What do you think is considered posh?
Merriam Webster defines it as something attractive, expensive and popular or as something or someone of high social status.
Depending on how one uses the word, it can sound as a simple adjective to describe something luxurious or attractive, but more often than not, this word has come to be used as derogatory. From its not-so-humble origins in 1914, when it was used in Britain to describe people of high social class, poshness has gained a touch of accusation in regards to hobbies, habits or preferences.
Now, dear reader, I will give you an insight into my own life, habits and preferences. The following 3 sentences are exactly what happens in my life on a regular basis:
“I read an article about Emmanuel Macron in the Economist this morning with my coffee. Really liked the new beans we got, Ethiopian, I think. The article described him as an inside man, but centrist, with monumental expectations on his shoulders.”
“On our trip to Tallinn, we got to see the Flemish Masters exhibition. I really liked the Studio of Jan Breughel the Younger, the detail on that thing is extraordinary.”
“I was visiting my parents and brought them a 2014 Romanian Merlot to go with that chicken thigh barbecue. The meat was slightly braised after, so the acidity really balanced out with the wine.”
Do you consider this to be just someone liking finer things, or maybe being a bit posh? Maybe a little elitist? Or maybe it’s things you’d imagine doing when you have time, money and knowledge? Or…or just maybe you consider this a tad unnecessary, because neither you or your friends do it and you all have a good laugh at a person picking wine carefully, as if it matters, and you just order white wine with beef steak because red is too heavy and that’s that.
Well, dear reader, all of those sentences I have said about myself, I said to someone else and received exactly the reaction described. In fact, I committed more “poshness crimes” like these: I’ve read books, but didn’t watch movies, in fact, I read for pleasure and to a surprise of many people, I read books that are over 500 pages and do not relate to my day job. And then I discuss them *gasp*. Also, I did horse riding when I was younger and still do from time to time. Shock and awe, it’s so posh.
I think there are many reasons why people react in such a way, but here I have narrowed it a bit to the things that reacting people think when they hear something like the above:
- Money. To drink a good wine = having significant income. Well, let me tell you, if a family of 2, earning about 700-800€ each (standard Eastern European middle class income calculated between 700€ to 1500€) CAN in fact allow themselves vacations, fine dining and drinking and museums.
- Time. Who has time, really, to learn what goes with what on the table or read all of those books? My answer is: you do. You need to work on it, sure, but that’s sort of the point.
- Knowledge. Or rather people think it takes special education to learn to tell a taste of plum from raspberry. Come on, really? You have your tongue with all the taste receptors that were refined and given to you as a precious genetic inheritance. All you need to do is be brave and take that blue moldy cheese and feel the moist, earthy taste that it produces, then slush it down with some Merlot and answer yourself: what is it that I’m tasting now. And that is it. Keep training.
But what really brings it home to me, dear reader, is that I DON’T see myself as posh, although having this understanding of society’s perceptions should probably make me think of myself as such, but it doesn’t happen. The fact is, I do struggle to get by at times, which is anything BUT posh living: I sometimes don’t get paid because of cash flow problems, which leads to loads of cuts on food and other things. I also don’t go to galleries as often as I would want, because I am usually too tired to go after 8 hours of relentless office work, which drains all of my abilities to appreciate things. So not posh. I know I’m capable of making it look like I don’t work too hard, but I do and the fact is it costs me.
Also, that horse riding thing: anyone who has ever even remotely touched this sport knows that glamour is just like 5 minutes when you get on the horse and elegantly walk in warm-up circles. The rest of it is hard, sweaty workout with very probable painful falls, everyday bruises and sudden tolerance to various weather conditions. And on top of that you clean out horse manure. It is not posh, yet, like many things, the surface is and it gets a judgement immediately.
By now, dear reader, I’m sure you’re wondering where I’m going with this. The point is simple: poshness is rarely what it seems. Most often it is a result of hard work, sleepless nights and many, many other sacrifices, after which you just want that one finer thing than you usually do.
Image credit: Portrait of a Violinist by Anne Vallayer-Coster. Currently housed by Nationalmuseum, Sweden.