caution to the wind. And your choice of adult beverage?! In fact, you may not be a very good totebagger at all. But I can’t imagine this group without you.

  31. I think it requires a belief that the path to a successful adulthood passes through a fairly narrowly prescribed path, which requires an elite college education, along with a belief that we can put/keep our children on that path by carefully controlling their choices from an early age, regardless of their aptitude or desires.

  32. Being overly concerned with education and college admissions is certainly not defining for Totebaggers. I know way too many people who I would not call Totebaggers who are still obsessed, in various ways, with their kids education. I am friendly with one family where the mom and dad are evangelical, and very conservative (they won’t vote for Trump because they are still hoping Ted Cruz will become the nominee). They are culturally anti-Totebag – very into hunting, guns, scouting, and so on. Yet, they are selling their house and moving to another school district because their school district is abandoning a STEM program in favor of IB.

    I’ve been to some of these academic bees and contests recently because DS2 is into them. There are always big homeschooling contingents at these things, as well as (at the national bee level) Mennonites. The homeschoolers tend to be very obsessed with college admissions – I think because to them, an admission to an elite school proves their prowess at homeschooling.

    I have many other examples (because you may not believe this but I am friendly with a good number of people who are conservative and live in other parts of the country), but my basic observation is that there is a swath of extreme conservatives who are very into education, on their terms at least. Theyu may make different choices than Totebaggers, but they are just as much believers that if only their kids get the “right” education, they will be successful

  33. “a belief that we can put/keep our children on that path by carefully controlling their choices from an early age, regardless of their aptitude or desires.

    This is a pretty good description of the conservative homeschooling crowd too.

  34. And if any Totebag kid went into the movies they would be Matt Damon, Ben Affleck or Natalie Portman types.

  35. They are culturally anti-Totebag – very into hunting, guns, scouting, and so on.

    Middle or upper middle class?

  36. “Being overly concerned with education and college admissions is certainly not defining for Totebaggers.”

    That’s why I think the socially liberal part is an important component of totebagginess.

  37. Rhett, culturally they are typical of the Southern middle class. I don’t know about income – dad is a mid level IT guy at a bank, mom stays at home. I should add that they are very nice people – we get together every year or two – and have lively but friendly political exchanges on FB (as well as “liking” respective kiddie photos)

  38. I am socially liberal and Economically conservative, my financial stability sounds more like Rhode than many here, but I think we are two of the younger ones :)

  39. my family is teacher/preacher/govt employee background, I didn’t know any lawyers, accountants, doctors in my family (one aunt is a physical therapist though)

  40. I don’t know about the socially liberal part being necessary. We have Mormon neighbors, and mu DD is friends with another Mormon family (yes we have Mormons in town) and they are pretty Totebaggy in many ways – healthy eating only for the kids, making sure the kids are on the proper educational path, opposing that development in town that might cause chemicals to leach out, yelling at the drivers who try to pass the schoolbus on our street. Mormons are all descended from those same parsimonius New Englanders that I was joking about earlier, so maybe they inherited the Totebag gene.

  41. winemama, by the definition being used by some people here (“socially liberal”), boy scouting in particular is suspect.

  42. What about things a totebagger would never ever do?

    #1 Get a keg for their kid’s highs school graduation party.

  43. Rhett said
    “#1 Get a keg for their kid’s highs school graduation party.”

    Check, for our Mormon neighbors.

  44. Mormons can be socially liberal, ex: be supportive of gay rights for others whether or not they agree with it personally

  45. Being overly concerned with education and college admissions is certainly not defining for Totebaggers. I know way too many people who I would not call Totebaggers who are still obsessed, in various ways, with their kids education.

    It is a requirement for being a totebagger. In the venn diagram of totebaggers and people obsessed with their kids’ educations, the circle containing all totebaggers is completely inside the circle of people who are obsessed with their kids’ educations.

  46. “Mormons can be socially liberal,”.
    They can be, just like evangelicals can be socially liberal, but it is pretty uncommon. I do have one lapsed Mormon friend who is socially liberal. She didn’t leave the religion in some big act of protest, though, but said that over time it was clear to her that her views no longer meshed. She still feels cuturally Mormon, if that makes any sense.

  47. kind of like someone can be Jewish but not practice the faith (but completely different too because of historical persecution)

  48. forgive my ignorance, I’ve always been fascinated by religion, partially due to my experience in multiple Christian churches (Baptist, Catholic and ELCA Lutheran, the more liberal than Missouri Synod Lutheran)

    I feel like I should know more about Judaism than I do, what I know is from books, movies and this board mainly

  49. “No, you’re not poor….”

    ITA. DW will compare us to her youngest sister (our homes, mostly) and theirs is bigger, cleaner, maybe has more modern stuff. But, really, they do not travel like we do, or spend money on food like we do. So they plow their available cash into their house. Life is full of tradeoffs.

  50. “Girl and Boy Scouts are anti-Totebag”

    Well then I lose cred… DH and I are still in scouts (not active, but pay dues) and DS will probably go to boy scouts with DH leading the charge. And if we have a daughter, I’ll get back into scouts.

    I’ll hand in my totebag at the end of the day… would you like the LLBean ones (small, medium, or extra large), or the polyester Stop and Shop bags (I have multiple colors and themes). I’ve never been awarded a golden totebag, so I can’t give that back. Nor do I have the WF bag.

  51. I’m guilty of saying I can’t afford x, but I mean I can’t afford x because I’d rather spend my money on y

  52. I too disagree that socially liberal is an essential element of totebagginess. Our family and many others I know are uber-Totebaggers but also socially conservative, at least on the hot-button issues. The WSJ reviewed a book about playdates this week, and the reviewer pointed out all of the totebaggy behaviors of the book’s subjects. I could have been one of them, because I too have often found myself in places like ChuckECheese thinking “these are not my people.” It’s snobbish, I know, but there I am.

    If you replace “supports NPR” with “supports the local art museum or symphony,” then you have the culturally conservative totebagger.

  53. “#1 Get a keg for their kid’s highs school graduation party.”

    . . . I could see PTM doing this.

    We need a Totebagger Venn diagram.

  54. Well, I think that CoC herself proves that you can be a Totebagger without being a liberal…Sorry, CoC!

  55. winemama,
    I am fascinated by religion too, and one of the best books on Judaism I’ve come across is called “This is My God” by Herman Wouk, author of “The Caine Mutiny.” (And still alive and writing at 101!!) It was written a long time ago, but the kindle version has been updated and he hits all of the basics on Judaism, though mainly from an Orthodox perspective.

    I’ve also read a few interesting books about Hasidim, all written by those who “escaped” (their words).

  56. “I’m guilty of saying I can’t afford x, but I mean I can’t afford x because I’d rather spend my money on y”

    Wine – everyone is. It’s the martyr mentality of “woe is me, we can’t afford that” when in reality that person is trading Y for X. It’s making it public that you are scraping your last nickels together when you really aren’t.

  57. A real Totebagger would never
    park an RV in his driveway
    not show up to a parent teacher conference
    use part of his 401K to buy aforementioned RV
    have these lawn statues in their front yard

    btw, these were popular where we lived in rural MA

  58. MM — Don’t apologize because I totally own my conservatism. But it’s always made me feel less totebaggy. And I’ve been surprised by the number of totebaggers who participate in Boy Scouts, which are generally conservative. OTOH, Girl Scouts are generally liberal, ime at least.

  59. “’I’d say totebag values are founded on extremely high levels of prudence and executive function.’

    You know, I think this might get to the core of it. You cannot be wild and crazy but still be a totebagger.”

    ITA. I think this nails it. It’s prioritizing the future over the present (in all possible ways), with a whiff of (unspoken) disdain for showy/excessive. Showy/misspent youths may be non-disqualifying, as long as the individual has learned the error of his ways and found the path of righteousness.

    I was just watching a Lakefront Bargain Hunt while eating my lunch, and it was a guy up in Vermont looking for a house he could have a bunch of friends at. The episode ended with a kegger in the front yard with dozens of 20- or 30-somethings, complete with slip-n-slides and a DJ. And all I could think was, wow, I’d hate to be his neighbor. . . .

  60. “‘#1 Get a keg for their kid’s highs school graduation party.”

    . . . I could see PTM doing this”

    So, can I. Except that I won’t host the party, Junior and his friends will not be in attendance and nobody who is not a worried parent will be invited.

  61. “And #2 on the Things Totebaggers Would Never Do\: Smoke (Cigarettes)”

    what about MJ ?
    (looking at you Colorado TB’s)

    We looked at a house yesterday, it would have been okay, but as soon as we walked in the cigarette smell was overwhelming, and there is a baby in the house!

  62. okay, the baby wasn’t in the house while we were there, thought I better clarify, a baby lives at the house

  63. Yes, totebaggy is fairly obsessed about education. However, let’s put this in some perspective. My DD1’s friend from private middle goes to HS is a solid MC, not UMC, high school where 48% of the kids in the school are eligible for free and reduced lunch. Compared to 20% in the UMC schools.

    As an incoming freshman and new student to the district, the counselor basically did the child’s course selection process. The next year, the student thought she was just selecting and prioritizing electives. Her schedule came back with one core class – english and the rest were electives. She didn’t get her first few choices, so none of them related to her “endorsement”. Her mother caught it and called the school asking why her daughter had no math, no science, no history and no foreign language, since she needs these core courses. Answer was….they weren’t on her sheet and the guidance office isn’t responsible for student choice. It took a few weeks to get it all straightened out. The third year, the student clearly gets in and got herself signed up for all her cores at the pre-ap, ap or dual credit level.

  64. no math, no science, no history and no foreign language

    *faints*

    I was surprised how little was required for just a standard diploma, not the honors diploma which does require I think 4 yrs math , 4 yrs science, 3 yrs history

  65. After reading the comments I am no longer sure I am socially liberal.

    Gay marriage, fine by me, and I expect an invitation one of these days from the parent of one of the kids friends.

    Want to have a gun, fine as well, as long as you aren’t mentally ill or have a felony conviction.

    Birth control, early, often, and yes, I took DD to her doctor to get set up.

    Abortion, no, that’s is a baby and it is wrong to kill people because they are inconvenient or disabled. I am also very thankful never to have needed to act on that belief.

    Illegal immigration, no idea what a just workable solution is.

    Scouts, a good organization, especially since they now allow gay scout masters. Wish my son could have been involved.

    I support the local fire department, civic organizations, and scholarships for local kids. I don’t know where that puts my in the totebaggers world.

    Even though I am a cynic, I am involved in civic affairs, I sit on a govt commission, trying to sort out sustainability regulations. That should get me some martyr points.

    I have only ventured into chuck e cheese once. Never again.

    I like museums, and vacations involving ruins much more than Disney.

  66. In a lot of our society, it is easier to justify not wanting to spend money (to buy a thing or an experience, or make a donation) by saying you can’t afford it, than it is to explain why you don’t value that spending. Also, many people won’t question that you can’t afford it, but the peer pressure can be immense if you give other reasons.

  67. Cordelia said
    “I like museums, and vacations involving ruins much more than Disney.”

    I don’t know if you are liberal or just moderate, but this totally proves you are a Totebagger

  68. “Also, many people won’t question that you can’t afford it, but the peer pressure can be immense if you give other reasons.”

    true

  69. Totebaggers would never allow a baby to ride in a car on someone’s lap (unless in a NYC cab, and then only after extensive research on accident rates), send a child to a mid-day beach outing without sunscreen, or park in a handicapped space without a handicapped permit.

  70. Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts are activities of choice for many of my Totebaggy neighbors. If the parents were in scouting it is a tradition they want to share with their kids.

  71. “It’s not in the budget”

    Well, that’s our approach for those soliciting donations (not neighborhood kids, or nieces/nephews doing walk a thons etc) but the phone calls from all sorts of genuinely ok organizations. Standard response “you’re not in our giving plan for 2016, but if you’ll mail me a description of what (charity) will do with our donation, we’ll consider you for 2017.”

    For groups that are on the list, we donate 1x/yr*. So when I get the call from my undergrad saying it’s the end of our fiscal year and we can really use anything you can contribute, I tell the student that we donate in December. *except for the parish and local NPR (cred, right?) station which are monthly.

  72. Not a Totebagger if you let your kids drink soda. This has caused friction on family outings with some parents saying “not even a sip of Coke”, others are fine with Sprite, others “soda over my dead body”.

  73. Oh…the soda thing would knock me out of the Totebag Club. Does it count if your child should be old enough to remember their own sunscreen?

  74. I was driving yesterday on a side street that crosses from a decidedly non-Totebag town to a Totebag town without a sign, but the yards alone are enough to identify the line.

    Totebaggers do not:

    Leave a filled inflatable pool in the front yard (or anywhere – hello drowning risk!)
    Have any 20+ year old cars in the driveway unless meticulously maintained or restored classics
    Use garden gnomes or plastic flamingos as decor unless part of a joke fundraiser
    Fly non-US flags (such as other countries’ or cutesy ones that say Welcome or Happy Summer), except the local U on game days

    Non Totebaggers do not:

    Put college stickers on every car even when no one in the family is currently in college
    Drive a Prius/Tesla
    Have multiple recycling bins

    More fundamentally, though, I think Totebag = Modern New England Yankee: more likely to outsource than to DIY after having sat through Econ 101, but otherwise similar in prioritizing frugality and practicing very intensive child rearing.

    I didn’t realize my focus on constantly shaping my kids’ values and education could be considered odd until one of our neighbors explained that in her old country, the village and its communal life raised the child: you didn’t deliver constant lectures on saving and consideration for others because they were expected to absorb it naturally. Or not, but that wouldn’t be your fault.

    Totally foreign mindset to me :)

  75. “Does it count if your child should be old enough to remember their own sunscreen?”

    No. Because at this point they (a) know they should wear it because you’re a good Totebag mom and (b) can suffer the consequences like the rest of us idiots.

  76. Not parking in the handicapped spot if you don’t need it is the mark of a decent human being, not necessarily a totebagger.

    The only person I have ever seen that was a boss I had in my twenties. She was thoroughly unpleasant to those she thought beneath her.

  77. “Leave a filled inflatable pool in the front yard (or anywhere – hello drowning risk!)
    Have any 20+ year old cars in the driveway unless meticulously maintained or restored classics
    Use garden gnomes or plastic flamingos as decor unless part of a joke fundraiser
    Fly non-US flags (such as other countries’ or cutesy ones that say Welcome or Happy Summer), except the local U on game days”

    Oh here’s my bag again…. That’s it… I should leave.

    I leave our baby pool full of water in the backyard all day long to warm it up – we empty it each night to avoid mosquitos. I have 4 plastic flamingos in my front yard at any one time (I even have zombie ones for Halloween) plus multiple solar lighted things. And I fly a flag for each month depicting scenes from Peanuts.

  78. On our last trip to Disney, I said that this was fun, but next vacation I would like to have more of an adventure. Everyone, including the kids agreed. Golden totebag award for me. Now I can do all manner of disqualifying activities and still be a totebagger.

  79. “Does it count if your child should be old enough to remember their own sunscreen?”

    Sorry, Austin. A good Totebagger would be putting it on the kid well into adulthood, and when the kid is married and launched, would be sending articles reminding the kid of its importance.

    Whatever. I’ve lost all my Totebag cred today. It pleases me, however, that I am the only known smoker here.

  80. I have over an over 30 year old harvester in the hay lot by the driveway. And my kids have drunk sodas for years, although I do have one kid who doesn’t like soda

  81. But the not ok people look like they are enjoying themselves. They’ve invited another coup,e over for a drink.

  82. And the no OK couple probably can fit a really cool sports car in a hidden compartment under the trailer.

  83. Totebaggers would never have 9 kids and a 3-bedroom house (Property Brothers in the background while I’m working from home.)

    Or – eat white bread or Velveeta. I would have also included Spam, because regionally that’s correct, but I have learned from this site that everyone eats it in Hawaii.

    And my love of queso with Velveeta is one of several things that reduces me to a Totebag-wannabe.

  84. Milo,

    1:42? I don’t know. That’s what I imagine SoFlMom’s house looks like.

    I’d say more like this:

    You need some combination of excessive size and poor build quality/terrible architecture.

  85. Rhett : 1:53, oh what I could do with a (minimum) six-car garage, including that really tall bay for RV or trailered boat

  86. An old friend of mine who had been a Marine sergeant before we met in school used to tell me a story about this one crusty old first sergeant he used to know. The legend goes that this guy made a habit of drinking a big mug of coffee and smoking a few cigarettes immediately before he would set out on a five-mile run. Whenever someone asked “Hey, First Sergeant, why are you drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes just before you go on a run?”

    And he would look at you, puzzled, like the answer couldn’t be any more obvious, then say “because it *hurts* more that way!”

    I remember that from time to time and think it’s analogous to some of the discussions we’ve had about why some things must be done a certain way.

  87. Milo, that’s awesome. But you forgot the Humvee towed behind that first RV. @Rhett: what’s that second SUV/wagon/whatever? I don’t recognize it.

    @Rhode: I would say the zombie flamingos fully insert you into hispter totebagdom, because they are completely ironic and playing on the current meme. And I think emptying the baby pool every night to avoid mosquitos undoes any harm to your totebag cred you might have from allowing it to warm all day. :-)

  88. My FIL was telling a story about a work acquaintance (owner of some company ) was wearing $4,000 blue jeans. A totebagger doesn’t spend this amount on jeans, and if they did they wouldn’t tell you

  89. LfB,

    what’s that second SUV/wagon/whatever? I don’t recognize it.

    It’s a Mercedes GL 63 AMG. It has a 550 hp twin turbo V-8 that propels it from 0-60 in 4.8 seconds, seating for 7 and it starts at $121,500.

  90. This topic is so entertaining! I love the venn diagram concept and the pics of yes-totebag and no-totebag. I have read this blog for so long and always considered myself a fellow tote bagger, but I now realize – no…
    Another item to add to the list of tote bagger interests: meal preparation- it must be easy, convenient, healthy, economical and cater to most of the tastes and special dietary needs (up to a point!) of the family.

  91. LfB,

    No, but it does come with a 7 speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters that produce incredibly fast rev matched gear shifts.

  92. As requested, I am going to list a few characteristics of totebaggers before reading any earlier comments.

    Core values:

    1. Education
    2. Moral behavior (however defined)
    3. Hard work
    3. Financial self sufficiency/prudence
    4. Community engagement

    Things that could be viewed negatively or positively, depending on degree or viewpoint of the evaluator

    1. Delayed or denied gratification, for self, spouse, children
    2. Child centric – radically different life led by the adults after arrival of children
    3. Bourgeois – all flavors from intellectual to mass culture, buy nothing truly “out there”
    4. View that current life status is primarily a result of talent and grit with only a small role for luck or “privilege”

  93. I’m totebaggy except for the food we eat, and how often we eat in restaurants.

    We have three kinds of goldfish in our cabinet, and Cheez its. We have some unhealthy snacks, and I keep vowing to get better when I read so many of your posts about food.

    The adults in my home eat healthy, nutritious foods and I have to get my kid on board.

    I went to see a documentary (Trapped) the other night in a nearby town. I think I’m liberal and a minor Totebager, but these folks were the real deal. They’re not driving BMWs and carrying designer bags even if they’re bought on sale on sale.

  94. Coc – the rabbit is an Annie’s organic snack and the goldfish is a plain old non organic goldfish.

  95. Thanks, Louise! I’m not familiar with the organic version.

    Well, I’m sure we’re all somewhere on the spectrum of totebagginess, and it would be great to have a “How Totebaggy Are You” quiz.

  96. Rhode is in RHODE ISLAND. There are a few old money types (usually with summer homes in RI) who as Sky mentioned have many of the totebag restrained values but without any of the financial or status anxiety that takes a lot of the fun out of life for the upjumpers like us. But outside of some, and NOT all, of the academic enclaves, the sort of self satisfied totebag conformity that one might find among professionals in a Boston burb can’t gain traction. So she has the freedom to be herself, display her lawn ornaments non-ironically and pick and choose from the cultural trappings of totebaggery.

    They are tearing up some streets not far from my home, so more rats have decided to come over to our block than can be accommodated by the two restaurant dumpsters on the main street and some have moved up to our complex dumpster. They will move again next season, but it is a nuisance right now. The condo board doesn’t want to poison them because it might compromise the integrity of the food chain. That is a direct quote. They were trying to get us to keep a week’s garbage in the house until 6am on garbage day. I am happy to live in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and enjoy all its benefits, but there is always a price to be paid.

  97. “Totebaggers do not:

    Leave a filled inflatable pool in the front yard (or anywhere – hello drowning risk!)
    Have any 20+ year old cars in the driveway unless meticulously maintained or restored classics
    Use garden gnomes or plastic flamingos as decor unless part of a joke fundraiser
    Fly non-US flags (such as other countries’ or cutesy ones that say Welcome or Happy Summer), except the local U on game days”

    Oy, I have failed at everyone of these at one time or another. Especially the pool. And I LIKE those seasonal welcome flags – guess that was an influence from our time in rural MA. And we used to have a gigantic inflatable manger scene in the yard at Christmas. It was so big that it obscured the porch.

  98. I think the fundamental difference between this blog and the “real” totebaggers is that we are self-aware and somewhat self-mocking of our own totebaggery. IMO true totebagginess just *is* — you are that way because that is the way to be.

  99. Before reading the comments, I came up one word description for totebaggers -Prudent.

    This trait dictates all their decisions to a large extent.

    After reading others comments, I have to confess I am not a toe naggers by some standards. I leave kiddie pool out filled so that water will get warm enough. I also put up small seasonal flags out front and totally not in an ironic way.
    I am vigilante about sunscreen, and privately think that I make my kid eat way you healthy food. But I am glad my kid does really like healthy food.
    I just might be the one sending my grown and launched kid reminders about sunscreen and eating healthy and exercising. I do it to my own brother!

    On the other hand, I like all the Milo’s “not ok” options.

  100. “I would have also included Spam, because regionally that’s correct, but I have learned from this site that everyone eats it in Hawaii.

    Totebaggers are now allowed to eat Spam because they can see it as either regional cuisine, or as ironic.

  101. @Rhett: OK, that’s a really good sound. But this is THE best car invention I have seen yet — the car basically does the heel-and-toe shifting for you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=704eJmOITGU. Freaking awesome (especially for those of us whose feet are too small to do it the old-fashioned way effectively.

    Of course, as we left the track, I completely forgot that my dad’s car did NOT have that and nearly dropped his tranny downshifting.

  102. Milo, I was rolling with laughter over your photos. You have it nailed.

  103. The kiddie pool I saw was the 12′ family size, and had clearly been left out for days in an un fenced front yard. There was a pile of empty beer cans next to it.

    I was wondering if they were using it cold or had rigged up a sort of makeshift hot tub (which would have won points IMO).

    There are some people on the Totebag side that let the kiddie pool warm in the sun if it is in a fenced backyard. I throw my kids in anyway and tell them that being cold builds mental toughness.

  104. I hate rats. I used to avoid Central Park at night because there were so many rats. Bloomberg managed to even get rid of some of the rats in there, but I still have to look the other way in the subway when i see them. I would be totally willing to bend the law and put out my own rat poison if I lived near you.

    Any favorite restaurants in Vegas??? I’ve been to so many conferences in Vegas for work, but I never had to select the restaurant. Many of the restaurants are from NY, and we are trying to find some places that are different. We would be willing to go off strip if there are any favorite local places.

  105. LfB, I watched the video and I still have no idea what you or they mean by heel-and-toe shifting? Is that normal shifting where you step on the clutch? And when you say the car does it for you, does that mean you just shift without having to press the clutch?

  106. My thought on soda is that after seeing it used to unclog feeding tubes, I can only imagine what it does to your stomach.

  107. Chips – it is not that I don’t like them but they are on the list of banned foods from my teen years. So, if I offered chips and dip, I’ll take one eat it with the dip and then see if I can eat just the dip by itself on my plate after my one chip is gone. No chips shall pass these lips is my motto.

  108. Geek alert: @DD: It’s rev-matching when you downshift. If you’re in say 3rd, and you downshift to 2nd, the revs will bolt up, which will cause the car to lurch and hurt your clutch (sort of like if you’re on a bike going fast and suddenly downshift, your legs are suddenly flying and you can’t catch up). So in racing, what the drivers do is this:

    1. Hit brake with toe of right foot.
    2. Put clutch in with left foot.
    3. While clutch is depressed, begin shifting. At same time, keeping right toe on brake pedal, take heel of right foot and blip the gas pedal just a bit to make the engine revs jack up (you hear a little “vriiim”) — so your right foot is basically massively pigeon-toed, with the toe on the brake and the heel popping over to blip the throttle.
    4. Finish shift, release clutch. The little blip of the throttle basically means that the engine is now revving at the right speed for the lower gear.

    Some people also do it just by sort of wiggling their right food — if your foot is wide enough, it can be on the brake, and you can just roll the foot to the right and the right edge of your foot can hit the gas pedal. You can google “heel and toe shifting” — there are all sorts of awesome videos. Here’s one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nzcRZCcikwM It’s a thing of beauty when you see the professional drivers do this. I cannot do this to save my life.

    The nice thing about the new Porsches (apparently since 2013) is that the car will do this for you — even on a manual. If you put it into “sport plus” mode, the car can tell when you are about to downshift, and when you put the clutch in, it will automatically blip the throttle for you, which means that you can complete the shift quickly and the car will not lurch or anything. It’s ridiculously good.

    You may now resume your regularly-scheduled programming.

  109. When I was a girl, a measure of manliness in a teen aged boy was whether he could double clutch into first. I will not explain further, either how it is done or what was his reward.

  110. LfB,

    All those who have never owned a car with an automatic transmission raise their hand:

  111. Rhett, my cars were all manual until the most recent one, which had to be purchased in a hurry. It has gotten really hard to buy cars with manual transmission that are also family friendly.

  112. “Before reading the comments, I came up one word description for totebaggers -Prudent. ”

    My nomination for a one word description is “considered.”

  113. I love you Meme. I just don’t live in that part of RI. I’m slumming it with the MC peeps.

    My neighbors are a nursing student her correction officer husband and their 2 kids, a PT SAHM and her insurance salesman hubby and their 2 kids. Across from me is a man who owns an auto mechanic shop. He shares his home with his girlfriend, son, and an ever changing selection of the son’s friends. He also has 3 grandchildren. I know one is from his daughter but lord knows who the parents are of the other 2.

    Oh and the guy down the block keeps classic cars. And the fire chief used to live on the block too.

    Let’s not forget the neighborhood crazy lady who lives next to the mechanic. She thinks I’m a single mom.

    I think DH and I are over educated for our street. In comparison I have no where to be but the Totebaggers.

  114. I picked “considered” because we tend to consider options, consequences, etc., before making decisions. This is one reason this blog is so useful– we’re willing to share what we’ve considered.

  115. Milo, weren’t we recently discussing double recliner couches here recently?

    BTW, DD, on what did you and your DW finally decide?

  116. “My neighbors are a nursing student her correction officer husband and their 2 kids, a PT SAHM and her insurance salesman hubby and their 2 kids. Across from me is a man who owns an auto mechanic shop.”

    This is one of the weird things about our town – even though we are in lower Westchester, and have a very UMC populaiton, we still have lots of people like this. The people who used to live across the street from us owned an auto body shop. There were always cars of various states of repair in the driveway, and the 20 something sons, who still lived at home (one had tried the Army but was kicked out) spent a lot of time running radio controlled cars up and down the block.

    Our next door neighbor own a pest control business. His garage is jammed full of chemicals. He is a mean old guy and I am always a little afraid of him. He has 4 or 5 cars in the driveway at any given time.

    We also have a plumber on the street, some elderly Italians, and a teacher couple with 2 kids. But here’s the thing – as the more elderly folks die out, the people moving in are very UMC, often Chinese, or else they are Japanese expats. We now have two houses on the block that are owned by a company that specializes in long term rentals to Japanese families. Our next door neighbors on the other side were an Irish family – the mom was a hospice nurse and the dad had some kind of painting business. But they moved to Ireland, and a Chinese couple bought the house. Then they had kids, decided that our school system wasn’t good enough, and are renting to the Mormons. Mormon dad is some kind of banker (and he looks exactly like Mitt Romney). So things are changing here.

  117. Have not read any other responses yet-

    Generally, I think of Totebaggers as:
    Politically liberal, but live life in conservative way
    Not very religious
    Upper-Middle Class
    Strong emphasis on education- even “educational vacations”
    Healthy eating, organic food, “dessert tomatoes”
    Tend to research everything
    Helicopter parenting
    Generally dual income
    Listen to NPR, season tickets to the symphony, well-cultured

    I’m very Totebaggy in some ways- the UMC upbringing with huge emphasis on education, culture that sort of thing. But I’m very religious, somewhat politically conservative/libertarian, a SAHM, and think organic is a scam.

  118. I’ll add one thing about totebaggers on this site, that may or may not apply more broadly – nice. People here disagree so amicably relative to the rest of the interwebs. (I’ve been reading the comments sections in political articles.) Even people with strongly divergent opinions generally speak respectfully when disagreeing. It’s just so refreshing to be able to discuss all sorts of subjects without worrying about being attacked for your views.

  119. BTW, DD, on what did you and your DW finally decide?

    We decided to get one with the chaise that doesn’t recline and to get a really nice big ottoman/coffee table thing that has the padded top to put our feet up. But the purchase is on hold because we still have two more trips this summer that we have to finish paying for.

  120. LfB, thanks for the explanation. I’ve never heard of that before. And I did drive stick for about 15 years.

  121. My neighbors are a nursing student her correction officer husband and their 2 kids

    Rhett’s “cop and nurse” family.

  122. Love this convo.

    I admit that we are pretty Totebaggy in a lot of ways. I would say I’m probabky 50% Totebag. I admit it. I do very much enjoy MBT’s rotel-velveeta dip but I have never actually purchased the ingredients myself. I do eat at Chik FIL A. That’s not Totebag.

    Around here you might also call it “Lakefront Liberal” so I do think of liberal politics being part of it. I like how Rio nailed it – liberal politics but live conservatively. The rat poison conversation that Meme mentioned could absolutely happen in my neighborhood, at least among the Americans. Some of the Asian/European transplants would pipe in that we are crazy & should just kill the rats.

    Extreme Totebag wouldn’t even eat the Annie’s cheddar bunny, Milo! And I agree with Rhett that the kayak is the true Totebag boat.

  123. Ahh, Rhett, wow is that a list. Several cars there on my lust list. I’ve mentioned it was the sound of the V8 that sold me on the Mustang, right? I had never heard anything like that before, and oh baby.

    Alas, I fail the test. :-( After my BMW blew up in 2008, I couldn’t find a 4-door sedan with 6 cylinders, a sunroof, leather, and a stick (at least not in my price range), so I settled for 3 out of 4. A mistake that then led me to the Mustang, of course, so I guess it all comes full circle.

  124. MBT – thanks. We tend to be so snarky about totebagism here, that it is good to hear a simple compliment.

  125. When I was in HS, the car I drove most of the time did not have a synchro 1st gear, so to shift into first without grinding the gears, I either had to come to a complete stop, or double clutch, so I sort of learned to double clutch. I don’t think I could do it now.

    LfB, the way people I knew did the heel and toe thing was to use the right heel on the brake and the right big toe on the gas. And yes, it really was the big toe; lots of people here drive barefoot.

  126. Sometimes even a Totebagger wants a boat that has a range of a few hundred miles on diesel fuel and provides overnight accommodations, and the Ranger a Tugs are apparently very popular for their kayak and bike racks:

  127. There is no set of necessary and sufficient conditions for being a Totebagger. But one thing we have in common is we are all able to spell.

  128. One aspect that has not been mentioned that I think might contribute to Totebagginess is my estimate that, for the specific level of average and median earnings and wealth among this group, very few of us (if any) got much of it from our families. At the same time, very few of us have parents who didn’t attend college. So it’s a slice of the population that probably had educated parents who pushed education but did not have the means (or inclination) to be seriously subsidizing our lifestyles into adulthood. It could explain the obsession with education and excessive prudence.

  129. Milo — My mother had just a high-school degree – no college. Dad had a graduate degree, though.

    DH and I are totally totebaggy per Milo’s photos. We live in a house built in the 1800s. Our two vehicles are a Prius and a Subaru Forester. The only boats we own are two sea kayaks. And we are guilty of being willing to buy Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies, but not Goldfish.

    DH and I were both raised in conservative religious environments, but now we are both active members of our local UU church. Of all the organized religions, I think UU has to be by far the totebaggiest.

    DH’s favorite piece of outerwear is a fleece jacket emblazoned with the logo of the local NPR radio station (he got it as a thank-you gift for a donation). It’s like he’s a walking advertisement for our totebagginess!

    I do have some decidedly non-totebaggy attributes, though. I eat white starch and sugar. My favorite types of music are pop, country, and hip-hop. And my kid did not get straight As on his most recent report card, but I find myself unconcerned about that fact.

    My parents were from a foreign culture, but they made a conscious decision to to embrace the totebag lifestyle. My parents (immigrants) lived in Boston, and they were trying to figure out how to get their kids ahead in the American system. My mom was an avid observer of the local elite (the WASP Boston Brahmins), and she tried to emulate their ways in bringing up my brother and me. Hence, the required piano lessons, the WASP-y prep schools as we got older, the ballroom-dancing lessons (this was a big thing among local private-school kids in the late 70s-early 80s), and the strong emphasis on getting into elite east-coast colleges. We were immigrants into the world of Boston totebaggery – not natives.

    My parents’ emphasis on thrift came from the fact that their respective families had lost everything in the Old Country due to wars and physical displacement due to ethnic strife. They were on a mission to restore the family to their former status.

    This 4th of July weekend, I’m feeling very lucky to have won one of the big lotteries of life by having been born a U.S. citizen and resident.

  130. Milo,

    I think that is the case with many UMC families, who obsess about education because that is the way they got into the UMC and they know that their children will probably not stay in the UMC without it. I don’t think that we are the only family here who are raising our kids in a higher SES group than in which we grew up. Just one example — all of our kids had a passport before they finished high school, DH and I didn’t need one until we were 40, and our parents were older still before they traveled overseas. The only reason that we live the way we do is because of the professional credentials we earned with postgraduate degrees.

  131. My Independence Day thought.

    My mother, who did not attend college and was one of 10 children (9 born in US) in an immigrant family, worked every day of my life and strove to assimilate and give me a better life. She was a court reporter at the US District Court in DC. She sent me to a private school with the children of many government and embassy officials (all 12 of the long time Saudi (prince) ambassador’s children attended). The parents would host field trips.

    I was never so proud as the day that my humble Mom arranged for my 4th grade class to attend the naturalization swearing in, held once a month in the large ceremonial courtroom in the Court House. All those people who had the determination to leave home, just like my grandparents, to find religious freedom or economic opportunity in our wonderful country. The judges liked to lay on the pomp and circumstance to mark the truly momentous occasion. And my mother, a tiny fashion plate with her platinum blond hair and her suits with full matching accessories (none of her work clothes were bought in Washington, which was still a backwater in those days).

  132. I think that is the case with many UMC families, who obsess about education because that is the way they got into the UMC and they know that their children will probably not stay in the UMC without it.

    The totebag obsession with education is a completely different level:

    “You have to plan their middle school courses (or even start in ES) to make sure they are able to maximize their AP classes in HS and be on the calculus track, plus start SAT prep by freshman year if not earlier, and start building the extracurricular resume in middle school, then get into a HSS college because anything short of that would be considered a failure.”

    Versus the average MC/UMC “obsession” (at least among the people I know), where you have to go to college, but a directional state school is just fine, and there isn’t any pressure to take 15 AP classes or spend hours on SAT prep in order get into a HSS school. For example, a family like my brother’s:

    Older son is going into his junior year at an “average” local college with no name recognition outside of the northern NJ area. Younger son just graduated HS and is going to the local community college for a year or two to save some money while he figures out what he wants to do.

    They would be considered failures by true totebag standards, yet in all likelihood they will go on to have very productive lives. And that’s the difference: the totebag goal is to reach the top and every decision along the way must contribute to that. The non-totebag goal is to be able to live a comfortable life.

  133. I think the TB obsession with education is closely related to another trait I haven’t seen mentioned yet, high IQ. TB families will naturally play to their strengths, and so it’s easier to focus on education if you have the natural smarts to do well in that area. Successful non-TB families with not so high IQs may not focus on education the same way. They know it’s important, but other factors that lead to success are also understood to be important.

    Somewhat related:

    “God, from that one blog post I already hate those people.” I wonder how often someone’s written or thought that about this blog. :)

  134. I identify so much with NoB’s description of her parents and Meme’s description of her mother. My kids would describe me in a similar fashion.

  135. We are somewhat obsessed with education, although not HSS. My father was the son of immigrants and the only one of the four children to go to college, despite all of them being very bright. (One read the encyclopedia,A-Z, because he wanted to learn.) The three older siblings pooled their money to send him to college. Life was much easier in adulthood for him than his siblings. My mom did not go to college, because she was expected to marry and be a SAHM. Her brothers all went. My husband was the youngest and the first in his family to go to college, but also the first to graduate high school. I believe his dad stopped after 8th grade to go to work, and his mom after a year or two of high school. Life turned out much differently for him than a lot of his family. With that view, he is adamant that our kids go to college. He really wanted them to both be STEM majors, and he is willing to fund a graduate degree for both is they want it. He is in IT, works with a lot of well-educated immigrants and is very worried about our kids getting on to a successful path. I am a little more laid-back in that I don’t worry about them being successful, but I have always been on them about school more. The funny thing is my daughter went way the other way and changed her major to Communications, but told me this weekend she really misses math and wishes she had majored in Computer Science. I’m sure it will all sort itself out with time.

  136. My mother was the daughter of immigrants who believed in college, for their son. They helped him through NYU. My mom was able to go to CCNY because it was free, but the expectation was that she would find a husband there.

    My dad’s parents were first-generation American and believed in college. He ended up going to CCNY (my parents didn’t actually meet there) for cost reasons. Then he went to grad school to void the draft.

  137. ITA with Milo’s assessment. My mom and dad were the first generations to go to college; my paternal grandfather enlisted to escape the farm, and my mom’s parents were Midwestern tradesmen. DH’s family story is more like DD’s, the NY children-of-immigrants with the free CCNY path forward. Education and hard work were the only way out, and there wasn’t the safety net of family money or connections if they couldn’t hack it. And so I’m not surprised at all that those are the values they passed down to us, and that we are trying to pass down to our kids.

  138. I was at Chick-fil-A for lunch with my older two today and saw an old man eating by himself with a WWII veteran baseball hat on. So I said hello and asked him where he was stationed, and that turned into a 30-minute conversation. I would love to be as lucid and with it at 92 as he is. I was surprised and impressed to learn that he was a B-24 pilot in Europe. It was similar enough to my grandfather, a B-25 navigator/bombardier that I shared what I knew about him, and he asked “is he still alive?” and I shook my head, thinking “wow, he died over a quarter century ago.”

    But this guy’s doing great, driving, and with hearing aids, can easily carry on a normal conversation amidst all the background noise of a fast food restaurant–a normal conversation, not a patronizing, nod-and-smile conversation. We talked about WWII books, like the one about McGovern. And he’s got a bunch of family in the area, getting together with them this weekend.

    And I realized afterward that that may very well be the last real conversation I ever have with someone with his experiences.

    So, back to the topic’s tangent, none of my grandparents went to college. One grandfather, like was mentioned above, stopped after 8th Grade because he needed to work. The other, like this gentleman, had not attended college but his score on the Army’s standardized tests made him an officer. The guy I met today went to college later on the GI Bill. My grandfather learned that the NYPD would start him at an advanced rank, crediting him for his war service, and did that for the next 40 years.

  139. Of the OCEAN personality traits, I think Totebaggers are conscientious.

    Two conversations have made me think of un-Totebaggy traits. One is getting your early elementary school child a TV for his room. The other is holding back your bright kindergarten son so he’ll be better at high school athletics.

    Do any Totebaggers do Ironman or other high commitment sports?

  140. It’s so interesting to learn more about backgrounds. I’m not sure what made me what I am. As I’ve gotten older I have seen how the nature part overtakes the nurture part in many, probably most, cases.

    Meme wrote:
    ‘4. View that current life status is primarily a result of talent and grit with only a small role for luck or “privilege”’

    I fervently believe in the role of luck or privilege, but a significant component of good luck is being born with good genes.

    Over the last few days I’ve perused a few articles about the mistakes made in measuring grit. Maybe it could be a separate topic.

    Yet, if perseverance is central to Gladwell’s outliers, it’s hardly the sole reason for their success. Family background, opportunity, culture, landing at the right place at the right time, the over-all state of the economy—all these elements, operating at once, allow some talented people to do much better than other talented people. Gladwell provides the history and context of successful lives. Duckworth—indifferent to class, race, history, society, culture—strips success of its human reality, and her single-minded theory may explain very little. Is there any good football team, for instance, that doesn’t believe in endless practice, endurance, overcoming pain and exhaustion? All professional football teams train hard, so grit can’t be the necessary explanation for the Seahawks’ success. Pete Carroll and his coaches must be bringing other qualities, other strategies, to the field. Observing those special qualities is where actual understanding might begin.

    Now I have to go weed my side yard. I hadn’t realized how bad it was until I was sitting outside yesterday.

  141. Three out of four of my grandparents graduated from college, and at least four of my great-grandparents as well. (A lot of West Pointers back in there.) My mother firmly believed that she really should have been landed nobility in England in the mid-19th century and was always bitter that that was not her reality. My sister and I were given very limited options for careers. Ideally we should just marry professional men, but if we had to work, we should be in one of the professions. Trade was beneath us. I seriously wish I had been able to ignore her. My life turned out fine but her rules were so stupid and inappropriate for 20th century America.

  142. Family background, opportunity, culture, landing at the right place at the right time, the over-all state of the economy—all these elements, operating at once, allow some talented people to do much better than other talented people.

    In other words, luck.

  143. “This 4th of July weekend, I’m feeling very lucky to have won one of the big lotteries of life by having been born a U.S. citizen and resident.”

    +1.

  144. All four of my grandparents did not go to college, but two were immigrants from Poland and arrived around 1920.
    The two that were born here would have reached college age during the peak of the depression. They barely had money for rent so I don’t think college was a priority.

    My mother didn’t go to college and she was married by 20. Most of her friends did the same, or became teachers. A lot of them did go back and earn a degree, but she was not interested. Same exact story for DH family. No college degrees for the grandparents. Both of us had one grandfather that delivered milk in NYC when they came to the US.

    Even though I went to crappy NYC publics, I lucked out by gaining acceptance to a free public elite HS. That was the life changing moment for me.

  145. A Totebagger is someone who will let their kid ride in the front passenger seat only after the stroke of midnight on the kid’s birthday. Said Totebagger harbors Cinderella fantasies of a kid carrier vehicle turning into a Batman car.

  146. Oh you mean like me who had a heart attack finding out friends’ twins who are days older than DS are already forward facing? Granted they are typical sized 18 months old but still.

    And then there’s me who will keep DS rear facing until the bitter end. When he’s 15. Totebagger much??

  147. Totebaggers do NOT post pictures on Facebook of their toddlers playing with fireworks.

  148. RMS, who *doesn’t* want to be the landed nobility?

    I still went into trade, albeit briefly :)

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