Friends are important… I love friends.
The other day, let’s just say for the sake of privacy (I’m allowed to share this if I don’t use her name), that I had a conversation with a friend from childhood (leaves some anonymity) and we talked a bit about the troubles of defining social status after age 30. She grew up in a middle class family in Wisconsin and has since become a very different sort of person than most people in her family.
She’s had a hard time adjusting. Being flung from a secure, slightly sheltered upbringing in a Wisconsin suburb to a life in urban Boston has been a shift. She’s doing well she says, but she’s often felt a sort of identity crisis. All those ideas about herself in relation to others that she painstakingly formed in childhood and adolescence (as we all do) are being challeged. Constantly. And is this a good thing or not? It’s baffling.
I can relate to her crisis, but in a very different way… Frankly, in the last year I’ve realized how silly my view of myself has been my whole life… I’m quite open about things on this blog and my confusion has emerged here and there in the angsty or thoughtful post, but I didn’t start nailing down my thoughts in my own mind until the last year.
My parents are… incredibly humble and demure about matters of class when it comes to themselves (as most people in their families are) but… for whatever reason they (bless their hearts) failed to fully divulge a clear understanding of our place socially speaking. They meant well and they and many others like them in our family might not even know any better.
Yes. I’m going there on this blog. No. I don’t care who this leaves aghast or offended… Because if you’re close to me you likely won’t find this horribly offensive anyway. And if you do please discuss it with me in person.
We were not the salt-of-the-earth, simplistically “Little House on the Prairie family” I thought. And while I heard things here and there, overall, my parent’s life choices to be hippies/semi hippies in some form totally obscured my understanding.
My father did use to say, “oh those little girls were just being mean because they thought you were rich.” And I never knew what he was talking about. My parents weren’t “rich”. We didn’t have the right clothes, etc. I thought.
I used to argue with him out of confusion and a desire for accuracy and he’d say, “Well, sometimes when little girls are pretty some people just assume they’re well off.” Of course, that’s not… exactly correct… to say the least. But, as a child I took the compliment and let it go.
It’s too complicated and frankly explosive to discuss on a forum even as public as this (not terribly public in all actuality). But suffice it to say, I wish I had had a different explanation (read correct) given to me about almost everyone and everything and who or what they are and were. It would have explained so many petty jealousies and the occasional nonsense I’ve encountered in regard to others over the years and social norms and expectations, both inside our family and out, that I’ve internalized. When you’re told you’re a duck your whole life but are actually a dove it can obviously be tremendously awkward. You feel vague and confusing anger at people for interactions that are baffling for unknown reasons…
I hate social climbers. So does my father. I hate pretension… He did too. Instead I value privacy intensely. And at times I get confused about people’s true motivations.
And all those friends who grew up like me, in my parent’s circles, with fathers who actually were professors (there were a few) and with travel in their blood who felt a similar confusion about their place… they too deserved more self understanding. A better explanation. Actually, that’s not entirely true though. A person like them, who I befriended in college (her father was a professor though too intriguingly) clued me in…
“People always assume we’re poor” she said. Supposedly it was because they lived in a small house in a nice neighborhood and it irritated her… But in reality her extended family was quite established with a place on Lake Michigan for summer holidays and several of her relatives were doctors at Mayo Clinic (among other similar or more “alluring” and “prestigious” things). “I don’t like telling people anything like that though.” she said in a sincere and vulnerable hushed voice. “I don’t want people to think I’m a… Well, yiu know: a rich bitch.” She uncomfortably laughed and lowered her voice even further with the last word. She wanted people to be at ease… because she was empathetic.
She wasn’t interested in living a false life… Yet she was confused about many things and burdened by a conflict between what others perceived and what was reality.
But what do you do with all the feelings of anxiety? The silliness of class pretension from people determined to “make it” or “fit in?” Not that I don’t sympathize but good grief! If you keep your mouth shut around those sort of folks or never “explain anything” they assume you’re beneath them for anything they can perceive (and this has been my experience most of my life). But if you start laying out your “true status” for some reason they feel the need to compete mindlessly to no avail and/or assume you’re the devil for being born who you are. The worst of the two is the first because what do you do with pushy people with wildly determined egos?
Yes this is offensive. (If you’re one of those people) 🤓😏
It’s not a truly shameful thing to be born poor but of course it’s also not a crime to be born “rich” or “wealthy” (one way or another) either…
*sigh* I need to figure so many things out.
How does this post strike you? Does it make you angry? Why? Or is it something better you’re feeling? I wonder…