my watch (vintage, by Vantage, a Hamilton second line), and when the conversation turned to the disadvantages of Canadian autumn weather—which sadly all but necessitates the wearing of socks—I even earned a hug for proudly revealing my bare ankles in defiance of the 13°C (55°F) temperature. And as if that didn't make the event memorable enough, notice that the "To Do" list on the book's back jacket is dated October 12! (And yes, that's her handwriting in the picture at left.) I had a truly fantastic time.
And I can also report on the actual substance of the book, since I've finally finished reading it. First of all, if you were a fan of the original 1980 Official Preppy Handbook, True Prep certainly will not disappoint. It contains updated information on essential topics like schools, clubs, vacation destinations, and domestic employees, as well as new coverage of touchy subjects such as adoption, divorce, diversity, death, and scandal. However, if you're new to the whole "preppy" thing, in some ways I don't think True Prep makes quite as good an entrée as did the original OPH. I've heard at least one other person say that there's less explaining being done this time around, and I'm inclined to agree.
One thing I found odd about the book is that, much as I've been given to understand that the original OPH was intended to be satirical and tongue-in-cheek, the promotional angle that's being taken for True Prep makes it seem as though it takes itself much more seriously. Sure, there are knowing winks here and there, but I really don't get any sense that the authors view their subject-matter with particular irreverence, or as anything approaching a joke. This makes the book more valuable as a social chronicle, but perhaps less valuable as a work of satire.
a previous entry, one has to question how "true" the prep is if anyone can be preppy. Like Mark Oppenheimer in Slate, I wondered what the difference was between truly being prep, and merely performing prep. To me, true prep would almost have to be inherited, "bred-in" if you will, and would definitely require immersion from birth. I feel like you almost certainly wouldn't qualify if you had ever tried to be preppy, if you were ever conscious of the question of whether or not something was preppy (of which I'm undoubtedly guilty).
The closest analog would be, I suppose, an accent. You can't just start speaking with an English accent halfway through your life. It's only authentic if you develop it naturally when you're young. You either have it or you don't. To cultivate it later in life—how can that be anything other than phony?
I don't know the answer to that question, but then, it's probably impossible to reconcile my conception of "true" prep with the authors'. They seem to posit two categories of prep identifiers: tangible (clothes, houses, vacations, schooling, leisure activities) and intangible (attitude, demeanour, discretion, manners). Neither is sufficient, and both are necessary. And it seems that the intangibles are probably the most important; you can't be preppy if you're a boor, no matter how picturesque your beach house or how salt-stained your Top-Siders. I think that to really live up to its name, the book should have spent more time on the intangibles. It does have an etiquette chapter, but that's only one out of twelve, and it's hardly the beefiest of them all. But fortunately, you can do something to make up the difference: contact the bookstore of Hampden-Sydney College and order yourself a copy of To Manner Born, To Manners Bred: A Hip-Pocket Guide to Etiquette for the Hampden-Sydney Man. It costs only $4.95 plus shipping.
In the end, though, that's all just a lot of nitpicking. True Prep is a cracking fun read, and a truly enjoyable book. I'm very glad to have my own (autographed!!!) copy.
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