What Bougie Is to Me…

I was asked the other day, "Well what makes you a bouge expert?" After referring the person to my You might be Bougie if post, I went further. My father was a doctor, my mother an accountant. I grew up in a neighborhood where my father had to sue the city of Dallas to allow us to live there. I went to a private school where my sister and I were one of 6 blacks in all of k-12. We were all in Jack and Jill, my mother was in the Links, my sister was a debutante, my brother was a Beau. We went to numerous cotillions and balls. I grew up going to parties with kids whose parents owned Neiman-Marcus and EDS and Texas Instruments.

When I was six, my father took me to the top of the Empire State building, I pointed at the Hudson River and declared (much to his chagrin), "That looks like the pool in our backyard!" We took tennis lessons and belonged to a private tennis country club. We took tap and ballet and piano and horseback riding lessons. Until I was 12, I didn't know any black kids whose parents were not doctors or lawyers or business owners. My two brothers, my sister and I all have college degrees. My uncle was the valedictorian of his Harvard Law School class. I say this not to put anyone down but to say... this was (is) my reality. My point being, if there is anyone who can call herself bougie and get away with it, I believe it to be me.

I started this blog for three reasons. 1) I needed somewhere to keep writing samples, 2) I had a lot of opinions my family and friends were tired of hearing about and 3) I was very discouraged at the portrayal of middle-to-upper class educated African Americans everywhere I looked. On TV, on radio, in movies, throughout the blogosphere. There seemed to be this pervasive attitude that if you were not "down with your peeps", if your music wasn't inherently "black", if you didn't watch certain shows or appreciate certain movies, if you didn't get behind certain causes or talked a certain way and dressed a certain way that you were somehow "not keeping it real."

And even worse, if you were being real, your reality was "siddity" or "bougie" and that was somehow a bad thing. Talk about reverse discrimination… is there any other example where the "have-nots" look down at the "haves" for supposedly being sell-outs?

Aren't we supposed to aspire to an improved existence? Isn't that what all the marching and praying and getting hosed down was about? What's wrong with living well, working hard to better oneself and holding yourself and your family to a set of standards focusing on ethics and excellence? What is "not real" about accepting the fact that not every person is cut from the same cloth, even if they share a skin color? What if a young person of color has more in common with their nonblack friends? How does that make them any more or any less black?

At its base, bouge is the culture embraced by middle-to-upper class educated African-Americans that may or may not fit into a preconceived notion of Black Culture as a whole. Yesterday, we discussed some of the elements of bouge. As the week continues, we'll talk about What Bougie People Do. As a refresher, let's review The Bouge Rules from my very first post:

  1. Bougie is more than a way of life, it's a state of mind
  2. Bougie does not equal stuck-up, siddity & pretty... unless it does
  3. There's nothing wrong with being bougie if your heart is true to the bouge
  4. If you are true to the bouge, people will hate on you. You won't care, you are too busy being bougie
  5. You can be born bougie, you can marry into bougie and you can evolve into bougie
  6. You can be bougie and hood but not at the same time
  7. You are no longer bougie if you are completely ghetto (fabulous or not)
  8. You can be broke and bougie but bouge works better with bank
  9. Bouge brings responsibility. Do not shame your bouge brothers and sisters lest you be kicked up out the bouge circle
  10. Bouge is old school people, we don't hate... we congratulate.

When I say "Bougie is more than a way of life, it's a state of mind" it's because it is not only how you are living but how you aspire to be. That's why I say bouge is freedom to be who you are, you have obtained a way of life that allows you to indulge whims in a way that you cannot when you are economically challenged or hemmed into by pre-conceptions. Bouge should be hard to achieve but effortless to maintain. The struggle is in the attainment not the maintenance.

Let me clear when I say bouge should be beautiful. There is no reason to look down on others who have not achieved what you have been blessed to do. Bougie (or any chosen lifestyle) turns bad when you expect everyone to live like you live, love what you love and achieve what you achieve. One of the largest problems in the country right now is people's inability to embrace differences instead of creating more. So no, I don't think bouge involves sitting on a self-appointed throne of self-importance and pointing derisively at those not on your level.

However, we can laugh about it. We can laugh at the men who have called me "high maintenance" and "bougie" thinking that these are the same things… they are not (another post for sure). We can laugh at the ghetto fabulous folks painting their houses in LV design thinking it's classy… it is not. We can shake our heads at those that call us elitist and uppity… knowing we are not. And we can know that our culture is part of a vibrant and unique diasphora that makes America what it is… a place for all.

So in defining bouge, I will quote devessel (my blog-friend and the co-author of some of this week's posts), "This will be rather like a "bougie-festo", based on the need to exercise our inalienable right to self-express without judgment."

Thanks for stopping by and remember, it's all love in BougieLand. Comment as you will.