Monday, February 02, 2015

Teleophobic Variations, #1

This photo by Kim Kardashian just showed up in my Facebook feed (thanks, Chris Ramirez!), with the title, "Double date at the Waffle House," and awakened a fear that I thought had died.

(l-r) Chrissy Teigen, John Legend, Kanye West, Kim Kardashian hang at a Waffle House.

Teleophobia is defined in at least a couple of online sources as "the fear of making definite plans." The word comes from the Greek: teleos + phobia. Teleos means end or goal, or the perfection of having achieved an end or goal. Since ends and goals are typically achieved as a result of making definite plans, I can see how the definition above came about.

But I think a second definition could be just a valid - the fear of achieving one's goal. Or more briefly, the fear of success.

There are lots of things that could be scary about certain levels of success. One is the possibility of people you've known asking you to finance their failure. Another is that of being ripped off by dishonest financial advisors.

The photo above reminded me of my fear that a certain level of success will lead me into social circles in which I don't know what to do.

I fear situations in which I might be expect to discern the differences between two types of wine when a) I haven't mastered the difference between Coke and Pepsi yet, and b) I'd rather have a root beer anyway.

I suppose I could learn to enjoy wines, but I would have to let go of the reasoning that kept me from learning to like beer as a young man: learning to like something that I had tried and didn't like, and that was more expensive than what I already liked, seemed to be more trouble than it would be worth.

One of my brothers visits a Waffle House near him religiously. I have been to a few, a few times, and have found adequate fare at affordable prices. But I know that there are people who, without being even close to rich, consider Waffle House to be beneath them.

Would achieving a certain level of success make it a social sin for me to go to a Waffle House?

During my six-and-a-half glorious years at the Post-Gazette, I was a member of the middle-class - or more precisely, the Black middle-class - an identity which I never quite mastered. I never joined clubs or charitable organizations, never played golf (had the chance, but blew it), never really hobnobbed with my fellow middle-classies. I still ate more often at Eat 'n Park (a Pittsburgh chain of family restaurants) than the Capital Grille, or even the Cheesecake Factory. And I never learned to enjoy variations of wine.

Of course, financial success doesn't necessarily mean changing one's entire social identity, nor one's entire lifestyle. As Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko famously pointed out in The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America's Wealthy, unless my work itself makes me more of a public figure, no one (or at least one one unauthorized) ever need know of my rising status if I don't spend ostentatiously. And what folks don't know, won't hurt me.

Problem solved. Think I'll run out and grab a couple of cases of root beer.

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