Elisa and I have been writing poems together on various subjects and in various forms back and forth over email since early 2006. This poem is from a series of them that we wrote inspired by Susan Sontag’s essay “Notes on ‘Camp’” from 1964 and by George Orwell’s memoir Down and Out in Paris and London (1933), specifically the part where he pauses the narrative to offer “some notes on British slang and swearing.”
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Some Notes on Snobbery by Elisa Gabbert & Kathleen Rooney
Connoisseurship of cable is currently preferred over not watching TV. As is calling it hot cocoa instead of hot chocolate, if that happens to be what you’re drinking while you watch. Whatever you’re drinking, it should be non-alcoholic, because getting drunk while you watch TV is so sophomore year.
Everyone knows you take off your glasses to flirt. You can push them up on your head, but don’t wear them at the back like Guy Fieri. You can also try wearing your wristwatch as an eyepatch, but don’t even ask me how that’ll go.
If you’re not smiling, some guy on the street will always tell you to smile; little does he know you’re on your way to a funeral.
Snobs are upsetting and appealing for the same reason: they give the appearance of knowing something you don’t. But this is not the sole qualification—everyone knows something you don’t.
Sometimes what seems to be snobbishness is merely the desire for a well-ordered life. This desire can never be realized, due to entropy.
Money helps a lot if you seek, via snobbery, to free yourself from the shackles of conventionality. All cash is legal tender, but family money has a richer stink.
The figure of the critic-as-snob is unkind, but accurate. The critic would rather be a snob than a lowest-common-denominator, sheep-like philistine. Although it might just be a classical education and not snobbery that would cause a person to say ceteris paribus instead of “all things being equal.”
You’re doing it wrong. From here, behind my latte, I am silently judging you. And occasionally heaving an unsilent sigh.
Professor P. Sargant Florence wrote that “My own experience is that, apart from the special habitat of intellectuals like Oxford or Cambridge, a city of a million is required to give me, say, the twenty or thirty congenial friends I require!” He was a real asshole. And he dressed like the man of distinction in a whiskey ad.
There’s no cachet in degrees anymore, since literally everyone has them. The universities are like swimming pools that contain more people than water. What is “cess,” anyway, and does it ever occur outside of pools?
“To die” is an expression once used by chic lady-snobs in New York City—“My dear, it’s to die!” When complete and utter fabulousness is achieved, the only appropriate reaction is death.
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This collaborative poem originally ran in the online journal Nailed. It also appears in our collaborative chapbook The Kind of Beauty That Has Nowhere To Go, which came out last fall with the feminist publisher Hyacinth Girl Press, run by the tireless dynamo and accomplished poet Margaret Bashaar.