Book Review: The Official Preppy Handbook

The Official Preppy Handbook, edited by Lisa Birnbach

Paperback – 224 pages (1980 – currently out of print, but used copies may be available on Amazon.com) Workman Publishing

The subtitle reads: “Look, Muffy, a book for us.” I hesitated before commenting on The Official Preppy Handbook, but it is such a timeless cult classic that anyone who has ever aspired to stereotypically “go Ivy” or harbored closet elitist thoughts needs to know about this gem. Savor some of these chapters’ selected content highlights:

Rights of the Birthright: The years at Home
Prep on All Fours: The Proper Pet (The Preferred Breeds; Ode to The Big Dog)
Etiquette in Connecticut: Quiz #1

The Root of All Prep: The Years at School
Preparing to Prep: Picking the School for You (Boarding vs day; Single-Sex vs. Coed)
The Big Sleepover: Boarding School Life (Learning to Smoke)
Bohemia Academe: Education for the Organic Preppy (The Leaders in Bohemia)

The Best Years of Your Life: The College Years
The Four-Year Plan: Collegiate Life (The 8 Leading Gut Courses; Discovering Prep; 13 Words for the Person Who Is Working; The Gentleman’s “C” Or How to Choose a Major)
Eat, Drink, and Be Exclusive: Clubs at the Big Three (The Important Parties; Gone But Not Forgotten; Fraternal Instincts)
Prep Sex: A Contradiction in Terms
Deviant Behavior (The Top 10 Drinking Schools; 20 Verbal Expressions for Vomiting)

Dressing the Part: The Basic Look
The Politics of Monogramming: When Your Own Initials Will Do
Basic Body Types
Mummy Knows Best: The Look for Women
Outerwear (How to Talk to a Salesperson)
The Virtues of Pink and Green

The Real World: The Young Executive Years
The City as Suburbia
The Prep Weekend (Music to Slum By; The Punk-Prep Connection; Music to Boogie By; Music to Drink Bloodies By; Vacations: A Seasonal Guide)
Getting Married (10 Things Bridesmaids Should Not Forget When packing for An Out-of-Town Wedding)

You’re All Grown Up Now: The Country Club Years
Greener Grass: The Country Club (Identifying the Racquet)
The Old Boy Network: How It Works
Off The Wagon: The Tailgate Picnic
Doing Good While Looking Good: Charities and Charity Events
Prepmobiles: The Proper Makes
Summer Is a Verb

Prep Spoken Here
Attitudes: A Usage Guide (7 Words for Beer)
The Lexicon (12 Foreign Phrases; 8 Exit Lines; The Abbreviated Version)

I mentioned stereotypes in my lead. That’s what this book is all about. But it’s great fun, if you can get a copy. More great fun comes from reading the reviews on Amazon.com. One of my favorite Amazon review comments comes from a woman who read the Handbook and afterward was horrified to realize that she was a preppy. So, whether you’re a latent preppy parent who wants prepdom for your progeny, a Boomer who yearns for prepstalgia, or a high schooler who longs to dive into the prep end of the pool, this book will give you hours of laughs and possibly, depending on your social orientation, derisive snickers.

If you can’t find a used copy online (or on eBay), check your local library. This is one time when those older titles lingering on the shelves will pay off. In fact, I got my copy at a library used-book sale for 50 cents. I guess they had no idea what they were selling.