Teacher Seeks Advice On Social Climbing Through Philanthropy, Buttering Up The Rich

woman on a ladder
woman on a ladder

This teacher is looking to ensure she forevermore toasts to the good life -- hopefully with vintage champagne looking out a penthouse window, if you please.

In her query to the etiquette columnist Judith Martin, better known as "Miss Manners," a preschool teacher described her desire to switch careers from educator to skin care specialist. She wrote in to the column, which is syndicated to news outlets nationwide, that she wanted to meet the "right" people and hopefully get married while she's at it. Her main tactic for achieving this involves volunteering.

"I do not want or need fame, power or prestige, but I would definitely not complain about living in a Fifth Avenue penthouse with a loving husband, beautiful children and an exciting career. Joining the Junior League seems to be a great idea; I also volunteer at galas, and will be volunteering at a city hospital soon."

Alas, we initially thought this was written as an April Fool's post, but she opened up her letter in all earnestness with "I wish to climb the social ladder."

Miss Manners quickly decried her letter as a whole, saying etiquette doesn't automatically involve the rich, so she's barking up the wrong tree anyway.

"Here we try to encourage such civilized behavior as compassion, respect and consideration for others, and we get socked with a reputation for teaching how to cozy up to the rich...Your method of classifying people is not the one Miss Manners uses. When you speak of the “right” people, you obviously mean rich people."

The columnist of comportment recognizes the boost wealthy people give to charity, but goes on to tell the letter-writer that she is kind of lost at sea -- and, as it were, galas aren't a place to go pick up men anyway.

"Society is fortunate that hordes of social climbers strive through philanthropy. If not for the hope of whatever they consider upward mobility, there would be far less charity...As for the galas, rich gentlemen do not attend them in search of eligible ladies. They attend them because their wives are on the committee and have put together tables where they can socialize with their own friends."


But other experts have suggested charitable events as the key rung on the social climbing ladder.

Some years ago, Marlys Harris, Money Magazine's senior editor, wrote about how you, too, can snag your own "Richie Rich." So, even if Miss Manners won't give up the goods, the tips for going all Anna Nicole Smith exist out there.

"True, it's not politically correct to go hunting for a marital meal ticket (or for that matter, to write about it). But just for a moment imagine the life that could be yours if you did," Harris said.

Though she does suggest getting an advanced degree (and not just that Mrs. degree) and also being culturally literate so you can discuss Mozart and Monet while mingling, Harris touts charity as an in to the upper crust.

She provides suggestions such as studying the society pages and even a database of big spenders on the Chronicle of Philanthropy to see which charities and events would best fit your bill.

And this advice is longstanding. Another author agrees and says that charity events are optimal if you want to be a Real Housewife Of Your Zipcode. Lisa Johnson, author of "How to Snare a Millionaire," told Forbes years ago that charity events are key because you can check out the guest list and mingle for free.

But we wonder why charity must be used, abused and all hung up to dry like this?

As an alternate, there is always Princeton alumna Susan Patton's advice on finding an ivy-league husband -- if that's what you're looking for -- before the pickins get slim. So there's that, too. Or not.

Tell us, with the Internet recently set aflame with talk of marriage dos and don'ts, what do you think of this Ms. Manners inquiry? Let us know in the comments below.



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