Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Fashionably Charitable

I live in a very well off part of the country. Until recently, Connecticut was the richest state in the Union (the highest income per capita) but we have recently been eclipsed by the state of New Jersey. Regardless, in an area full of high earning socialites, it is easy to witness a phenomenon I like to refer to as fashionable charity.

Let me first begin by explaining the atypical family in the general area that I live. Most of families I would say probably earn somewhere between $75-300K a year and live in very nice homes. The fathers are usually business men working in the financial industry (insurance mostly – Hartford is the insurance capital of the world after all) and the mothers are either professionals of some sort or homemakers. They typically are driving a Acura, Lexus, Land Rover, BMW. Volvo, or Benz. The children are model citizens who are all star athletes, performers, students, blah, blah, blah. These are also the towns where if your kid isn’t taking Chinese lessons by age 5 you are sooo not fashionable.

So what is fashionable charity? It is what happens when a group of these people get together to raise money or support some kind of charitable cause. While some of the people are legitimately concerned and want to help, many are just there to be a part of something and be seen. Then to top it off you can find these same “graciously charitable people” doing the exact thing they were opposing – like smoking after a lung cancer walk. The best case I have to offer as example of this hypocrisy is recently a state spokeswoman for MADD (mothers against drunk driving) was issued a DUI. Obviously she really is concerned about drunk driving.

It just frustrates me when people do things for the wrong reasons. I know that the charities are benefiting despite the ego boosting, but the disingenuous nature of the effort is so disheartening. It naturally leads to a feeling of these people being so artificial and hollow.

I know that I am sounding like an old man saying all this but it seriously bothers me. Why bother help a charity or a cause that you knowingly violate on a regular basis? Is it really that important to have a certain image in the eyes of your neighbors? Does your public appearance really matter that much? Is selling out worth the risk? Seriously, is it?


Penelope Trunk said...

Hi. Sometimes when I think I have writer's block, really I am thinking of a lot to write about but I am just stressed that everything I think of is not good enough. So, I thought I'd tell you that I really like this post -- good topic and well written. And as a side note you make me a little anxious that my kids aren't learning Chinese.

Here's to no more writer's block!


Jaerid said...


Thank you for the encouragement and inspiration. I think you are right - my block comes from the overwhelming topics I want to discuss. I have taken pause lately because part of me doesn't want this blog to become a dumping ground or drawn out bitch session. I have a new found respect for the balance that more experienced bloggers (such as yourself)are able to exhibit.

Thank you again and don't worry - my 18 month old isn't slated to start Chinese until he is done with his Spanish lessons :)

Scott M said...

I know this is an old post, but I just found it today.

While reading this post, I thought "Isn't this what we are told to do when we network?" Then isn't it any wonder that so many people have a low opinion of "networking"? That we have to fake an interest in something, or someone, just so we can make a contact.

I've lost track of how many times I've heard I should join some group or club because it would be a good networking opportunity. It doesn't seem to matter that I would have joined already if I was interested. No, I'm supposed to join so I can see and bee seen. And that's why everyone one else is probably there too.

Why should charities be any different? At least something good comes out of it.