Every spring and winter, certain colonies of New England WASPS¹ migrate south. They alight, buzzing mildly about the flight and the cab ride, on the private beaches of the Hillsboro Club, at 901 Hillsboro Mile, Hillsboro Beach, Florida. It is the sort of place that capitalizes the names of all its amenities in the description on its website: the Spa, the Garden View Suite, the Living Room at Malcolm House (where afternoon tea is served). There are also ten tennis courts, a pitch-n-putt course, and a Deep Sea Fishing Weekend. Almost all of the cleaning and dining staff are from Eastern Europe or the Caribbean — they speak with accents, or are black, or both. It’s one of those places that costs thousands of dollars a year to belong to and serves the kind of food a retirement home might. It’s the shabby-chic Mar-a-Lago of the refined old-money set.
I hate Hillsboro the way I hate all country clubs, because I hate the WASPs that dine and excurse and pitch-n-putt there. I hate all WASPs, in fact. I hate them because I am one.
At least, part of me is. My mom was born in Korea, but my dad, my paternal grandparents, and my aunts and uncles and cousins on that side are WASPs from the North Shore of Massachusetts. My grandparents — Gammy and Gaffer, we call them — go to Hillsboro every year. They used to take us with them, us meaning my mom, dad, and my younger siblings and me. Everything was always paid for. This meant two things: there was nothing there we didn’t get to do, and nothing we could say no to.
When I was a kid I thought Hillsboro was the nicest place I’d ever been, although now I see it differently. It is the kind of place where people introduce themselves, the way Gammy did, as “Eloise Hodges, of Beacon Hill.” (At Hillsboro the New England WASPs look down on the New Yorkers, so they need to be able to place people with some precision.) The big community event of the day was Dinner, when families who knew each other from what to me, then, were mysterious places called “Milton” and “the Cape” gathered to dine by candlelight. The dining room was massive, staffed by smiling immigrant waiters in sharp bow ties, who if you left the table to go to the bathroom would expertly re-crimp your cloth napkin into an accordion or butterfly…