One Woman’s Humiliating Encounter with Intellectual Elitism in Boise
My Thirty-Something Bachelor's: late but worth the wait
It wasn't all that long ago that I finished my Bachelor's degree. I was 35 at the time, and a transfer student several times over. Tried as I had to concentrate on completing my degree, getting through college as an adult learner was extremely difficult.
Most of the obstacles I encountered pertained to military spouse life, solo parenting, and my previously undiagnosed ADHD. Factor in working wherever and whenever I could, and it made the journey a nightmare.
Toward the end, I must've sang Princess Tiana's "Almost There" a thousand times to myself. Yet in spite of it all, I still managed to maintain a high GPA while fulfilling my duties as a homemaker. The stakes were high, but my grit was greater.
Graduating in the Family Room
The day I graduated was unlike any other. In the sweetest show of support, my then eight-year-old daughter, Livvie, threw me a graduation. The ceremony was complete with an audience of her Teddy bears, my mom crying over Facetime, and a diploma drafted in Crayola crayon.
Clad in yoga pants and a t-shirt with a messy ponytail, I marched across our family room in Star to accept my diploma from Livvie, the commencement hostess and keynote speaker. As my daughter handed me my homemade diploma, I felt relief on a level I hadn't known was possible. I could breathe. I was done. It was over. But I knew that wasn't good enough for some people.
Snobbery & Socialites
Intellectual elitism—doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, does it? Regardless, I had grown accustomed to it since since moving Idaho. Before I finished my degree, people assumed I already had. Numerous times the erroneous assumption landed me in the middle of conversations with academics who had a penchant for criticizing the less educated.
Breaching The 4th Wall
In a way, it was like removing the fourth wall. Low as their opinions were, the highbrow crowd spoke freely when they took me for a peer of equal academic accomplishment.
- Uncensored snobbery was the main course at dinner parties.
- Secret appraisals of parents who chose trades meddled in PTA affairs. Plumbers, electricians, and carpenters are good enough to outfit commercial and residential properties. But taking a stab at PTA president? That's a bridge too far.
- Circles of MRS degree holders disguised themselves as mommy meet-ups. It didn't matter that they too were stay-at-home moms. Their degree bagged them a wealthy husband and validated their luxury SUV.
But my worst encounter with intellectual elitism happened at a BBQ in Boise a few months before my family room graduation. Standing in a circle of new acquaintances, the conversation quickly shifted into "And what do you do?" mode.
I was in the company of a young attorney, a civil engineer, and a hedge fund manager. Big nods and impressive smirks followed the announcement of each person's title; except for mine.
My work as a paraeducator in Special Education at Barbara Morgan STEM Academy elicited pin-drop silence. Feeling cornered by their vacant expressions, I retreated to my old go-to explanation of being a student, a mom, and a military spouse. But still, nothing. Finally, the young attorney said, "So you're a teacher's aide who wipes butts?" Before I could say a word, the group burst into a fit of roaring laughter.
Floored and humiliated, I fought back hot tears. Despite my best efforts, a few got away and rolled down my cheeks. The group went quiet and the attorney chimed in with, "Oh, c'mon. Toughen up. I was just kidding. I thought you were joking! I just assumed a girl with your wit and your looks would be doing a lot better than that."
The CEO & The Janitor
And on that delightful note, I scooped up my daughter and left. If you think I'm kidding, I wish I were. Am I living off of it? No. My reason for sharing the experience is to identify ignorance and stop it in its tracks. It's naïve of me to hope others will treat the CEO the same as the janitor. I know. But for the sake of the janitor, I'll keep hoping.