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By Jessica T

The lure of the country club

Uploaded: Apr 29, 2014

A colleague recently confided in me that he was applying for membership at a local country club. "Why on earth would you do that?" I asked. He was amused by my reaction and explained that it was so his family had a place to play tennis and swim in the summer. I immediately considered the pristine local civic facilities we have to do both of those things...

Where I'm from country clubs are code for exclusivity - an exclusivity that has historically shrouded racism and traditional gender stereotypes. The fathers and sons on the golf course, the mothers by the pool with the kids. In middle school, I remember being an awkward invitee to a lavish cotillion dance staffed by solicitous, hardworking adults catering to spoiled children. There were cloth towels, bathroom attendants, and cocktails in the anteroom for the adults.

In Virginia, these clubs were named after imaginary royal horse societies: Farmington, Keswick, Boars Head. In Silicon Valley, our country clubs are named after trees and circuses - titles that suggest we are slightly more down-to-earth. But all country clubs far and wide have one thing in common. Gentry. They are every bit as democratic and humble as our local beloved content-filled magazine by the same name. For those unfamiliar with Gentry, it doesn't come to a neighborhood near you, unless you live in Atherton.

My colleague egged me on that afternoon by sharing details of rumored membership processes: initiation fees and voluntary asset verification. He told stories of power-drunk housewives withholding membership from chief executive billionaires. He listed who of our co-workers belonged to which clubs. Weeks later he told me it was a done deal. He and his family were in.

In many ways, a country club is the last thing I'd like to spend our hard-earned money on. I'd prefer not to narrow my children's world further with weekend exclusivity. Keeping up with the Joneses has never been my thing. (And to keep up with the Joneses in our community runs the risk of bankruptcy!) Give me a babysitter and a rock concert, and I am renewed.

I don't judge my colleagues for their country-club memberships. My co-worker is a great dad and a wonderful friend who can laugh at his quirks and mine. In fact, over the weekend I found myself explaining to my husband what I coveted about the whole country club experience: the vision of leisurely afternoons and endless summers.

With three kids and a full-time job, the country-club leisure scene is an illusion for me. I have no doubt my colleagues crave the same thing -- a dream of the best relaxation that money can buy. Perhaps they'll find the fulfillment they seek. For me, a summer of leisure is a faraway dream. My eternal summers will be comprised of trips to the community pool, hard work at the office, and week-long vacations with the family. I'm a dreamer, but also a realist.