Ivy League Loser

Posted On: 03.09.10

tea man

We sit at our favorite table in the back of Alice’s Tea Cup, our favorite weekend breakfast spot. Per usual, the girls wear the sparkly fairy wings they were given on the way in. Their porcelain cheeks glisten with fairy dust that has been known to cure skinned knees. Toddler nibbles her banana bread, moist and brown. Baby gobbles her blackberries. Husband and I hold court, sipping green tea, waiting for our poached eggs to arrive. It is the portrait of Saturday morning civilization.


Until there is a grating crescendo in the normal brunch symphony. A droning voice breaks through din of controlled chaos at our table. Two words carry.

“Ivy League… blah blah blah… Ivy League… blah blah blah… Ivy League.”

Now, Husband and I are usually pretty good at tuning others out, at focusing on each other and the girls, but this becomes too much. We stop talking. And listen.

“I once worked at Polo. Can you believe it? I know. I was a polo shirt specialist. I knew everything about those shirts and everyone was so impressed, so impressed, but I was like… I am wasting my education. I shouldn’t be here. I mean I am applying to Ivy League law schools. I mean, really…”

Husband and I smile at each other. Sip away. Break banana bread into tiny bits for Baby.

“I mean, honestly, the only thing that is truly wrong about living in Tribeca and I have the hardest time getting to Bergdorf’s. It’s really a pain.”

At this, I turn to look. I can’t help it. I see him. He’s on the smaller side. Has meticulously-plucked brows. He wears, yes, a Polo shirt. He runs his hands through one of those long/shaggy/preppy lacrosse-player-haircuts. His wife, blond, pleasant-looking, clutches her swollen belly. She is very pregnant. I look away.

“Ugh. We have to go look at cabinets after this. Shoot me, right? They cost as much as a BMW but are not even cool. Ugh. Oh, honey! Remember when we went on that purse hunt? When we had to cajole that Chanel bag out of that guy at Barney’s???”

At this, Baby, now supporting an amazing blackberry goatee, swivels in her highchair and gives the obnoxious man a good old piercing baby stare. Apparently, the guy sees her doing this.

“Everyone stop moving. Stop talking. We are being watched.”

He is not smiling as he says this. He must be kidding.

I don’t think he is.

Jesus, babies freak me out.”

I’m sure this is lovely for his pregnant wife to hear. And for my Baby to hear.

“I just wish I was a lawyer in the old days. Honey, remember when you had your associates run out and buy you jeans? Little suckers. Those were the days.”

They are lawyers. All four of them. The other couple says something about working in the Public Defender’s Office, but I can’t really hear them because they speak at a Normal Person Decibel.

“Well, you should at least move to the South or to the Midwest. Where there is actually some crime. Hell, there’s nothing going on there, but at least there are murders. Hell, those places are practically known for their murders.”

Husband and I stare at each other in disbelief. Our eggs have arrived. Our waitress rolls her eyes and mutters so sorry before slipping away. And Husband and I smile. At her before she goes. At each other. At our girls who giggle in oblivion. Baby turns around to stare some more. Again, the man makes some crack about the sheer horror of being observed by a one-year-old.

“Well, this is blogworthy,” I say to Husband. “This guy should be a character in my next book. He’s that bad.”

Truth be told, he would not be a good character in a book because he is a caricature. A living and breathing and horrendous cliche.

And then Husband takes the words right out of my mouth.

“I have to get a picture of this guy,” Husband says. He pulls out his iPhone, fiddles with it, and pretends to help Baby with her food.

He gets a good shot. A perfect shot.

A shot which I immediately envision posting on my blog. How perfect!

(But then I come to my boring old senses and decide that I will not do this because I am a good girl and I have no interest in going the snark route on this blog. Because I have no interest in posting an actual picture of an actual person who was just trying to enjoy a subdued brunch of tea and scones on a Saturday morning. Right.)

As he and his party pay the check, Mr. Obnoxious continues to blabber on about everything offensive.

Ivy League!… Chanel!… I am basically just a sperm donor!The South? Yuck!… Did I mention I played lacrosse in college?… I am a lawyer!… Ivy League!

Talk about Ivy League insecurities.


Describe the most obnoxious person you’ve ever encountered. Come on. No holding back. Tell me. (Even if it’s me. Hey, I blab from time to time about the Ivy League – witness this post. Maybe I am just a milder version of this monster? Uh oh.) Do you have an impression of Ivy Leaguers (or New Yorkers or Americans or lawyers) that is at all like this terrible guy? Do you think that people act this way because they are profoundly insecure or because they are missing some socialization chip? Do you think people like this have any clue how obnoxious they are? Is acting like this an intentional, attention-seeking ploy?


* {Wonderful musing on the exquisite escalator that is parenthood} The Moving Staircase from Being Rudri.

* {“Striving for balance is a losing game”} The Suck Factor of Life Balance, + Passion as a Cure to Stress from White Hot Truth.

* {Always ask the big questions – even about blogging} Why We Read Blogs from An Attitude Adjustment.

* {What inspires you to blog?} Inspiration: My Journey in Blogging from Coffees and Commutes

* {“Part of evolving is our capacity for reinvention”} Who Do Think You Are? from The Halfway Point

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34 Comments for: "Ivy League Loser"
  1. Mo

    Mr. Obnoxious sounds fabulous. What a snapshot. Kind of a modern Dostoevskian character.

    Use it for a book character. Or file it away for another day, too good not to use!

  2. Wow. I can’t believe you actually heard someone *that* bad. I can’t remember ever witnessing a conversation that bad. Our only equivalent is the nearby college town “brain trust”–a couple of men who travel from Starbucks to Starbucks talking politics, loudly, wearing long coats and top-hats.

    I went to the upper east side of Manhattan this past weekend with my husband, because my sister-in-law is doing her medical residency there and has a studio apartment. I’ll have to tell you, it’s a different world from my town. Here, people splurge on Dunkin’ Donuts. We have a lot of people on our street who have inherited their small houses from their parents, so they will live and die in their childhood home. All the old-timers on my street are old-fashioned, blue-collar Irish Catholics. When I go into my sister-in-law’s place in Manhattan, I assume everyone I pass has an enormous amount of money and I start feeling a bit intimidated. I just can’t imagine what someone has to do for a living to afford a house on Park Avenue.

    What’s also funny is that I went to Alice’s Tea Cup for the first time this past Sunday. (There weren’t any girls in fairy wings, though.) How adorable is that place! (And pumpkin scones to die for. I’ll be dreaming about them until my next visit.)

  3. unbelievable..he insulted your baby and my south and all that is good in the world basically. ugggh.

  4. It’s hilarious that Baby was even annoyed by him!

    Isn’t it cathartic just to share this? It’s entertaining and painful, but a good reminder to be aware of how we’re affecting others around us. (Not that I think any readers here are so rude and self-centered.)

  5. Back in college my roomie and I spent a weekend at LBI (it wasn’t called that then) with a HS friend of mine,and there were some very wealthy college kids. We went out one guy’s boat, and this mousy obnoxious guy asked where we went to school. It was a state college and we told him that. He stared at us blankly. “WHY?” he asked. The worst part of this story is that, at 19, I answered this A-hole. I said, “because it’s the best nursing college in the state,” instead of, “are you serious? F you.”
    Never made THAT mistake again.

  6. Isn’t it amazing how children can pick up on obnoxious people?? He sounds horrible. Not even interesting, because you’re right…way too cliche to be boring. It’s kind of sad, isn’t it, that he needs for everyone to hear him? As for obnoxious…hmmm…my husband and I were on a date recently at a SMALL 4-top table and a really drunk woman wandered over and asked if she and her friend could sit with us at the table. We said no, and she got really annoyed and stared at us until she got a table of her own. WEIRD!

  7. Kat

    How much is there to know about polo shirts? Is there really any related knowledge that could be so impressive?

    I secretly love encountering obnoxious people like this because they’re just so entertaining without even realizing it. And they really make me feel better about the minor faux-pas-es (like not knowing how to pluralize that word!) that I make myself. Great story!

  8. Thanks for this – I’m giggling my face off in a cafe. I’ve come across this guy before, too, only he went to Oxford, was wearing an oxford shirt and was babbling about being a doctor and playing rugby. Perhaps they’re cousins.

  9. Oh what a sin. What a way to go through life. And he’s about to have a baby. Mercy me.

  10. Amy

    i loved this post…lol. started cracking up at my desk in the office. You are wonderful…!

    I do like listening to strangers when their convos are not at normal speaking decibels and it’s about the most absurd things…

  11. This post reminds me of the time a Mr. Obnoxious sat down next to me and my husband at a country pub in California. He was wearing the preppy uniform of pink shorts with little embroidered flamingos (martini glasses? palm trees?) all over them and boat shoes without socks (in the winter). He was clearly on a first date of some kind and he spent the entire time talking about the trek to Nepal he took with his b-school buddies. I wanted to barf. We got a picture of him too.

  12. Ewww. I think I got slimed just reading about this guy.

  13. Blogworthy! I love it! I say this to my husband all the time. Well told vignette of an interesting character. It takes all kinds, huh?

  14. most obnoxious person ever? probably me. weird, sort of wrote about this yesterday, that is, my own experience coming to terms with being a regular person.

  15. Ha! That is great!! I will have to think about my story and come back tonight to share it!!

  16. Peyton

    I try to tell myself that we should feel sorry for people that shallow and annoying. It really doesn’t work, but I suppose it keeps me from throwing my scone at him. 🙂

    I’ve got to think that either they really have no idea how they’re coming across, or they really don’t care. I’m really, really hoping that they don’t do it as an attention-grabber, because that makes it even less attractive (at least this way it’s amusing; if they do it on purpose, it’s disgusting).

  17. Mr. Obnoxious is a flat-Stanley cardboard cut-out of a wannabe ‘somebody’. People like that are a complete waste of oxygen. No wonder Baby was staring in dismay…

    The most obnoxious person I’ve encountered? Argh. Sometimes it’s the stranger in the mirror- if I find her becoming a complete bore, I mitigate with copious quantities of outdoor activity. We’re all guilty of talking about ourselves to excess from time to time, but whoa… this dude really takes the cupcake.

    Any time we stereotype and try to fit humans into square boxes we run the risk of missing out on meeting a new best friend. There are @ssholes in every niche and also vibrant, caring and beautiful people- it just takes excavating our mindset to find the good ones.

  18. Phoebe

    I love this story! What a great character (even if he is actually REAL)…

    Our mutual GORGEOUS friend from a little upstate hamlet who was seen as something of a “country mouse” when she visited NYC senior year spurred what I still regard as the most condescending, irritating comment of my life:

    My friend made the trek into Manhattan to see me perform in a silly high school musical. It was January. She was wearing linen pants. And this horrible girl who was the worst Blair Waldorf embodiment of the new UES world I’d entered cut her to the bone with a single, scathing comment:

    “You know, linen is really more of a summer fabric.”

    🙁 We didn’t know. We grew up basketball jerseys and fleece. But at least we had true friends!

  19. There is a certain very successful and wealthy financial advisor in my office. He is about 4 feet tall and walks around like he owns the place. He brags about his $250,000 bar mitzvah back in 1985 and won’t make eye contact unless he thinks you are worthy of his attention. When I walk past him in the hall I usually have 1 of 2 reactions depending on the day. Either I become nauseous and imagine all the things I would like to tell him or I feel extreme pity and immense gratitude not to have his existence. Usually, it is the latter. And, thankfully, I do not have to work directly with him ever!

  20. I grew up in Northern NJ so I can’t even begin to decide who’s the most obnoxious person I’ve met. However, a co-worker once said unflattering things about a higher-up behind his back and ended with the blanket statement, “Well, what do you expect from someone who was in the military.” That’s when I reminded her that both my father and husband were in the Navy.

    Your story about Mr. Obnoxious was a hoot! He must value his self-worth in what he thinks other people must think of him. I feel sorry for the soon-to-be-born child. On the other hand, Mr. Obnoxious will be paying for the child’s therapy in about 15 years.

  21. cb

    As an Ivy-League educated person (and practicing lawyer), I reject Mr. Obnoxious and do not accept him into my tribe. Yuck!

  22. For the sake of his unborn child, I hope Baby’s stare pierced his Polo patina to expose the – hopefully remaining – un-corroded material underneath.

    Yuck. And to behave like that in Alice’s Tea Cup? A sacrilege!

  23. Erin

    Thanks for the laugh! (Needed it.) And what a great piece of writing. Seriously. You captured this guy – we’ve all met him – in his full, tragic, comic, ironic glory. Out of curiosity though, did he ever name a school or did he really just keep blurting Ivy League? If it’s the later, my husband would say… “Dude probably went to Cornell.” (He-he.)

  24. What a hoot.
    We are being watched!!!

    Always Bumby

  25. We don’t often get those types in my crime-ridden murderfest of a Southern town, but when we do, they are usually men in biz-cas with Bluetooth earpieces and large Adam’s apples.

  26. Proof that getting sometimes a moron can make it into Ivy League schools. I learned the same thing about medical school by some of my husband’s classmates.

  27. mika

    I go to an Ivy now and though I don’t find my peers to be that obnoxious (yet), it’s my professors that I want to smack over the head. I mean, not only do they preach about the name but they preach about themselves, and how many scholarly articles they’ve published. And since one professor in particular, who also happens to be the department head, basically coined the term/concept “multicultural counseling” we are required to read his articles and buy his books each semester. It makes me sick.
    Politics of academia :/

  28. D

    I just spent 3 1/2 months with the worst, most condescending, all-ivy snob/Rhodes scholar/Supreme Court clerk who would have been the perfect slime mentor for your breakfast buddy! The fact that my obnoxious lawyer graduated from law school nearly 35 years ago did not seem to dull his abrasiveness. But I must say the best revenge to a season’s worth of daily snippy comments and jibes was beating him fully and completely. (I admit I am a petty person because I did enjoy that not as the main benefit but as a side perk!)
    Unfortunately, our profession does attract a disproportionate amount of tools but we’re not all bad and I say it makes you appreciate all the more when you find the cool ones (like you, even though you aren’t practicing anymore).

  29. We’re a fascinating bunch, aren’t we? Good for you for not going the snark route. Thanks for the laughs and the link.

  30. I want to say I can’t believe it, but unfortunately I’ve run into that lawyer type in the past. I’ve also worked with a female lawyer with those characteristics. It makes me sad about my former profession.

    Thanks so much for linking me in your ILI charms section. I appreciate it so much.

  31. That’s classic. Your description of Mr. Obnoxious is absorbing, but so is your account of the observers–you and your family and black-berry bearded “baby stare”.

    I ran into my Mr. Obnoxious during a school meeting. Our kids’ school was revising its allergy policy (yes, we’re so lucky there’s an allergy policy at all) and this one guy who found it necessary to announce that he’s a statistician, suggested we round up all “the allergy kids”, put them in the same room and feed them celery. I couldn’t believe it. I was open-mouthed. My daughter is quite peanut allergic.

    I told him that he was being very unhelpful, but didn’t want to say more because I didn’t want to have to apologize to an arsehole for being rude. I see him from time to time at school events. I try to give him the benefit of the doubt by chalking up his social ineptitude to a possible case of Asperger’s.

  32. I’m shaking with laughter…and a little bit of horror! I love that the baby stared him down. Children just call it like it is, even in the looks they give us. Love that you captured this for us.

    P.S. So sweet of you to link! Thanks very much.

  33. Leanrainmaker

    We are all struggling to get by and fit in in our own ways. Thanks for going easy on the snark, as none of us deserve it. You are so right about his insecurities….but, assuming he was telling the truth, he has strived mightily to find somewhere to fit in. Others show their own insecurities by trumpeting themselves as supposedly “deep” and “sensitive” when all that really means is they have never sought to achieve anything and have no other “claim to fame” of any kind. Aidan, I know you have no achievement embarassment or envy, because you actually went out and did it. Some others use supposed “superior personality” as the manifestation of their insecurity. There are so many folks, including Ivy grads, still struggling to find love, acceptance, a place where they fit in and are “OK and accepted.” We do what we can to find that place, often clueless because we are scared, anxios, etc. For all i know, the guy was an orphan who ws beat by his guardian, who’s trying to show the world he’s good enough and worthy of love and acceptance… What a gift not to suffer his life…. But, I do not endorse the “mean girls” putative superiority of some of your posters who think of themselves as superior. Indeed, Will Rogers siad “it ain’t braggin if you done it…” If he did, I give him more credit than folks sitting in coffee shops in Peoria claiming to be superior because they are less loud and never say anything that upsets others…
    Indeed, maybe the saddest part is that the whole table was still so insecure after so much achievement…I wish upon them love, acceptance and worthiness

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