“It’s the most amazing beach. We should definitely go there.”
We were on a weekend away with John’s family on the South Coast of England and were making a plan for the day. John’s sister had visited the area before and was extolling the virtues of a particular beach not far from where we were staying.
So we went. And it was fine. It was a nice sandy beach. But I couldn’t say much more about it. The Londoners in the company loved it. Show a Londoner a sandy beach – any sandy beach – and they’re all over it. I really tried to be enthusiastic but I’m not proud to say I couldn’t get past my snobbery.
A couple of weeks later I was talking to my brother and his girlfriend whose parents just so happen to live down the road from that beach.
“What did you think of the beach?” my brother asked.
I hesitated. “To be honest… not that great. It’s just a big open stretch of strand. There was nothing dramatic about it. No real character.”
“I know,” he said, “I don’t know what people get so excited about.” He motioned to his girlfriend, “She says I’m a beach snob.”
Her ears perked up. “He is! Every beach I’ve ever taken him to he says, ’It’s not as good as the beaches in Donegal.’”
I was a real music snob in my teenage years and that snobbery lingered into adulthood. It took working in a ‘cool’ independent record shop and being surrounded by professional music snobs to realise how unattractive a quality it was. And more than that, I realised how much it got in the way of life. It’s very hard to connect with someone who thinks they know better and have superiority in the situation.
I dropped the music snobbery. I chose connection. I chose life. But there are some instances when I still have to check myself. Isn’t that true for us all? I have a French friend who’s a great cook. I took an immediate shine to her the first time we met – we were in a busy Soho pub on a Friday evening and she reached into her bag, pulled out a knife and some cheese and started doling it out to everyone. “I brought this back from France last week.” In restaurants she always critiques the cooking of the meat – it’s not the way they do it in France. “You always say that,” I teased her once. She laughed, “I know. I know… but it’s true, uh?”
There are some things we are SO convinced of and feel so strongly about that it’s hard not to let a little snobbery leak out. For my friend it’s how the French cook meat, for my brother and I it’s the dramatic sandy beaches of Donegal. On the whole though, it’s best to set superiority aside and be a learner rather than a knower.