The Essence of Elegance

Rihanna, our patron saint
Rihanna, our patron saint // Creative Commons

My summer in Berkeley crafting policy memos and campaign pitches was a life-changing one. I came away with a renewed sense of purpose, sharpened analytical skills and, most critically, a sense of profound kinship with a group of thirty people who all had the same burning desire to change the world. We commemorated the end of our time together by writing each other “warm fuzzies,” messages meant to capture the essence of our fondness for each other. One warm fuzzy resonated quite deeply with me and I have pinned it on my inspiration corkboard to remind myself of the type of colleague I strive to be: “Yvette, you are so intelligent, dedicated, passionate and RATCHET; my everything. If you ever need me, remember that I will always be here to be the same ol’ ratchet John I’ve always been.”

My dear friend John taught me many things, one of the most important being the word “ratchét” pronounced “ruh-shay.” From post-class happy hours to throwing the occasional bit of shade (for those of you unfamiliar with the term, “shade” is a kind of implicit, sharp rudeness) in class, our times were indeed the epitome of ratchét.

What constitutes a ratchét lifestyle?  An Urban Dictionary entry might read: ratchét (n., adj.): a bougie ratchet; a sophisticated hot mess.

Person 1: We placed first in the conference, and then first in the beerlympics.

Person 2: Turn up! Girl, you ratchét.

An e-card sent to me by a fellow ratchét enthusiast aptly captures the essence of the identity. The e-card read:  “Multifaceted: the ability to do ratchet things over the weekend and return to Corporate America on Monday like ain’t shit happen.”

At its core, being ratchét is characterized by a refusal to ascribe to modes of formality, an acknowledgement of the fact that being successful does not require subscribing to stifling behavioral norms. It’s an antidote to stuffiness. A ratchét lifestyle calls on its followers to be consistently on-point in order to ensure that when basicity needs to be handled and shade needs to be thrown, you can be the first to do so, free of criticism.  Indeed, my cohort’s summer economics analysis course would not have been the same had we not frequently employed the usage of a sign that read “SHADE” in colorfully capitalized letters. The wielding of the sign provided an apt recognition of the verbal sparring that often characterized discussion. With usages ranging from calling out a guest lecturer’s veiled racism to a professor calling out a student’s napping, shade abounded as we refused to let opportune moments for potential ratchét pass us by.

My summer cohort was comprised of some of the most accomplished people I have ever met: young elected officials, dedicated activists, founders of nonprofits. Many had been through considerable hardship, but all had entered their young professional lives looking fresh as ever, unfazed by the miscellaneous haters. Ratchét demonstrates not only how far we have come, but also our desire to transform the systems we’re entering — by giving them a little bit of life. Our cohort theme song is “Pour it Up” by Rihanna, a patron saint of the ratchét mentality. As RiRi so poetically delineates: despite her frequent exploits with “strip clubs and dollar bills” she’s “still got more money.” She won’t ever let you forget that It’s “four o’clock and we ain’t going home” ‘cause, she’s “still got more money” than you.

Since adopting the ratchét mentality, what has been most comforting is the fact that my fellow enthusiasts have continued both their hard-driving pursuit of success and their DGAF attitude. I’m currently on an email thread about my summer cohort’s fall break reunion, the kickoff event being “The Essence of Elegance hosted by 2Chainz.”

Because ratchét is an attitude — a mode of being — it can be employed continuously. Ratchét is a consistent effort to keep professional spaces in check and our sanity balanced. After a summer of bottomless mimosa Sundays and “Pour it Up” turn-ups, I can definitively conclude: ratchét is a lifestyle.

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