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Monday, October 01, 2007

A Member of the Club

As I’ve mentioned before, I have a love-hate relationship with “belonging” to the “in” group. Something about being an outsider and doing things differently has always been more appealing to me.

Here in Dar es Salaam, the “in” group of expatriates belongs to the Dar es Salaam Yacht Club. I suppose the definition of “in” could stand to be examined in this case. If you consider “in” to be white, wealthy, cliquish, and privileged, then the Yacht Club it the “it” place to be “in”.

(Sorry for all the quotation marks!)

When I moved here I snubbed my nose at the Yacht Club. I told everyone I met that I’m not a Yacht Club kind of gal – despite it’s many obvious benefits. And it’s true. There are a million ways in which I’m not. But none of these ways involve NOT being white, wealthy, cliquish, and privileged. If I have to admit the ugly truth to myself, here in Dar es Salaam, I am indeed all of these things.

I also live only a block away, the setting is gorgeous, the Yacht Club has the only swimable beach within a 20-minute drive from my house, and it has the best pizza in Dar.

Really. The best.

Over the past 18 months I’ve watched innumerable friends try to decide whether or not to join. Everyone is drawn to it – especially those who aren’t working (usually spouses of those of us who are working). All the granola/development-type Americans are horrified by the air of privilege and lack of diversity – and yet they join in droves. This is a place where you can still see a man snap his fingers and call over the “boy” serving the drinks. (The “boy” being a black man.). But just because there is an ugly (sorry but usually) over-the-hill South African type at the bar making as ass of himself, does that mean the rest of us shouldn’t be able to enjoy the sunset?

Well… until my beloved Sea Cliff Hotel burned down last weekend, my answer would have been, “Yes. Absolutely. There are other alternatives in Dar.”

But today I find myself weak and considering what three weeks ago was unthinkable.

Today I stopped by the Yacht Club and picked up an application. It seems the logical thing to do given my situation.

But then why am I so ashamed?

Last weekend when I first started to seriously consider the Yacht Club, and as I was coming to terms with the fact that it will be many months before the Sea Cliff will rise again, I had an epiphany.

My internal struggle with whether or not to join the Yacht Club is actually more about baggage from my youth and less about whether or not here, in Dar es Salaam, should I or shouldn’t I join many friends I adore who made the decision to join despite their initial concerns.

You see, I grew up in Larchmont, New York where Yacht Clubs – or clubs in general – were the playground of the rich kids. But they were also segregated. I’m not so sure that in the late 1970s they were truly segregated (as in they had policies promoting segregation), but in practice they were almost entirely so.

The WASPy kids’ families belonged to THE Larchmont Yacht Club – which was so WASPy and preppy that it was even mentioned in The Preppy Handbook. The Larchmont Yacht Club really was the crème de la crème, although the joke in town was that it was so WASPy that they only sold alcohol but not food (because WASPs don’t eat).

The Jewish kids’ families belonged to Beach Point Club. The saying about Beach Point was that they only served food, but no drinks, because all we Jews ever do is eat.

Finally the Catholic kids’ families belonged to Bonnie Briar Country Club – which wasn’t a Yacht Club at all, but had an 18-hole golf course (which presumably only Catholics played on) that turned into the best sledding in town when snowstorms hit. (Thank you Catholics!) The saying about Bonnie Briar was that you could get both food and alcohol there, because, you know, the Catholics both eat and drink! (Well-rounded people.)

I don’t remember ever feeling like I was missing out on this scene (my family belonged only to the local junior high school swimming pool), but I think I had a sense of righteous indignation that some kids “belonged” and other didn’t, and whether or not you belonged had something to do with your heritage rather than self-selection.

But it was all for the best anyway. Even if my family had belonged to the Larchmont Yacht Club I’m not sure they would have let me in with the punk coiffe, blue hair, and black on black wardrobe I sported in my teenage years anyway.

So tonight I sit here with my application to the Dar es Salaam Yacht Club nearly complete. All that’s missing is a “recommendation” from a member in good standing and I’ll be accepted into their temporary membership program (i.e. I get to go for three months and try it out before coughing up $1000+ to actually join). I’m staring at it like I’m a recovering addict and the application is a heroin-filled syringe.

Oh the temptation. Oh the horror.

But actually, now I know I’m going to do it. I’m going to join. And You are the reason why.

I figure, three months won’t kill me, right?

But likely it will provide much fodder for the blog.

And so temptation wins.

I’m “in”.

Hey white, wealthy, cliquish, privileged lady! What do you want to drink?


Blogger suburban dyke said...

It looks beau-ti-ful, dahling! Please do join. Drink a Cuba Libre or what-evah the local cocktail is. I hope the "boys" are well paid for the privilege of serving cliquish, wealthy white folks.

3:51 AM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

You know, I never knew all those sayings about the country clubs. That's so funny! I don't remember feeling left out so much, even though we didn't even have the pool membership most years because my mom always missed the application deadlines - as I recall it was you who brought me!

I can't wait to hear more about your Yacht club experiences. I'm sure it will end up being better than you expect, just so long as you stay clear of the ugly South Americans. Was Charlize Theron just a freak exception or what?

4:55 PM  
Blogger debbie said...

It's been a few months since I've read your blog. I'm all caught up for the months of Sept. and Oct. I love reading about your life. The Yacht Club beach looks sensational. Enjoy your membership. It will be a great place for you to relax while the kids tire themselves out...that's the point right? Cousin DSS

P.S. It's too bad that you and Bernard won't be able to connect. How random that you won't be there when he is...

4:40 PM  
Anonymous Redneck Mommy said...

Love this blog! So different from what I normally read every day.

And how I wish I was in someplace exotic too!

Good luck with your membership. The beach looks lovely....

Can't wait to hear more.

5:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beach Point was so exclusive it felt like a sin to be a member. Those of us SWAS-types who belonged liked to call it "Bitch Point" behind dear old Mummy and Daddy' backs.

8:12 PM  

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