Some types of membership are purchased. Your “wholesale” club is the best example I can think off the top of my head. Some are by invitation. You have to be invited to join many clubs; you can’t just walk up to the door, knock and hand them a check. But clearly, those lofty institutions that are by invitation only are also restrictive by income: initiation fees, annual fees, or clubhouse fees. Can’t pay the bill, don’t accept the invitation to join.
As a starving undergrad, I spent an inordinate time in some of the most exclusive clubs in the Boston area; and I do not mean as a busboy or waiter.

I found that the easiest way to help pay my tuition at Boston University’s evening Metropolitan College was to work days as a personal attendant to older “gentlemen,” Their families wanted them lightly supervised while going to the club. I quietly stood by if they needed assistance, or to pour them discreetly into the cab after they had overindulged. For this, I was not loved nor respected by my charges. I sat in the back, ignored. I was frequently vilified and sometimes left behind.
Staff at private clubs are used to people acting in the role of an unappreciated aide de camp. Frequently escorted to private dining rooms to eat with others like myself, the chef seemed pleased to serve us. It was through this means that I was introduced to many foods that I could not afford to buy. Hell, at the sort of establishment I could afford, they’d never have heard of the entrees.
The staff of many of the clubs expected to be teated in a patronizing manner, I watched as many of them were openly ignored and disrespected. A favored technique that I later witnessed frequently at the University of Pennsylvania was the “cut.” Properly executed, the cutter passes the cuttee while looking slightly off to the right and above the shoulder. The eyes barely miss the cuttee’s face. It’s disrespectful and meant to imply that you are beneath notice.

I did this type of work for two years. I gained an insight into caste and class that I did not have previously. and came to agree wholeheartedly with Groucho Marx’s comment that if invited, I would refuse “…to join any club that would have me as a member.”

2 Replies to “Membership”

  1. Well, I have learned something today. I had no idea this was a thing! So … like a babysitter for naughty men who can’t be trusted to behave?

  2. I have no idea if this still exists, but I suspect that it does. Privileged people do not live by the rules you and I live by, and I’d suspect that rather than a baby sitter a nanny might be more the term.

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