Yesterday, I had the opportunity to visit a private/country club because I was going in as a member’s guest. When I used to compete in badminton (this is quite a while ago which is why badminton has not been really referred to before in this blog), I and those I trained with, always did a bit of extra celebration when we won against people who trained at private clubs or ‘clubbies’. It was a bit of pride I suppose, because they were spending so much money with so much at their hands and yet, us, those who could not afford to pay for the same grade/access of facilities and training, managed to win. I was participant in a pilot program that had invited players who played at a competitive level but could not afford to train at a private club. I remembered being somewhat uncomfortable every time we had a competition held at one of these places, knowing that I wasn’t part of this alleged exclusivity.
Fast forward eight years and the feeling remains, if not more pronounced. I remember attempting to navigate through the women’s locker room, looking for an empty locker for my stuff as it seemed that all the lockers were assigned to members. I asked a couple women who were talking in the locker room. One asked in a relatively friendly manner if I was new; I told her I was a guest. Though the demeanor shift was minute, I most certainly noticed it; the slightest look down as she explained to me that lockers were not available for guests. It is a rare moment when I feel like something less, a commoner if you will. After changing in my swim suit, I attempted to find the pool (apparently, there is not direct connection to/from the pool) and asked one of the women that was working in the locker room. She seemed slightly surprised that I spoke with thanks and respect. I couldn’t help but notice that she too was Asian. Granted, this club had a lot of Chinese people but more on that later. This general sentiment carried on as I spoke with the lifeguard at the pool. She seemed surprised that I was willing to converse casually with her.
After my swim, I could not help but feel guilty for participating in this privilege and exclusivity, even though I had come in as a guest of someone else. I know how much membership is for these places and I could not help but think this money could be used in much more altruistic and useful places rather than perpetuating even further this concept of Western privilege. Back to all the Chinese members there: in general, I think that we want to aspire to become better than our peers, to up them one. It’s an unfortunate expression of being human. So when we/Chinese people see country clubs, LV bags and BMWs as symbols of this betterness, we/they pursue it.
For all intensive purposes, I’m actually one of the most privileged people in this world, the top 5, 10%. But this was not achieved by my own means but because for reasons unknown to me, God structured my life this way, that He gave me parents that instilled a strong work ethic and desire to pursue continual learning. But He gave me these blessings so that I could give back to those who were down on times, who needed an expression of His love. I can see the appeal, the draw of private club membership, but …it’s most certainly not for me.