Websters defines status as “the relative position or standing” of something or someone.
We pay a lot of attention to status in our society. If you’ve ever flown on an airplane, you’ve had to wait while people with “higher status” board the plane. The same thing applies almost everywhere we travel. Hotels have separate check-in lines for premier members, and so do car rental agencies.
Status is not restricted to travel. If you work, look around your workplace. The “corner office” denotes status. So do restricted parking areas, VIP entrances, gated communities, and special seating, to name a few. Pull out your credit card, and check the color. The color indicates what access level you get.
We equate brand names with status. Hence the expression, “status symbol”. Certain luxury cars, jewelry, clothing, and neighborhoods, carry a certain status.
Much of this “status stuff” has to do with money and access. If you have enough money, you get special access. I understand that, and for the most part, I accept it. I accept it, but I am usually not willing to pay very much for it. I am not willing to pay $15,000 for a first class seat on an international flight. So I don’t sit in the front of the plane. I am not willing to pay $100,000 a year for a suite at the football stadium, so I sit outside. I am not willing to spend $1,000,000 for a photograph with a politician or a celebrity.
We have an expression in our language. We say “do you know who I am?!” That means “I think I have higher status than you do” or “I think I am more important than you”.
You are incorrect there. The same force of gravity apply to all of us- 9.8 meters per second squared.
For whatever reason, whenever I see velvet ropes, I think “status”. If you are on this side of the ropes, you have one level of status. If you are on that side of the ropes, you have a different status.
I don’t like to wait in line. I try to avoid it whenever I can. If I can do something online in order to wait in line, I do. I do most of my shopping online, almost all of my banking. Tickets for concerts and movies? Ditto. I pay in advance so that I don’t have to wait at toll booths.
But every once in a while, I can’t avoid it, and I find myself in line. It happens at supermarkets, in traffic jams, at the airport waiting to clear security. When that happens, I really don’t like it when someone “cuts in line”. If I’ve been waiting in line for 20 minutes, why should you cut in front of me? Is your time more valuable than mine?
Lines are a great equalizer.
We provide extra status to athletes and celebrities. We give them higher status than teachers, first responders, healthcare providers or military personnel who risk their lives for us. Why is that?
One of my favorite examples of this is described in the book “Friday Night Lights”, by Buzz Bissinger. If you haven’t read it, go read it. For me, the book is as much about status and celebrity culture, as it is about Texas football. (Spoiler alert- if you haven’t read it, I’m going to share a couple of details here….) In the book, one of the athletes achieves high status in his community, based upon his athletic accomplishments. He receives gifts, favors and high social standing , even though he doesn’t attend class. Then he tears his ACL, ends his season (and likely his career), and his status evaporates.
What was the source of his status? Why was he receiving it? Why does carrying a football provide extra status? Why does playing sports mean that you don’t have to go to class?
I am going to be a little bit provocative here. This status stuff isn’t isolated to high school football in Texas. It happens in many different sports, and it happens in places other than Texas. It happens all over, and it is happening more and more in youth athletics and activities. Children are now being scouted by colleges in sixth grade.
Why do we provide extra status to sixth grade athletes, or eleventh grade athletes, or college sophomores? Why are “the rules” different for athletes and celebrities? My answer is- the rules aren’t any different. Gravity applies to everyone.
We hurt ourselves, and each other, by providing this status to athletes and celebrities. Most high school athletes will never make a living playing their respective sports. If we teach them that rules don’t apply to them while they are playing their sports, what happens when they are done playing sports?
One of my favorite commercials is an NCAA commercial that states (I’m paraphrasing here…) “99% of our student-athletes go on to do something other than athletics after they graduate”. The message is a nice reminder that college athletics are nice entertainment, but they aren’t the reason that those students are attending college.
In the interest of full disclosure, both of my daughters play volleyball.
While only 99% of other athletes will go on to do something other than sports when they graduate, 100% of my daughters will go on to do something other than volleyball after they graduate. Volleyball is a hobby for them. It doesn’t provide them status. It provides them exercise, friends, and recreation.
They get no extra status from me by being athletes.
They don’t need to, and they don’t want to.
I’m going to share with you one of my favorite stories about status.
In 1993, Theresa and I decided to get married at our home. It was supposed to be a small affair- a garden party.
On the day of our wedding, I went out for a bike ride. I left extra time for this ride, and I had the ride of my life. I returned from my bike ride sweaty, unshaven, dirty and incredibly happy. Happy to be marrying my princess bride.
I pedaled up the driveway of my home, and one of the catering staff (who did not know me) stopped me and snobbily asked “can I help you?” The unspoken message was “this is a special place, and you do not belong here, you do not have the right status, you disheveled bike fellow”. I smiled and said “This is my home, I am the groom, and I am getting married here in 90 minutes!”
If only you could have seen her face. She looked me up and down, and said- “well- you really need to get ready!”
I like going places where I have no status, and no one else does, either. Places where no one checks my account number, there are no velvet ropes, and no one tries to cut in line.
A walk with my sweetie.
A drive on an empty country road.
Any beach. Any warm beach, anyway.
A walk with my dog.
I love going to see fireworks. Fireworks are usually free, and available to everyone.
I love going to the movies. First in, first seated. When the lights go out, nobody cares who is in the theatre.
The last row of a rock concert, a volleyball match, a baseball game….no one tries to sit in the last row. But there is a lot of fun to be had dancing in the last row.
“Do you have any idea who I am?!”
No, please tell me.