One Day I Will Rule the World

World Domination, Babies and Middle Eastern Dance

October 30, 2011

Classy Friends

There’s a woman in my dance group who is well enough off that it kind of stands out socially. Her husband is a doctor, and an exceptionally specialized one and she stays home with their two kids. She complains of being so busy – because she volunteers so many places and because each of her girls needs to be in three activities.

One evening, waiting for our dance class to begin, I stood chatting with her as she told me about how she and her family were flying to some place tropical the next day. Our chat was interrupted by her phone ringing, and then I sat privy to her side of a conversation where her husband worked out his angst about wanting to buy a porsche 911. Her side of the conversation was actually pretty boring – it mostly consisted of her, nonplussed, trying to wrap things up with, “Okay well buy it then. …. Well you know I don’t care. Just get it if you want it. Well if you feel rushed, you can wait until we’re back from vacation. …Okay well if you think it won’t be there that long, then buy it tonight. …No, I really don’t care. ….I mean it, just get it if you want it.”

So really, I’m not trying to illustrate anything about her life except that, sometimes when she talks like we’re all compatriots, some of us in the room might roll our eyes and chuckle to ourselves, recognizing that the ability to think a gap in privilege is completely trivial betrays a rather significant amount of privilege.

Which is maybe unfair. I know that she used to be a nurse and worked in radiology. There probably was a time in her life when she had to be concerned about supporting herself, and it seemed important to choose and pursue a career. And I have no idea how humble her beginnings were. And just because her life has become something that none of the rest of us would recognize, doesn’t mean that she identifies herself by it. It’s probably not any more unfair of her to feel like we’re her people than it is for someone in her late twenties to still see teenagers as her people. Sometimes we don’t realize how far we’ve come and we always see ourselves as belonging to the same classes and groups that we did ten years ago.

I also wonder how much of class differences we see only when we’re looking up. It’s really hard to say.

I was mulling this over tonight because Ian started fixing our sewer line today and as things went wrong, we found ourselves calling on various friends for favours and tool loans. I had this moment of thinking, “we’re so lucky that so many of our friends are in trades” and then I had to stop and scratch my head about “well why are so many of our friends in trades? Well I suppose trade work is a bit of a class thing and people of a certain class tend to stick together because they feel like those people get them. But then, are we part of that class? If we think so, do they think so?”

Ian’s a very handy guy – so, being someone who likes to get his hands dirty and hates to just pay to have something done, he totally feels like blue collar guys are just “his people”. We both come from pretty humble backgrounds. We’ve made some concessions for the financial stability we enjoy now, but we both value family, friends and our own principles way over financial stability.

The fact remains that our jobs are pretty white-collar and those collars seem to get whiter every year.

On the other hand, in terms of class, our coworkers are definitely not our people. For example, this summer, when the starter on the Explorer was going, and while he spent each weekend working to diagnose it and going in search of a starter at the wreckers and taking things apart on the explorer, Ian had discerned that by banging on the starter, he could jostle whatever was failing back into place long enough to get the Explorer started. And so we passed about three weeks in this manner – with a hammer on the passenger seat for just in case and about fifty percent of trips commencing with Ian under the hood banging away with the hammer. One evening, as he worked on it, he commented that everyone at work seemed to be looking on his behaviour with a kind of bewildered indulgence; a look in their eyes that plainly said, “why would you live like this rather than just pay someone to fix it.”

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