• Snobbism & Detox

    As an expert on snobbery, you get asked the most fascinating questions. Recently, one aspirant enquired whether there are snob diseases. Absolutely! Take degeneracy, a trait often associated with the more conservative forms of snobbism, especially when it can be put down to centuries of genealogy or a tendency to marry close relatives (to keep the money in the family). To enhance the snob-appeal of a product or a event, at one time the label "decadent" would be added as a synonym for an almost perverse excess of pleasure and luxury. But I say: beware of such terms! The word "decadence" dates from the Renaissance. Only in retrospect was it applied to the Romans, either to sully or to enhance their reputation. They had no idea at the time that they were being "decadent". As with eccentricity, deliberate decadence in any form is a fake decadence! 

    Then there's the question of vocabulary. A "slight migraine" sounds far better than a "splitting headache". Some conditions are simply more elegant than others. In England, equestrian events have always been very popular and snobbish. Hence the fact that the ailment your doctor calls haemorrhoids used to be regarded as a status symbol there, because it denoted a life spent in the saddle. These days, of course, the cause is more likely to be sitting, day after day, in an very cheap office chair or in front of your television. By the same token, heart diseases have traditionally been associated with trade and commerce: business activities are far beneath the dignaty of any superior snob. 

    On the other hand: certain nervous conditions are still to be suffered with pride. For obvious reasons, members of the jetset society need more frequent breaks from their frenetic lifestyle than do ordinary people. The masses have it easy, whereas the first sign of varicose veins or water on the knee can spell social disaster for any lady or gentleman of a certain standing. If fate does deal such a cruel blow, consider only those physicians, retreats, sanatoria and clinics with the longest waiting lists. Anywhere too accessible is simply not snobbish enough. Not that you will have to wait, of course: your important connections will help you jump the queue. Alas, the days of taking the waters in a dramatic fin de siècle style  are long gone. Even Baden-Baden, San Pellegrino and Budapest have succumbed to populism. My last authentic cure was in Aix-les-Bains, where I was prescient enough to take rooms outside the établissement. After all, six days drinking nothing but water - no to mention the regulation pilgrimage to the necropolis of the House of Savoy, last resting place of more than forty (!) princes - is enough to depress the most cheerful of souls. It goes without saying that I wouldn't even consider Switzerland now, because you never know who you might meet. Most likely some American pseudocelebrity who's been turned away by the Betty Ford Clinic! 

    But why detox anyway? Addiction was once so chic. For whom did the privilege of pickling oneself in the fine claret, old single malt and vintage champagne used to be reserved? For the élite. And since when have they started to produce the most disgusting imitations of these drinks? Since the masses acquired a taste for them. Another example. Who traditionally frequented the casinos and the races? Only the élite. So when did the government decide it had to control gambling? When ordinary people wanted a flutter. So it is with narcotics, too. Who used to smoke and snort and shoot up to their heart's content? Only the élite. And when were these pleasures banned? I rest my case. There are no greater threats to snobbism than democracy and the people. That is why I've given up taking cures. Since I read in a French travel guide that the princes of Hanover and the Danish royal family used to take, each year, some fresh air on the Frisian islands (because it's rich in iodine, apparently), I spent every summer a week on the island of Texel. Fortunately, I have family there, so you could never mistake me for some mere tourist. You can't be too careful."