Middling-class Grosse Pointers whose social status has declined CONSIDERABLY the past two decades or so on account of regional economic decline, a burgeoning newly affluent group of parvenus, and their own personal financial misfortunes. While never as wealthy nor distinguished as some of their blue-blood, mansion-owning neighbors, this group once enjoyed a reasonable level of material comfort and local prominence back in the pre-cable TV, pre-PC, pre-internet, pre-cell phone age (nee' Cold War era) and tended to predominate in those avenues of community life usually considered "common": little league baseball, brownies and cub scouts, city and municipal gov't, ice cream socials, PTA, et al. Alas, since the Reagan presidency, this sub-culture, like the plight of most middle class Americans everywhere, has slowly dissolved away to the newer and more affluent types with their store-bought designer clothes, McMansions, strange accents, and even more questionable occupations in some cases. This has forced some GPers, as a means of survival, to choose either "trading up" - at the risk of being referred to derisively as "bourgoise", "new money", or "traitors to their former class" or a decidedly LESS inviting move "down market" at the further risk of being declared "declasse'." Those who try to stay as they are (somehow defying social gravity by hanging on by their fingernails), do so at the risk of acquiring the ambiguous and rather demeaning moniker "towney." People residing in this new-found purgatory give themselves away unintentionally but unmistakably: deferred maintenance and repairs on homes, older and/or used cars, worn and out-dated furniture, fewer social events, little or no holiday celebrations, et al. "Towney" in this context means precisely what it implies: residents of a notable town or prominent enclave who themselves possess neither the stature, influential ties, nor net worth of its more pedigreed citizenry and often find themselves "jobbed out" by such gentry, or scrounging for other meager income opportunities in order to make ends meet. This phenomenon, while specific to the above mentioned locale, is more than likely occurring in any number of formerly respectable pre-World War I communities across the United States.
The film adaptation of the novel "House Of Sand And Fog", while depicting an old Iranian family in social and economic decline (and their rather desperate attempts to camoflage said occurrence) could easily be transposed to reflect what a great many current (and former) Grosse Pointers are going through in light of changing times. Never with a bonafide pedigree and a sudden lower status, they become, in effect, Grosse Pointe Towneys. Oh, how the mighty have fallen !
by Thorstein Veblen April 21, 2008