Friday, June 13, 2008

The Four Pariahs

I saw some old college friends recently, and had a great time catching up and revisiting memories of our college years... it was interesting how we each remembered different aspects of the same events, and different people from our larger group of friends and neighbors.
One of my friends, Finbar, asked me if I remembered "The Four Pariahs." I had no idea what he was talking about, but it all started to come back when he explained that he was referring to a group of guys who were roommates with each other because no one else wanted to room with them. One of them had some hygiene issues, two were creepy in a potential sex-criminal sort of way, and another was just, well, boring, as far as I could remember. Let's call him Boring Bob-- he was very quiet, very bland-looking, almost like one of those cartoon characters where they don't draw the eyes behind a big pair of blank glasses. For all I know, he was actually very nice, but very few people ever seemed to have spoken to him, so who knows!
But here's the surprising thing I just found out about Boring Bob: his last name was the same as a household brand, something you might see every day. It wasn't an unusual name, I suppose, though I've never met anyone else with that last name as far as I can remember. Let's pretend it was Bob Sears. The thing that I found out about Bob was that his last name wasn't a coincidence: he was actually the heir to the fortune that family business had built, which I suppose could be the equivalent or perhaps better than owning the entire chain of Sears stores.
So what does it mean that Boring Bob turned out to have been Billionaire Bob all along? A lot of people knew it at the time, I'm sure, but it doesn't seem to have changed the fact that he was kind of a social outcast. In the movies, the rich kids always seem to be the bitchy mean girls and jocks who rule the school, or at least people who are falsely popular because everyone sucks up to them due to their wealth. But not in this case. Guess that's real life for ya!


Anonymous said...

Did the four pariahs know they were pariahs?

I sometimes picture billionaires, and anyone else really, being recluses by choice rather than outcast socially (like Howard Hughes). Perhaps that was the case?

Madame X said...

Hi Jim-- at least one of the pariahs didn't seem to want to be a pariah! He was the one I knew best-- we often hung out together with a group of friends freshman year, but he managed to alienate everyone by telling outrageous lies and claiming to be very wealthy and then always forgetting his wallet when we'd go out for pizza!
But perhaps the others, including the billionaire, were indeed recluses...

mapgirl said...

Never judge a book by its cover they say.

I went to school with some really wealthy kids. But some of the wealthiest were by far not the most popular. (How could anyone be NOT popular in a class of 80? Everyone had their friends.)

The hardest thing for kids who are really rich is to figure out who is friends with them for friendship and who is friends with them for money.

One of the richest girls I knew in college shopped at Marshalls for clothes and drove a Dodge. (Of course her Mercedes was back at home on the other coast, 3k mi away.) She told me she was never socially popular in high school because people thought she was stuck up because of her Merc. In reality, she was just kind of shy and more interested in her homework. Admiration for her came in the form of academic accolades, which suited her just fine. She stuck with it and triple-majored in college.

I suppose the main thing I got out of your post is to be nice to everyone.

Anonymous said...

I can sooo relate to the wallet comment at pizza time. Several instances have been burned into my consciousness:

High school - a friend since grade school always claimed to not have any money. Others would pick up her share for movies, pizza, whatever. After HS, she paid cash for a brand new, loaded Honda.

Recently - Group of people (30s and 40s) used to go out for drinks and dancing. When the time came to split the bill, some people always wanted it split evenly even though they ordered far more than anyone else (talking $100+ more). Finally fed up, at a group Bday party, I made sure to tell the waiter that a friend and I would get one bill and everyone else was on their own. When the good time Charlies showed up and started ordering the best bottles of wine, numerous appetizers and such I didn't worry. You should have seen their faces when I got my bill at the end of the evening and they got theirs.

One of these guys also used to make money by taking out more than he put in when the bill circulated. Naturally eveyone else would put in more when we found the bill short.

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Anonymous said...

I went to a college that had tons of very very rich kids, heirs to some of the world's largest fortunes (billionaire kids) plus tons of "regular rich" kids who would inherit tens of millions. It was bizarre when I first started school because I grew up in a blue-collar neighborhood and never knew a single truly rich person.

I'm glad for the experience because I learned that just like so many stereotypes there was both a lot of truth in them but also many exceptions. I found it true that most of the rich kids I knew had perverted senses of reality about things. But there were also a lot that weren't at all stuck up and it wasn't until being friends with them for a while that I even found out they were very rich. Again, I'm not talking about rich in the sense that they were the kids of doctors, lawyers, small businessmen, etc - but I mean had parents worth in the hundreds of millions.