Dating a Privileged White Girl

Turtle Rock is a multi-tiered specialty community in Orange County, CA in a city called Irvine. Street signs are small and the roads are hilly. They are threats to teenagers that live here with their parents. BMWs and Mercedes-Benzs often collide at the bottom of hills at the hands of teenagers. Turtle Rock is predominately populated by Privileged White Families.

The Privileged White Girl, or PWG, remains a staple in male dating habits nationwide. They’re characterized by their refined upbringing, tastes, and high levels of self-consciousness. They are usually artistically inclined, most commonly in literature and art history. Some are known to pursue the fine arts. A small number find their “forte” in finance. PWGs are found in private educational institutions across the country. Most are identified by uncommon names and/or common names with uncommon spellings.

Sage Hill School is a private, liberal arts-focused high school in adjacent Newport Coast, CA that sits approximately one mile from the beach. Olive was a 17 year old high school senior at Sage when I met her at the holiday party of a mutual friend. I was 16, a sophomore at a public high school, and instructed to bring my guitar. I knew three people at the party, counting the host. The three friends schmoozed while I planted myself at a restored early 20th century French butcher table with a Bud Light and the guitar. The house was expensive and untouched. The guitar stayed in its case. Everyone else drank PBR.

The host asked me to play a song. I played “Far, Far Away” by Wilco. I was noticeably buzzed; I had switched the order of several lyrics. I remember singing it good enough. I noticed Olive watching me from between people’s heads. We locked eyes a few times during the song. I finished and the four or five others clapped and assured me I did well and walked away. She was alone and came up to me to say she really liked that Wilco song, though her favorite was on “Summerteeth,” the one before “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.” “You know that one, right,” she asked. I nodded yes and sipped. She eyed a boy that brushed past her. Olive was pretty.

Her clothes looked expensive. She assured me she didn’t spend much; the Alexander Wang sweater was bought “massively on sale” and under $100; her eyes batted and glistened. “But the shoes,” she said, lifting her foot up as if checking for shit, “these were expensive. I love them.” They seemed expensive.

Olive told me that her high school allowed you to declare a major and pick all your classes. She was undeclared but took a lot of theatre classes. She still wasn’t sure if she would declare as English or Theatre, but she had to choose soon because it was a requirement for first-semester seniors. She had enough English credits to graduate as an English major, but she might be able to persuade the dean to let her graduate as a Theatre major. She frowned a bit as she said this and bounced in place on her toes. “Sorry. Ballet habit.” Then she told me she really wanted to go to NYU for Theatre, but Boston University would be a shoe-in because of family and she could attend for free, basically. She frowned. I was going to go to community college. I was attracted to her.

We exchanged phone numbers and I left before I had a sixth Bud Light. The host thanked me for coming and playing the Wilco song. Olive said we would definitely hang out and gave me a hug. She wore a perfume I didn’t know but the host did. She asked Olive what it was and as I pulled away, Olive winked and said “Commes Des Garcons” with a modest smile. I thought she winked at me, but she was looking right past me. “It’s a limited edition for Opening Ceremony,” she said. The host ooh-ed and came between Olive and me. I walked away taking deep breaths, worried I would be pulled over by Newport Beach police, feeling exhilarated.

We talked on the phone the next day for several hours. She was immersed in things I’d only heard of before, like Debutantes, season tickets to the Orange County Performing Arts Center, new Volvo sedans, Pescetarianism, Whole Foods, art show openings, family alumni in Ivy League universities, famous relatives who were active or once active in the art world, the time her parents almost sent her to boarding school, the time she felt really depressed when her parents were in the middle of the divorce and argued over who would get her, and how much the other parent should pay in child support (Mira wanted Todd to pay $500 more in child support, plus Mira would keep the house, and Todd would buy two new cars for both of them; he only bought one, Mira planned to sue), the ecstasy of a lush terry cotton bath robe in a five star hotel, muesli. She lived with her mother in Turtle Rock, where they shared a brand new Volvo S60 sedan, in dark charcoal.

What did one do at a Debutante party, I wondered. “Ball,” she corrected. “It’s a Ball.”

There was only a handful of girls at my high school who were Debutantes, and none of them knew who Wilco was. Knowing Wilco made you part of the “scene.” You listened to other bands like Radiohead, Fugazi, The Get Up Kids, Death Cab for Cutie, early Jimmy Eat World. You never had money or a ride to go to one their shows up in LA, but you could go to the local shows–where so-and-so in So-And-So was playing for free, and they really sounded like Fugazi sometimes–and make friends with those kids. Olive had seen all of these bands. “Radiohead. Twice.” Her interest piqued when I mentioned Fugazi. She said she really loved “13 Songs,” and did I know that that was only a compilation of the first two EPs, and they never made a band shirt because they thought it was stupid? I said yes and she yelped, telling me she found a vintage Fugazi shirt in a thrift store once that read “THIS IS NOT A FUGAZI SHIRT.” She’d only worn it once, and promised to wear it once we hung out.

The first time we hung out I waited for over three hours and smoked an entire pack of American Spirits in my car. I almost left, and should have, but I stayed, resolving to act really pissed off when she got to Alta, a bohemian-looking cafe on the Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach, a favorite spot for both of us. She stepped out of the car wearing black vintage Ray-Ban wayfarers, the Alexander Wang sweater, black tights and pointy ankle boots. I was disappointed she didn’t wear her FUGAZI shirt, but she looked really sexy. I wanted to rip her tights. She apologized profusely and said she and her mother were looking for the keys. She wore red lipstick which accented her lips’ natural bouncy pout. I wasn’t angry anymore, I was infatuated; I offered her an American Spirit from my spare pack and she smiled. “They’re my favorite,” she said. “Additive free.”

I would find out later she was late because her license was suspended–a “bullshit DUI”– and that she waited for her mother to pass out to take the car. That she was anxious to leave because she didn’t want to get caught, not because she didn’t like me.

Problems arose after we had exhausted our favorite artists, musicians, writers, and non-sequitur moments. I would show her music she’d not heard before. These were dismissed. “Yeah, it’s good, but not my thing.” Olive smoked and wouldn’t look into my eyes for more than five seconds, which we did often.

More problems arose after it became apparent I could not pay for our cut of the sushi bill when we would eat out with her friends. She liked weed and opiates and I was too nervous to take them with her, and also could not afford them. Once, she called me a pussy. Then apologized. “I’m sorry,” she said on the phone. “I have to go now.”

Her birthday landed in our “dating” period, which lasted about six weeks. I drove her to Barneys Co-Op in South Coast Plaza to look for a dress for her birthday, which she insisted her mother was paying for, and met her friend Troy in the store, who had been shopping there for a while now. Olive was visibly annoyed with something as we walked to the store, what I didn’t know, but immediately perked up at the sight of Troy. They traipsed the store, gingerly holding dresses off the racks. I sat in a large lacquered wooden chair and stared at them at the other end of the store. I didn’t bother looking. Olive walked around the store in one dress for a while, looking down at it occasionally, and convinced Troy to buy it for her. “I know it’s bad,” she said, “but I’ll pay you back. Promise. Thanks, darling.”

We had sex once. She was drunk. I was sober. This was the end of our stint. I wanted her badly at this time. She’d put it off by not returning my calls, pretending to take a phone call, saying she had to be up early. I remember knowing we were going to fuck. We were at an Indian restaurant with two of her friends. It was a BYOB place and she brought vodka for everyone but she drank most of the handle. She was sloppy, her eyes were almost closed, and she kept putting her hands on my thighs. She never did this. She rarely showed affection in public; it was mainly online or in text message. I was happy.

Our “break-up” was sudden. She stopped returning my calls, text messages, and instant messages. She was going to attend Boston University. She wasn’t accepted at NYU; she was noticeably upset when she told me. This was six months away. I slipped into a moderately debilitating depression for a week. What was wrong with me, I wondered. I knew nothing was wrong.

“Non-Privileged Men know the PWG is a trap.”

A month later I heard she was dating someone new. He lived in Eastbluff–another specialty community not far from Turtle Rock–drove a BMW, attended her private school, and was going to attend NYU. Her internet presence was positive; she seemed happy.

We haven’t spoken once in six years. This is normal for people our age. We are willing to cut our losses whenever and wherever if the other party has acted poorly. I miss her now and then. I look at her Facebook and stare at her profile picture and try to stalk, but we are not friends and her page is locked. I dare not add her.

There aren’t many memories of us I remember explicitly, except this one: we were sitting on Alta’s back patio where we could smoke. It was empty and the middle of the day, the lattice sliced the gloom above us in cubes. We were alone, she was looking at the ground. She was talking about her dad coming to visit for Thanksgiving for the first time in several years, and she didn’t want to see him. “He’s a bad man,” she said. “He drinks too much. And I’ve seen him hit Mom before. I mean, she might’ve deserved it a couple of times, but still…you don’t ever hit a woman.”

I nodded and clicked my tongue, ashed my cigarette.

And he never calls me. When they were together Daddy and I used to go to the park and he’d watch me run around and play, give me money to buy ice cream for the both of us. We’d sit on a blanket and eat the ice cream; and he’d never tell me when it was all over my mouth. He’d just sit there and look at me and smile. Then he’d rub it off slowly and firmly with his thumb.”

She tapped her cigarette and looked away.

“I miss that. I miss Daddy.”

Non-Privileged Men know the PWG is a trap. The PWG will always find a Privileged Man, to replace the Non-Privileged Man. I feel like most of the Non-Privileged population regard the PWG with disdain, contempt, jealousy, see her as a nuisance. But we reach for them, because we think they’re damaged in a way. Olive has money. She will be taken care by her parent’s wealth even when she is 80. But she is sad. She wants to leave Turtle Rock, but is scared of a small apartment with a creepy super. She wants to date artistically-inclined men with no privilege, but their hair is dirty and clothes are unlaundered. We think we are the exceptions, we are the ones that will break her out of Turtle Rock.

We are Sisyphus. They are the rock. Someone is always laughing.

We don’t blame the PWG. They can’t help it. Thought Catalog Logo Mark


About the author

Ryan Chang

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