Affirmative Action, Country Club Style

at 12:35 AM
 (Mac Clayton)

I was an industrious boy. I sold greeting cards and holiday wrapping paper. I cut lawns. I had a paper route. I was a sack boy in a grocery store. I worked the graveyard shift at a printing plant. By the time I got out into the world, I was confident I could do anything. I was a poster boy for American self-reliance.

Not really.

I was a country club brat. I was the son of a well-to-do doctor who bought a new car every time the ashtray in his old one filled up. After my paper route, I played golf at the club and ate chicken sandwiches and told the white-jacketed waiters to put it on my father's tab.

I did sell holiday cards door to door, but most were bought by family and friends of family. Ditto with the yards I cut. The lawn mower was Dad's. I got the paper route myself, but I couldn't have handled it if Dad hadn't bought me a moped to deliver the papers. The grocery I worked for was the one where my mother shopped. The printing company where I loaded pallets was owned by a friend of hers on our block who had a mad crush on her.

A way of looking at my early work experience is that I was an apprentice on the family estates. The owners weren't all Claytons, but they were friends of Claytons. Dad delivered their wives' babies. Favors were passed back and forth as naturally as greetings at the country club.

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So what does all that mean, other than that I was born into fortunate circumstances? It means I got chances, and when I whiffed, I got second chances. Sometimes third.

In our culture, we mythologize self-reliance. We are from hardy stock. We are resilient. But rarely do we succeed alone. There's no shame in needing help. The only shame is in denying it to those for whom it is not a privilege of birth.

With a Perspective, I'm Mac Clayton.

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Mac Clayton is a writer and lives on the Peninsula.

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