Tuesday, January 11, 2011

This Morning I'm a Classy Broad

Thinking more about class this morning. We feel it, and know it when we encounter it, but what is it?

I've been reading a website called "Class Matters". In it, I found this quote: "In my neighborhood everyone can spot the class differences between women: the working-class women wear make-up and styled hair even when watering their gardens, and the professional women wear no make-up and loose hair even to work, and sometimes even at weddings."

There's something to that, at least around here. I guess you'd call my town a very working class town, in a very working class province. Women here (in general) are EXTREMELY conscious of always having their make-up done and legs waxed. Every single workday I'll have a client apologize to me because she hasn't waxed her legs recently enough. Since I've never had it done, I don't know what that time frame would be. I always assure them that I didn't shave for their appointment myself, so they mustn't worry.

But where does that put me? If prickle-legged, wild-haired, and make-up-less is an indicator of "professional", I guess most days I'm squarely in the middle of it. On the other hand, living in a small bungalow with ancient peeling siding and the skeleton of a burnt-out motorhome in the back acres probably doesn't impress most of my neighbours with my classiness. We have an average income for the area (at least, that's my guess), but a lot less toys. My kids don't have cell-phones, and that's a bizarre anomoly here. It's de rigeur to take your children on monthly shopping sprees for $200 hoodies and the like.... ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Take my 14 year old daughter for a $75 nail job every month? Not happening.

We have a lot of books ourselves, and I pump the library for all I'm worth. That's not the norm. We self-educate, all of us. See previous. We eat well - at home. When I look at our life, all I can see is that we live very high indeed on the global hog. Extreme Upper Class. And when I look at the carefully made-up faces and omni-present cellphones and shiny SUVs and pedigreed pets, it all seems very gauche. I'm a snob.

It's so relative, isn't it? I tend to look at myself compared to an entire world, and see how incredibly priveleged I am. And that's about choice. I can choose so many things. It might be a little squeeze for a while, but I can choose to go to acupuncture school, or take an advanced bodywork class. I can choose to open a clinic. I can choose all sorts of things, because I've had and continue to have exposure to a very wide world.

I don't know how much of that is privelege, and how much is personal endowment. A big part of our cultural mythology is built on people pulling themselves up by the bootstraps, but what if your bootstraps are on the small side, or non-existent? It seems like some people just don't have much raw material, you know? I met someone like that recently; he's quite bright in a lot of ways, but something vital is definitely missing. His choices are limited. What's free will in a situation like that?

And maybe there are people who would say the same of me, poor thing. Who knows? I've only got this one set of eyes!

Anyway, lots to think about...


arcolaura said...

Lots to think about, and thoughtfully put. This morning I attended the first full lecture in a first-year education course where I am the teaching assistant, a course entitled "self and other." The lecture was titled "Representational practices." Again and again I am amazed at how I can respond powerfully to some cultural presentation of "the way things are," who the people are, how they are positioned in society - and then a more critical look at it can turn my response inside out, upside down. I am just barely beginning to do some of that critical looking for myself...

Madcap said...

What kind of literature does the course use? I'm interested!