Today is David Brooks’s 60th birthday. Congratulations! It’s also been four years since his 2017 op-ed “How We Are Ruining America,” where he made the case that differing social norms, more than structural barriers, segregate Americans by class. In said op-ed, Brooks recounted an anecdote of taking a less educated friend to lunch, where she (according to Brooks) was immediately alienated and horrified by the complicated sandwich options:
Recently I took a friend with only a high school degree to lunch. Insensitively, I led her into a gourmet sandwich shop. Suddenly I saw her face freeze up as she was confronted with sandwiches named “Padrino” and “Pomodoro” and ingredients like soppressata, capicollo and a striata baguette. I quickly asked her if she wanted to go somewhere else and she anxiously nodded yes and we ate Mexican.
This powerful piece of flash fiction has haunted me for four years.
After four years, I’m still asking the question: who is the friend? What’s her story? Is she finally prepared to speak on the gourmet sandwich shop debacle? A formal request: if you are David Brooks’s high school degree-having friend who accompanied him to a gourmet sandwich shop in 2017 and want to contest (or confirm!) his portrayal of these events, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I promise there’ll be no sandwich jump scares.