Real Yuppies don't eat meat loaf

Yup. I was proud not to be saddled with an acronym. Pleased that I nimbly sidestepped the plethora of life-style manuals, ''The Official Preppy Handbook, '' ''Real Women Don't Pump Gas,'' and the rest of that know-thyself paperback pack. I was poised in the face of Woodstock's 15th anniversary; I had spent the Age of Aquarius trying to ace English in a public high school in Illinois.

Yet, despite my best efforts to avoid being pegged to a generational trait, I find the term ''Yuppie'' not only unwithered but, like so much gourmet wheat germ, still sprouting. Even though Gary Hart, the true Yuppie hero, has come and gone.

If I am to believe what I hear during the waning days of this campaign, I remain a political wooee, an assimilator of food processors, and unbearably upwardly mobile - the latter tips me into yet another socioeconomic category, that of the Yumpie, or ''young upwardly mobile professional,'' in layman's lingo.

Much of this is news to me, not to mention my parents. As far as I can tell, I still write rent-controlled rent checks every month and coddle along a car that is my college graduation present.

But in a sociological nutshell, it seems that we baby-boomers have come of age - not by virtue of our achievements, rather by the extent of our style. Make that Style. Brunch has become a rite of passage and an MBA an almost requisite coat of arms.

Apparently we of the Me generation have decided that, if we can't have it all , we can at least have it all First Class. A sort of ''I strive, therefore I am.'' Our goals lie somewhere in the realm of inputtable data: a six-figure salary, live-in help, and the ability to snare the best tables at the city's top restaurants. All of it apparently reflects our insatiable taste for the good life.

As a newly christened Yuppie - an unutterably pert term to my way of thinking - I find my native tongue has undergone some rehabbing. ''Mesquite'' and ''dhurrie'' are all linguistically right on, at least for the moment, unlike the already declasse ''Fettuccine Alfredo'' ''networking,'' and ''cash machine.'' No one has to tell Yuppies the times, they are a-changing. An appetite for affluence is now the unwritten acme of good taste. A far cry from the creeds of the beads and flowers hippies.

Hence, as a true YUP, I will never, according to certain codes of behavior, drink anything instant, cancel reserved tennis court time, or pay cash. I am supposed to be too busy patronizing those restaurants displaying a requisite amount of ferns, brass, and marble, where I never eat macaroni and cheese or tuna on white. I am too busy stoking up on su-shi, gravlax, and gourmet chocolates.

And there is more to this way of life style.

I am supposed to do aerobics in the morning, jog at noon, and meet at the health club after work. I am meant to work - better if I can ''bill'' - 60-plus hours a week. But I must never tire and while away the down time in front of the TV. Excuse me, but I think I hear my arugula calling.

If my furniture doesn't float in my loft, if my cookware (and it must be ''cookware,'' not pots and pans) doesn't require cooper cleanser or a small loan to finance, if I do not possess multiple vinegars or a particular make of German car, I will be suspected of being out of step. Or, more's the pity, I will miss becoming my own role model.

Yet, in a braver moment, I cannot resist testing the waters. I had successfully brunched in the past, so I picked the yuppiest restaurant I could find and blithely booked a table for four. On the site of a humble eatery where I had previously reveled in plates of meat loaf, mashed potatoes, and brown gravy when I felt nostalgic for Mom-type cooking, I picked my way into a stark art deco wonder in order to see if I wore my socioeconomic label well. If I could hold my own with those who knew their way around a wedge of Brie.

I was in for trouble the minute I crossed the polished threshold. Getting a meal here turned out to be as intimidating as applying for a bank loan or country club membership. The menu was as elliptical as a French symbolist poem - perfectly designed to make one feel simple-minded should a particular quail item need explication. Maybe I wasn't a true blue Yuppie after all. Not that I trembled in the face of ''lightly oiled pasta,'' but others in the place seemed so at home, as if they had been weaned on warm lamb salad and not Bosco. My quartet stumbled through the ordering process, selecting the most familiar dishes with a relief not felt since getting out of grad school. It looked like a long evening.

Ironically, rescue came in the form of our busboy, a pleasant-looking lad who had geometrically shaped hair, wore an earring, and clearly noticed our consternation. As he refilled water glasses and passed out plates of bread and ceramic tubs of pale butter, he murmured without our even asking, ''Land o' Lakes served in a ramekin.'' It was a clear tone of self-mockery totally out of synch with the industrial carpeting and bird-of-paradise flower arrangements. I glanced up. Sure enough, there was a wry twinkle in the busboy's eye not quite obscured by the new-wave coiffure.

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