So, my son got into Eton College.
I tell you this not to brag. I’m under the impression that most Americans don’t really know what Eton is, unless, perhaps, they paid really close attention during that courtyard scene in Chariots of Fire. Or if
they do know what it is, they don’t really care.
I tell you this only because I can’t tell anyone over here in England, where I live. Because if you hang out in the neo-Socialist circles in which I wander, the only thing worse than telling your friends that your kid just got into Eton might be telling them that you don’t outright hate the Israeli government. (I know this because I’ve done that, too.)
I’ll never forget a Halloween party I attended a couple of years back, when I got to talking to the dad of one of my daughter’s friends. Somehow we got onto the subject of boarding school, and I confessed that we had thought about Eton for our son, even though most of our friends thought it was the Devil’s workshop. He nodded understandingly and then, at one point, leaned over and - cupping his hand near my ear, whispered: “Don’t tell anyone, but I went to Eton.” He wasn’t kidding, either.
I stared back at him, gravely. “Your secret is safe with me.”
This exchange one of the many reasons I’m grateful that I’m not British. Don’t get me wrong; I love living here. But that whole class thing? Still don’t get it and never will. (Sorry, guys. You may think David Cameron’s a poncey toff. But next to Newt, Rick, and the other Rick, he is looking smart and reasonable.
No such luck. Sadly, it turns out that even Jimmy McNulty couldn’t render Eton the Shake Shack of Shakespeare-land.
As a result, my husband and I feel like we have this sort of big news that we’d love to at least post as a status update on Facebook. We are, after all, quite proud of our son. Instead, we’ve got no one to share it with.
It won’t keep, either, because pretty soon, we either have to plunk down 1500 quid to hold his place at the world’s most famous high school, or surrender this distinction.
And that’s because unless David Cameron decides to bequeath us his entire estate in Oxfordshire (or, realistically, all of Oxfordshire itself), there’s no way we can afford to send him there. So we really only have a small window in which to enjoy life with an “Old Etonian” (as they are known) in our household.
Since I’m good at fund-raising, I’m wondering if I could possibly manage to raise enough money to send him there for at least one term. You know, so he could get to wear one of those glorious, black Harry Potteresque gowns for a couple of months and I could take some pictures for posterity.
I’m thinking that maybe I could stand outside the school gates and sell tee-shirts that say something like “My son got into Eton and all I got was this lousy tee-shirt!”
But something tells me that sort of thing wouldn’t go down so well with the other Old Etonians and the school might rescind my son’s offer.
We tried telling our families back home about our big news, but that didn’t have the desired effect, either.
My mother-in-law confused Eton with — heaven forfend — Harrow. And my mother, who might not notice if I were elected prime minister, emailed me something along the lines of, “Well, they’re lucky to have him. Now did we say that we’d Skype at 5 or 5:30 p.m. on Friday?”
But you’re excited for me, right? Thanks for listening, even if I don’t know you. Sometimes, that’s the only way.
Anonymous is an American writer living in England.