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Monday, March 4, 2013

On Class and Status

Class and status  aren't things I have thought a lot about since I became an adult, but as a child it was different. When I came across this article today it got me thinking.

My parents divorced when I was very young, and my mom, needing a way to support my older brother and I, took a teaching job at a small private school. Due to her employment, we received scholarships and were able to attend a school that normally would have certainly been beyond our means.

At a young age I noticed things about my classmates that were small and subtle, but showed me that my family was different. For one thing, I didn't have a dad coming home from his law office or factory he owned, my dad wasn't coming home at all. We ate dinner at 5:30, not 7, like these upper middle class families did, and we didn't take vacations. While they jetted off to ski in Switzerland or to swim in the Caribbean, I was, at best, in for a two hour car ride to my grandmother's house in Western Massachusetts.

We wore uniforms, so the competition for clothes was removed, but still, I knew our lives were very different. They had bigger homes, drove Volvos and Saabs (the cars of old money) and we had a Buick. Even at eight I saw these things.

We were not poor, but money was tight. My mom tutored all summer to make ends meet, but she still managed to buy us a house, clothe us and we never went hungry. She was a good child of the Depression.. She was frugal, but we never went without what we truly needed. Without any real assistance from my father she raised us, all alone.

I hadn't thought much about class of late until a year ago when I met the man I am currently in a relationship with, He grew up in a working class family, and when he met me he joked that I am the first WASP he'd dated,. I never thought about being WASP'y. Having been raised by a single working mom I never felt at all privileged. In my mind, his upbringing and mine were the same. But I see in many ways they weren't. I did have certain advantages that he did not. My grandparents had raised my parents with certain advantages and attitudes about education and success, and I now see I was raised to believe I could do and be anything. I get it that because of my WASP'y upbringing I do believe I can create the life I want and am positive that with hard work and a little luck, I can make most anything happen. My advantage just might be optimism..

My mom looked a lot like Kate Hepburn (which is why I used this photo). We are a tall, lanky, blue-eyed family. We certainly look the part of WASPs. But the thing is, you can't tell everything about anyone from outward appearances. That's the thing about class and status - it's a pretty superficial way to judge people. Once you scratch the surface we're all a lot more alike than we might think.

1 comment:

  1. Very nice post...subtle differences can mean a lot.