A Member of the Club
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.