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Chapter One Tomatoes When I graduated from Shipley, a small prep school in Bryn Mawr, my father's mother, Grandma Jess, wrote to congratulate me on my academic record: "A truly tremendous achievement - but then I could expect nothing less due to your marvelous background - Robinson, Pierson, Holton, Friend!

As my grandparents happened to constitute a Wasp compass, the way ahead was marked in all directions: I could proceed as a Robinson like Grandma Tim's family loquacious, madcap, sometimes unhinged ; a Pierson like Grandpa John's family bristling with brains ; a Holton like Grandma Jess's family restless, haughty show ponies ; or a Friend like Grandpa Ted's family moneyed, clubbable, and timid.

I believed, then, that my family was not my fate. I believed my character had been formed by charged moments and impressions - the drift of snow, the peal of church bells, the torrent of light cascading through the elms out front into our sunporch.

Though my parents gave me love and learning and all the comforts, I believed I could go it alone. My grandparents were distant constellations, and as they wheeled across the sky I felt unshadowed by their marriages, their affairs, their remarriages, or their quarrels.

On the question of how to pronounce "tomato," for instance, the family was split. On my father's side, the Friends and Holtons unselfconsciously said "tomayto. It was unclear why such nuances should matter to me. The deeper history, the cultural history, filtered down only piecemeal: my father was embarrassed by some of his forebears, and my mother blithely assumed everyone knew all about hers. She might mention, in passing, the lace she'd worn at their wedding, lace handed down from mothers to their firstborn daughters for thirteen generations, beginning in England with Goodith Constantine in and continuing through such delightfully named ancestors as Lettice Beach and Damaris Atwater.

A poem that accompanies the lace reads, in part: Guard it, dear child, as these have done, Good women, pure and true, Who hand it, with their own fair names Unblemished, down to you. Keep ever in make money on the internet wasp one straight path Of duty they have trod; And guided by the same pure light Of love, for man and God. That sort of exacting heirloom, which my sister, Timmie, later wore at her wedding, contributed to a sense that we should hold ourselves apart, in readiness.

But what for was never declared. The mission was a jigsaw puzzle of watchwords, affiliations, expectations, furniture, clothes, habits, rituals, empties, and stories that lacked one key detail: why?

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Three years after my mother died, I published a piece about her in The New Yorker. In it, I tried to describe her aspirations and disappointments and her search for consolation; what she had taken from her parents, and handed on to us, and the gifts she herself brought to the party.

I thought it was a loving portrait, but it was also unsparing, perhaps even more than I'd intended. Anger can impeach you. The piece rattled my family in ways that slowed the writing of this book yet clarified its true subject. Some of my relatives felt I was ungenerous, and some simply wondered, Whose side are you on?

Yet apostasy is in our blood too. Every so often in my family, someone writes a candid book or gets knocked up by the wrong guy. Now it was my turn. Worse, the adjective is pejorative: "Waspy" is reserved for horse-faced women, tight-assed men, penny-pinchers, and a cappella groups. I'm too cheap to spring for a new acronym. But my family and their friends, as Wasps, were circumscribed less by skin tone and religion than by a set of traditions and expectations: a cast of mind.

They lived in a floating Ruritania loosely bounded by L. Bean to the north, the shingle style to the east, Robert Falcon Scott's doomed polar expedition to the south, and the limits of Horace Greeley's optimism to the west. That cast of mind is excessively attuned to such questions as how you say "tomato" - a word I now make money on the internet wasp myself pronouncing both ways, usually at random and always with misgiving.

In this and more important respects I seem to have become, somehow, a motley product of my famously marvelous background.

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Oh, sure, I don't belong to any clannish or exclusive clubs, I prefer beer to hard liquor, I am neither affable nor peevish - the alternating currents of Wasp - and I love pop culture.

And yet. Until quite recently, I had the Wasp fridge: marmalade, wilted scallions, out-of-season grapes, seltzer, and vodka - nothing to really eat.

The Wasp fridge is like the bachelor fridge, but Wasps load up on dairy, including both 1 and 2 percent milk, moldy cheese, expired yogurt, and separated sour cream. I have a concise and predictable wardrobe, and friends even like to claim that I invariably wear the same oatmeal-colored Shetland sweater.

I will never experience the pleasures of leather pants or a shark's tooth on a thong make money on the internet wasp in my chest hair. I will never experience the pleasures of chest hair. And, like the Tin Man, I don't articulate my upper body in sections; it moves en masse or not at all. I politely stand aside: no, no, after you.

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I have a soft laugh, and I rarely raise my voice. Though I have an outsize grin, and friends take pleasure in trying to elicit it, I am reserved upon first meeting it's Wasp women who are expected to charm. I used to like being told I was "intimidating," because it seemed to sanction my verbal jabbing to maintain a perimeter. Making everyone a little uneasy came naturally. When I characterized a college roommate's dancing style as "Jimmy Cracked Corn," he nursed the wound for decades, and a woman I fooled around with in my early twenties told me, years later, that she had to get a new mattress and headboard after I remarked on her "game-show bed.

All this has often led people to read me as aloof or how bitcoins were earned. I am fiercely but privately emotional - I was embarrassed, recently, when my wife, Amanda, found me having put The Giving Tree down while reading it to our twins, Walker and Addie, because I was in tears.

I married Amanda, a strong-minded food writer, seven years ago: she revamped my fridge, and some of my other disaster areas.

And I convinced her to have children, the best thing we have done together. I walk into parties with a confident air but wait to speak until I have a point to make or make money on the internet wasp joke to offer.

I can give a handsome wedding toast. I am slow to pitch in on manual labor and not particularly handy, though I pride myself on the rarely called-for ability to carve a watermelon into the shape of a whale a sprig of parsley makes the spout.

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I am frugal to the point of cheapness - when out to dinner with friends, I used to contribute only for the dishes I had ordered. I dislike having to eat quail or crab, all that effort and mess for scant reward, an aversion Amanda calls "No sex in public! My belief that you shouldn't do something you care about in a half-assed way often provokes the charge that I don't want to take part in any activity I can't do well, that I fear public ineptitude, make money on the internet wasp is certainly true for karaoke.

Despite my standoffishness, I am a good listener, and loyal, and friends often turn to me for advice.

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A Wasp friend remarks that I would have made an imposing country parson. Most of all, I am a Wasp because I harbored a feeling of disconnection from my parents, as they had from their parents, and their parents had from their parents.

And because, deep into my thirties, most of my relationships had the life span of a child's balloon.

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I felt that I was carrying around a brimming bucket of walnut stain and that if anyone got too close it would spill all over both of us. So I ended up spending my inheritance and then some on psychoanalysis.

I was in trouble, but it was nearly impossible for anyone who didn't know me well to tell, and I made it nearly impossible for anyone to know me well. When I was twelve, my father, looking around the dinner table meaningfully, repeated a biblical quotation a Swarthmore student had reminded him of earlier in the day: "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.

In Swarthmore, the dinner table was where we performed, auditioning for attention. We'd sit at the round butcher-block table Mom had commissioned in Buffalo, eating her quiche lorraine and waiting for my parents to stop discussing college business - and at last Mom would turn to us for brief accounts of our days. My younger brother, Pier, who in memory always wore a striped rugby shirt, would remark that his team had won its Little League game - he was the star pitcher - and beam at the resulting praise.

Our sister, Timmie, the youngest, would excitedly announce that she'd had six hot dog halves at Oonie Ryan's half-birthday party. Timmie would blink and crimson, then bolt from the table.

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Mom would exchange a chagrined glance with my father - she always hoped for a blithe, Noel Cowardish return of serve - and then stand in exasperated remorse and fold her napkin and go find Timmie. We were expected to appreciate what we'd been given and make conspicuous use of it.

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Wasps are credentialists, but my father particularly so: he thumbnailed people by their resumes: "A very able guy with a PhD in microeconomics from Stanford. So we received a tricky set of imperatives: meet the unspoken standard without thinking about it too much. Brooding on ancestral benchmarks could suck you into a life on the couch, the long parenthesis; Wasps don't rebel so much as drink, sink, and drop away.

My parents would mention our parenthetical relatives John Anthony Walker, Tisha Pierson, various Robinsons in tones of sorrow and then change the subject.

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Only much later would I learn that John Anthony Walker, my father's cousin, never held a job before dying in India of a kidney infection he'd treated with Ayurvedic medicine. And that Wassa's oldest son, Johnny, went even further astray. As children, all we knew was that if he rang up collect from an institution, we shouldn't accept the call.

One night in the late s, Johnny showed up at Donny's apartment in Manhattan and belligerently demanded money for his cab fare. When Donny refused, Johnny darted for the knife rack in the kitchen. Donny tackled him, and Johnny clamped his teeth on Donny's forearm and didn't let go until Donny punched him repeatedly in the head, breaking his own finger. When the police arrived, Donny went to Lenox Hill for the bite, and the cops took Johnny to Bellevue and then to Ward's Island, where he kept declaring, "I am John Trumbull Robinson the Third," incredulous that the storied name didn't precipitate his immediate release.

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He died in Baton Rouge, inbroke, crazy, and alone. They were us, too. That you must carry everyone with you, swelling the ranks, is a hard-ridden Wasp hobbyhorse. My father remembers with dismay his prep school class at St. Paul's being charged by the rector to have lots of children and go into politics, lest they be overwhelmed by the outsiders massing at the gate.

Charles W. Eliot, Harvard's president from toboiled that imperative down to "produce and reproduce," observing that: "The family, rather than the individual, is the important social unit. If society as a whole is to gain by mobility and openness of structure, those who rise must stay up in successive generations, that the higher level of society may be constantly enlarged, and that the proportion of pure, gentle, magnanimous, and refined persons may be steadily increased.

After my various forebears came to America in the mid-seventeenth century as weavers or constables or tavern owners, it was their descendants who made good: signing the Declaration of Independence the trembly penned John Morton or leading the Union Army the shilly-shallying George McClellan.

The branches of my family tree were bowed with squires, judges, ministers, senators, and colonial dames. On the whole, we were attendant lords, the seat-fillers in historical paintings who look on approvingly as those whose names are taught in school read a ringing speech or charge a well-garrisoned hill. My great-great-grandfather Henry Cornelius Robinson was in this way typical. An eloquent and energetic mayor of Hartford in the s, a man who greeted male friends by gripping their shoulders and crying, "Comrade!

He wrote Christmas carols - "Exult, ye sons of men, 'tis clearest morn! Make money on the internet wasp Ulysses Grant died, Robinson consoled Hartford's citizens with a speech recited from option pricing formula "It is a great thing to have lost such a man; it is option trade greater to have had such a man to lose," he declared.