I am, what I like to call, a survivor of the New York City private school system. I attended two NYC private schools for grades 1-8 and then attended a specialized public high school once my mother realized that she could afford to send me to either high school or college, but not both. (As a means of comparison, my 8th grade tuition in 1998 cost more than my freshman year at my private college.)
I haven't been watching NYC Prep this season, but have managed to see a few episodes randomly. There has been a lot of discussion regarding this show on blogs and twitter pages, so I had to check it out for myself. I was curious to see how Bravo would inflate and stretch the truth. I have previously told people that I was glad when Gossip Girl came out because there was finally a show on tv that understood my middle school experience. I have to say the same of NYC Prep. Sure, some things are exaggerated and cut out and you can see where they are staged/scripted, but unlike other shows, I do see a lot of reality in it.
When I watched the show, I was easily able to identify people in my previous schools who were like some of the characters. While the characters certainly are not representative of high school students anywhere else in the country, I think that for the NYC prep school sect, especially the Upper East Side, some of them are pretty accurate. When parents can afford to spend $28,000.00+ on tuition alone for just one child, that lots of times means the family has enough money to buy their kids whatever their heart desires. Where I went to school, it was not considered unusual for 15 year olds to shop at Barney's, Henri Bendel, and Bergdorf Goodman. Owning a vacation house (preferably in the Hamptons) was considered a necessity, not a luxury.
The casual sex and underage drinking that goes on does not surprise me either. It is really common and really does happen all the time. When I was in 7th grade, I remember two girls on my soccer team telling me how to give guys blowjobs on the schoolbus on our way to a soccer game. This is an aspect of private school life that is often swept under the rug and hushed up by administration. New York Magazine has written articles about various negative aspects of prep school life every so often, but this is the first time that it's really getting national media attention, which is what is worrying the entire NYC private school system, not just the few schools attended by characters on the show. (Several of the schools have sent letters home to parents and donors explaining that they were not notified beforehand of their students' involvement with the show, and had they been approached, would have counselled them against it.)
The only thing that I find to be blatantly fake about the show is the fact that no true, self-respecting NYC prep would actually appear on a Bravo Tv "reality" show. These kids all probably come from new money families without a large enough stake in the small world of the Upper East Side, desperate to do whatever it takes to get a higher social status, not realizing, that in the end, doing this show will actually alienate them out of the world that they try to portray and belong to.