Thursday, August 17, 2006

What is a Yuppie?

Remember when the term "Yuppie" first came along, back in the 80s? Young Urban Professionals, or Young Upwardly-Mobile Professionals, seemed to be defined by things such as their ownership of Cuisinart food processors and cappuccino machines. Nowadays I suppose food processors are considered fairly mainstream, and the cappuccino mockery has morphed into the latte-drinker stereotype referred to by writers such as David Brooks (Bobos in Paradise) and Thomas Frank (What's the Matter With Kansas). The Wikipedia definition of Yuppie refers to traits such as materialism, conspicuous consumption, elitism, ownership of expensive cars, residence in expensive condos in trendy neighborhoods with trendy decor, indulgence in expensive grooming habits and membership in expensive gyms. So being a Yuppie definitely has something to do with money. But what else? Are all young, urban professionals with money yuppies? Are all yuppies actually urban, professional, and earning lots of money?
I was thinking about this recently because a relative of mine mentioned something about what our neighborhood was like "before all the yuppies started moving in." She grew up in and around Park Slope and obviously considers the yuppies to be "them," not "us." But she wears designer clothes, eats at trendy restaurants, gets her decorating ideas from her subscription to Metropolitan Home, and makes a decent income at a job that would definitely be called professional. Does having roots in a now-trendy urban neighborhood somehow exempt you from being a yuppie?
I'm not sure if she considers me a yuppie, but I certainly fit the description in almost every way-- expensive college education, moved to Brooklyn within the last 15 years, occasionally consume over-priced specialty coffee drinks and eat in expensive restaurants, possess Cuisinart combo food-processor/blender, etc. etc. If I try to be frugal and non-materialistic in at least a few ways, am I any less a yuppie? I'm not really trying to dodge the label, as it obviously does apply to me (at least for the next few years until I can stop being considered "young"), but do you have to embrace a certain set of values to be a yuppie? What if you reject those values? What about a young corporate lawyer living in Manhattan who gives all his extra money to charity and spends all his spare time volunteering instead of playing golf-- if such a person exists, is he a yuppie? Are yuppies born or made?
I guess what I am wondering is who ISN'T a yuppie these days? According to many aspects of the definition, most Americans would qualify. Even people who aren't "young," "urban," or "professional" can embody the materialism and conspicuous consumption that are at the root of why "yuppie" is a derogatory term. Do we need a new word for it? There are DINKs and BoBos... How about "CoCO?" (Conspicuously-Consuming Overspender) Or "SnoPoCCCus?" (Snotty Post-Collegiate Credit Card User)

What do you think about the term Yuppie? Are you a Yuppie?

(By the way, I'm now moderating comments instead of making people enter the verification code... I'll try to approve comments as quickly as possible but there will be delays in the evenings.)


Dawn said...

I think YUPPies are an 80's thing of the past
I would go with DINKs and SINKs. I love the new on you suggested though.... SnoPoCCCus. It almost sounds like a bad cold or disease.

Anonymous said...

I'd say I'm more of a yupster:

In Chicago, we also have the terms "Chads" and "Trixies"

I have to stop reading Craigslist Rants and Raves.

Kira said...

The term yuppie has become completely detached from any objectiver criteria such as age, occupation, or location.. now a yuppie is anybody who is stupid and materialistic and greedy and wears clothes you think are ugly. Even if all your friends wear the same clothes, they're ugly and out of fashion on someone you think is a yuppie. ;)

mapgirl said...

No offense, but I don't think we qualify as yuppies anymore because we're over 30.

When I first heard the term in the 80's I thought it was anyone who pretty much had a steady corporate job making more than their parents were making, hence the punk kids and their 'die yuppie scum' t-shirts.

Not every young, urban, professional was a yuppie. I think it had to do with the Gordon Gekko-type embodiment of greed. (Jeez, I hope the under-30 crowd saw that movie and realize that ethics are still important. Apparently they never screened that film at Tyco or Enron)

Madame X said...

Yikes, I thought 30s still counted as yuppie age!

Anonymous said...

a lot of pups out there lately livin' large on the card.
(poor urban professionals)

Anonymous said...

Wow, I haven't heard that term in a long time! Hmmmm....I don't know what it represents in today's vernacular, but to me it means anyone who is striving upwards in their professional career (e.g. has an MBA, MD, JD). It would also be someone who lives suburban/urban, but not rural. Someone who dresses conservatively and is somewhat of a brand owner.

Anonymous said...

Like someone above said, a "yuppie" is anybody you feel inclined to sneer at who's ill behavior or taste in clothing you despise, and who appears to have money to burn (note the use of the word "appears"). These days the word is pretty outdated. BTW, I think 30-somethings and even 40-somethings count. Doesn't appy afer 50. Youth is a relative thing. Everybody has their own definition. This must be the most flexible word in our vocabulary.

mOOm said...

Definitely a nouveau riche dimension to Yuppie - but not an in word at the moment.

Anonymous said...

I like the idea of Puppies being the new word used to describe these people. Nowadays, you're more likely to find a Poor Urban Professional trying hard to pass himself off as a Yuppie as opposed to an actual Yuppie. I think Yuppie has an inherently derogatory connotation but in reality a lot of upwardly mobile middle-class young people are for all intents and purposes Yuppies, or trying to be.

SMB said...

Love your terms, especially SnoPoCCCus--very funny! :)