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One foot on the "right" side of the track, one foot on the "wrong" side of the track.
October 7, 2008 1:09 PM   Subscribe

Socializing “across the tracks”. My father grew up poor, and is now working a blue-collar job. My mother grew up upper-middle class (except the first 8-9 years), went to college, and is working in a decent profession. Because of their backgrounds, they’re really different people. Being their daughter, I take on the characteristics of both. As a result, I cannot fully identify with neither middle-class or working-class (or even poor) people. Nor, am I fully accepted by either group.

This is kind of “part-two” of last week’s question, I was not comfortable bringing this up. There were many many replies telling me to cool it on trying to find similarities when it came to dating prospects. There were also some questions asking me why I was so desperate to find things in common with people. The answer is, a few reasons, one of them being that I am trying to compensate for what I believe is a fundamental difference (and insecurity!) in the way I was raised and things I experienced in life. I come across some people who are like myself, they are “bi-class”. But, the majority of people I come across, fit way more neatly in one category or another. In other words, no matter which way I go, I will be “dating up” or “dating down”, or befriending up or down.

I read a book last summer called “Crossing the Tracks for Love”. It was a great book. It was very informative, and gave a lot of advice how to get along with a partner (and their family/friends) from another class. There was one problem I had with the book, a lot of the advice was kind of on the superficial side. It only offered “band-aid” solutions, like imitating your partner’s habits which were influenced by their upbringing. Well, that’s fine in short-term, but if that’s your only strategy, you will lose your own identity.

For those who have grown up like me, what did you do to put people with different economic backgrounds at ease, without completely changing yourself? This question also includes those who have came from only one “class”, but is dating someone of a different background. How did you guys wind up together?
posted by sixcolors to Society & Culture (76 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
what did you do to put people with different economic backgrounds at ease,

I do my level best to treat everyone, regardless of class, with kindness and respect.

It's worked out quite well for me.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 1:19 PM on October 7, 2008 [7 favorites]


Stop thinking about where you came from and focus on where you are now. People who talk only about what they had or didn't have growing up are an awful bore. Everybody is exactly the same in that everyone is different and everyone's family situation is unique. Stop worrying about it, and just treat everyone with respect.

The whole focus on dating up/down thing is weird and gross and makes me want to vomit a little. It'll probably make your future romantic interests want to vomit a little, too, so chill out.
posted by phunniemee at 1:22 PM on October 7, 2008


Oops forgot to add this...

Two issues I often come across. With middle class people, I'm not viewed as sophisticated enough. With those who are below middle class, I'm not viewed as street-smart enough, and there is resentment because I had more material posessions growing up. The resentment problem is HUGE, so much that I started downplaying the good parts of my life within the last year.
posted by sixcolors at 1:22 PM on October 7, 2008


Not to point out the obvious, but, um, maybe you should ask your folks how they managed?
posted by mandal at 1:23 PM on October 7, 2008


I think you should spend less effort trying to fit in, and more effort trying to be comfortable with yourself as you are.

Someone who is genuine is more likeable than someone who is faking it, no matter what they're faking.
posted by Class Goat at 1:24 PM on October 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


Stop thinking about where you came from and focus on where you are now. People who talk only about what they had or didn't have growing up are an awful bore. Everybody is exactly the same in that everyone is different and everyone's family situation is unique. Stop worrying about it, and just treat everyone with respect.

The whole focus on dating up/down thing is weird and gross and makes me want to vomit a little. It'll probably make your future romantic interests want to vomit a little, too, so chill out.


It makes me want to vomit too. Actually, I used to completely avoid this issue, and ignored my upbringing, but it didn't change the way other people treated me. Many people bring up the class issues, and are quite upfront about what (and who) they find acceptable or not.
posted by sixcolors at 1:26 PM on October 7, 2008


Stop treating people as economic statistics and treat them as people. There are a few phrases that you used in this question that quite frankly, if you used them in casual converstation, I'd be offended. (For the record, I was raised lower-middle class to poor, but now can be considered solidly upper middle class and I do just fine.) People are people are people are people. Just be yourself and stop trying to condescend to others and you'll be fine.

Examples of offending phrases are:

and is working in a decent profession
working-class (or even poor) people
I will be “dating up” or “dating down”, or befriending up or down.
posted by youcancallmeal at 1:28 PM on October 7, 2008


Not to point out the obvious, but, um, maybe you should ask your folks how they managed?

THEY don't have the answer to this question, lol. They've been together over 20 years and don't understand how they are still married. Fate I guess.
posted by sixcolors at 1:30 PM on October 7, 2008


I think all relationships are about tolerating some form of difference. If difference (such as class) in your case brings up that much anxiety, I think that is the problem, not on which side of the tracks you're trying to decide you belong. The way you write, you sound very head-y about this, and I think whatever dudes come along probably care a great deal more about much more superficial things.

I don't agree with the technique-y stance of the book you read, or any other sort of trying to tweaking the environment (as in finding that certain guy who is similar enough) to solve your issue. I think finding the way to tolerate the anxiety of difference and working on building your own kind of bridge across those tracks will actually lead you to the fulfilling relationships you seek.
posted by No New Diamonds Please at 1:30 PM on October 7, 2008


Stop treating people as economic statistics and treat them as people. There are a few phrases that you used in this question that quite frankly, if you used them in casual converstation, I'd be offended.

I would never ever use some of those phrases in real life conversations. I used them for the purpose of this post.

As for your first sentence, that goes both ways, people (not everyone of course) treat me as a economic statistic, and are sometimes pretty upfront about it.
posted by sixcolors at 1:34 PM on October 7, 2008


As for your first sentence, that goes both ways, people (not everyone of course) treat me as a economic statistic, and are sometimes pretty upfront about it.

And you want to befriend these people?
posted by youcancallmeal at 1:41 PM on October 7, 2008


I would never ever use some of those phrases in real life conversations. I used them for the purpose of this post.

Even if you don't use those terms to someone's face, you are still viewing life through that lens. That's a bigger problem that should be acknowledged so you can work past it. Stop trying to "fit [people] neatly in one category or another" and stop trying to put them at ease due to how you perceive they should be handled. If you're able to act more authentically with others you should be fine.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 1:42 PM on October 7, 2008


And you want to befriend these people?

I'd rather not, but I come across so many people like this, it's hard to avoid. Any suggestions on where to find non-so-class-conscious peope?
posted by sixcolors at 1:46 PM on October 7, 2008


There is no secret algorithm to functional human relationships. In this case, I have to think that by being so painfully conscious of difference in class and socioeconomic strata, you make others more aware of it, and create an uncomfortable situation all around. I don't go around in social situations and relationships asking, "Hey, is this beer too fancy for you? Would you maybe prefer a Schlitz, would that make you feel more comfortable?" Or ask, "Do you really want me to go to dinner with all your Ivy League friends? I wouldn't want to embarrass you or anything."

I think you'll actually find that most reasonably polite people are fairly fluid within environments. Talk to people about what they want to talk about, never condescend to anyone, never act bitter, tune in to social cues. You can be with anyone, I swear, if you look at them as a person rather than a set of characteristics or statistics.

Stop being so introspective and tabulating every aspect of every interaction. Self-centeredness is always a turn off.
posted by peachfuzz at 1:48 PM on October 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


I empathize with your situation; it is similar to my own growing up. My advice, in short: Don't sell out who you are; you'll regret it. Learn to accept your unique background.

As everyone has mentioned, you should "treat everyone, regardless of class, with kindness and respect". But it's really not that simple; in life, not everyone will like you for one reason or another. One reason might be because people determine that you are not of "their level". I've learned those people do not deserve my consideration, socially or otherwise.

When I went away to college (I'm one of the few in a large family to have a degree) I also couldn't help but notice how much more sophisticated some in my new college peer group seemed than I was. After I accepted that some had it a little better than me, economically speaking, I found the best tool I had was simply using the golden rule. Sounds trite, but it worked pretty well for me.

Whatever you do, don't allow a desire to be liked make you trade in those things about your personality that make you what you are. Sometimes, it got a little lonely (again, not everyone is going to like you), but I've found the relationships I've been able to have over the years to be far more durable as a result of not selling myself out, one way or the other. .
posted by PsuDab93 at 1:51 PM on October 7, 2008


Don't mention about you or your family members or friends:

Brand names
How much you paid for something
What restaurant you ate at
Where you travel(ed)
Salaries and/or benefits
What school you're going to
Other people's good or bad service
How you got away with something someone else would've gotten arrested for

NO:

"I was on break from Columbia, my dad had like three weeks of vacation so he took me on a father-daughter bonding cruise. There was this cute guy and we got had 3 bottles of Dom and a little coke...anyway, we went to the hotel bar and this complete bitch of a bartender wouldn't serve us. She called the manager and he totally called my dad! What an asshole, right?"


Be responsive, if people start getting defensive or tease you think about what you're doing and try to tone it down a little bit.

Don't get defensive. If people are teasing you, laugh it off if you can, and say something like "you've got me there" or "oh man, I really sound like that?! shit!" Stop hanging around with them if you can't laugh it off

Ask questions and show genuine interest, if you don't feel your manners or street-smarts are up to par ASK for help with them or guidance. Or observe and try to imitate. You should do this around any new group of people, really, just to make sure you're not stepping on toes or doing anything really crazy.

Be humble and realize that you have a lot to learn about the world.

Acknowledge the inherent worth of every person, including yourself.

Get anti-anxiety medication.


My father was raised with his own wing, my mother was raised eating onions because that's all they had. We grew up middle class...ish. I spent a year living with my ex's family, who were old-school oil money.

Class matters. Don't let anyone tell you it doesn't. That said, your behaviors are NOT WHO YOU ARE. Sometimes you should downplay the good parts of your life. Imitating the behaviors of the people around you won't make you lose your identity. You just have to accept that you have a lot to learn and do your best to be pleasant and likable to those people who are valuable to you.

In other words, using a paper napkin is not going to make you less YOU. Nor is making coffee with a French Press instead of a Mr. Coffee going to rob you of your identity. Yes, your learned class behaviors are part of you, but they're not who you are.
posted by sondrialiac at 1:51 PM on October 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


Try seeing your background as a blessing rather than a curse - you are lucky enough to be able to have insights into two different strata of society - this ought to make you more broadminded about life and class, rather than anxious about it. If the people that you are hanging out with insist on making you feel uncomfortable because of aspects of your social background I say 'F*ck 'Em'. No, really, I mean it: They aren't worth it. Move on and find some real friends who like you as you are...

FWIW I come from a working class northern european background, and my partner comes from an upper middle class southern european background, though as a result of education I now suspect we are both middle class (ish). Shared interests and the internet brought us together :)
posted by Chairboy at 1:51 PM on October 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Many people bring up the class issues, and are quite upfront about what (and who) they find acceptable or not.

Can you give examples of this? It might help us get our heads around the question.

FWIW, I can't recall "class" ever being an issue for me in social situations. I tend to be fairly observant about these things, because the NPO I used to work for dealt with housing issues, so it wasn't unusual for me to spend time with people from the very lowest end of the economic spectrum (ie: clients) and people from the very highest end of the economic spectrum (ie: donors and building owners) on a daily basis.

While I won't deny that they very rich are different from you and I (largely, I think, because they're often unaware or unfamiliar with the struggles and choices that most of us need to make daily), I can't honestly say that in social situations I've ever found big differences between "middle" and "working" class. So I'm having a little trouble getting my head around the idea of what people "find acceptable". Are you talking about manners here? Ability to travel? Life experiences?
posted by anastasiav at 1:53 PM on October 7, 2008


people (not everyone of course) treat me as a economic statistic

I think you're hanging around the wrong people, or the wrong kind of places.

I say that because these people would have to know you well enough to know your economic situation/background in order to look down on you for it. If strangers are regularly treating you a certain way because of a background they would have no way of othewise knowing, you are either wearing a huge sign, or are paranoid. So, either take off the sign or try to chill out, whichever is appropriate.

Ok, so that's kind of harsh, but I'm still posting it. Seriously, though, through work and a commute on public transportation(not to mention if I go out for any reason), I come into contact with a ton of people every day. I can't think of any occasion where I feel someone has treated me a certain way based on their perception of my wealth, or lack thereof, and I know for a fact no one has ever made a comment of that nature to my face. This is anecdotal at best, but I think you'd be able to gather a lot of similar anecdotes.
posted by owtytrof at 1:54 PM on October 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm having trouble imagining what you're talking about. I understand it in the broad strokes - *sometimes* with some people I've feel like I grew up a privileged princess, and sometimes with others I've felt like an unsophisticated townie.... but it's almost never an issue socially because it takes big differences in upbringing for me to feel self-conscious about my own. It also seems like you're conflating "social class" with "income" - since you say your mother zoomed to upper-middle around the age of 9... unless she got new *parents* at that point, I wouldn't think she changed "classes"... anyway, that was a long winded way of asking how you define class, and what exactly is it that you're uncomfortable with?
posted by moxiedoll at 1:56 PM on October 7, 2008


There is no secret algorithm to functional human relationships. In this case, I have to think that by being so painfully conscious of difference in class and socioeconomic strata, you make others more aware of it, and create an uncomfortable situation all around. I don't go around in social situations and relationships asking, "Hey, is this beer too fancy for you? Would you maybe prefer a Schlitz, would that make you feel more comfortable?" Or ask, "Do you really want me to go to dinner with all your Ivy League friends? I wouldn't want to embarrass you or anything."

This is something I almost never bring up in interactions, it's things I just notice.

I'm so painfully conscious and insecure because I almost never see people cross class lines when it comes to dating, and only occasionally when it comes to friendship.
posted by sixcolors at 1:57 PM on October 7, 2008


I remember last week's question.

I still think you're imagining or exaggerating how people treat you, probably because of these way-overthought notions of what they think of you.

Myself, I don't know anyone who treats people the way you describe based on 'class', know all kinds of people who are both very wealthy and very poor, and it seems to not impact how they get along at all. Maybe fifty years ago, maybe to our grandparents, but not today, no. And it rings really false that you say "people who are X all treat me THIS way, and people who are Y treat me THAT way." You're the one sorting people into classes. You are the problem, or at least you're doing your damndest to perpetuate the problem.

People are not X or Y. People are an entire spectrum of never-exactly-alike things.

Stop "trying to compensate for things" and stop being so FALSE in how you deal with people. Be yourself, stop grouping others into categories like that and fucking relax... and you'll be fine, jeez.

Youcancallmeal said it above: your tone and insistence that "everyone else treats me unfairly" says it all, here.

No, they don't.
posted by rokusan at 2:00 PM on October 7, 2008 [7 favorites]


Move to England. They are obsessed with class there and quite happy to talk about it. And as an American, your accent won't place you as a particular class so they won't be able to tell!

Seriously, however, Americans don't deal well with class because we pretend it doesn't exist and then talk about how people of other classes make us vaguely "uncomfortable."

What really matters really is shared values-- if you share those, you can get through virtually every cultural difference and if not, you will have difficulty.

If you value education and are hanging around with people who haven't read a book-- no matter what class you or they are-- you won't be comfortable or happy. If you are highly literate and meet a person of a different class who is similar-- even if one person is self-taught and the other went to an Ivy League school-- you can find common ground in your shared love of learning.

If you treat differences as a source of curiosity not a kind of judgment, you'll tend to do fine with most people, regardless of class, so long as you are sensitive to social cues. These can be tuned differently by class, but if you pay attention, you can figure out what you need to know in most situations to behave appropriately.
posted by Maias at 2:04 PM on October 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


To say what I am trying to say another way, and sorry for the brutal hammer here...

"Because of their backgrounds, they’re really different people."

See how that changes things? Stop playing class games yourself, and it will change things in your life.
posted by rokusan at 2:04 PM on October 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is something I almost never bring up in interactions, it's things I just notice.

You mention this, as well as vague bits about perception of status. Can you give a concrete example of something that has bolstered what you think of as others judging you on what class you belong in? Maybe you are noticing things that aren't really what you think they are.
posted by kellyblah at 2:04 PM on October 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm so painfully conscious and insecure because...

I'm going to be very brief and very polite here. Most of your questions start this way and end in some different way. I don't think it's the second part of your questions that are the problem in your life I think it's the first part, and you are confusing cause and effect.

I'm very very sympathetic to feeling like you don't fit in, I've been that way a lot of my life. At some point I got the message that the "not fitting in" was a general constant feeling and not a scientific evidence-based conclusion I arrived at by examining all the available data that I'd been able to thinkthinkthink about. At this point I started finding ways to manage what was now a whole new [and ultimately easier to deal with] problem. I wish you luck.
posted by jessamyn at 2:07 PM on October 7, 2008 [28 favorites]


I'm gonna try to answer your question as best I can. I grew up in a rural Southern community, the child of two teachers. Both my parents have advanced degrees, my father's people were farmers, and my mother's people were...let's just say lower working class. From a very early age I remember being taught by both my parents to be respectful and truly interested in the individual, not where they came from or who their parents were. I was active in the rural/farm clubs like 4H and also in honors classes. By high school, I was friends with most groups and from what I've been told after the fact, mostly liked by them as well.

As an adult, it's been commented on that I can "get on with most anybody". And I really do try. I'm in academics now and have an advanced degree and I'm working on another. When it comes up in conversation with my friends who aren't into academics or the like, there may be an impressed pause or a dismissal, depending on who I'm around. But my education is not me.

Additionally, when I'm hanging around academics or "upper class" types and it comes out that I know how to shoot a gun or slaughter a pig, there may be some statement of "Oh that's neat." or "You don't seem country." But again, that's not who I am. I am the sum of my parts. I'm smart and funny, and silly, and a little bit of a redneck from time to time. Those who love me, love all the bits, and those who don't have their own reasons.

The thing is, you will always meet people who judge you on random reasons. You can't anticipate that, nor can you correct for it. But regardless, I always make a real effort to actually try to understand the individual. Sometimes that means understanding that just because she doesn't know when Wilson was president doesn't mean she's stupid. Sometimes that means that just because someone has an understanding of Foucault doesn't mean he's nice.

I will admit one thing. I have two accents. I have my normal speaking voice which has only a trace of Southern to it and I have my comfortable/hanging out with my family voice which is much more Southern and much less refined. I often unconsciously shift between them in any given situation. Dealing with a good ole' boy cop? Politely Southern. Dealing with a fellow faculty member? Much less Southern.

I think your main issue is not that you come from a mixed background, it's that you are basically insecure as to where you fit. So just be sixcolors. Just be you, a little bit street, a little bit high class. Don't sweat it. You're no better or worse than anybody else. The only people you'll have issues with are those who are hyper-aware of status. And really, they don't count for much anyway.
posted by teleri025 at 2:09 PM on October 7, 2008 [3 favorites]


....Huh.

Okay, my parents were almost exactly the same way -- lower-class paternal family, upper-class maternal family -- and I also have a mix of the two traits. And yeah, there are times that I feel that the upper-crust doesn't totally get me, and neither does the lower-crust.

But the way I cope with it is, by realizing that not everyone IS entirely wholly upper-crust or lower-crust. Yes, there are people who do obsess over labels and status and what-not, but -- honestly, there are people who DON'T care about this, and are more interested in who you are as an individual.

So I just dealt with this by writing off the people that cared more about my brand affiliation than they did about me. "Oh, I'm not good enough for you because I don't have Manolo Blahniks? Well, it's your loss, I'm going to go over there and hang out with those other folks instead."

I understand that not every social difference can be that blithely overlooked, and that some status differences are greater -- but your best tack if you're running into a conflict with someone who was raised in a particular social class is to stop looking at it as a class issue, and to look at it as a PERSONALITY issue. It's not about "I was raised in this class and you were raised in that one," it's about "I personally have this specific attitude about X and you personally have that specific attitude." Once you break it down to the personal like that, that can help you come up with a personal and tailor-made solution for the two of you -- which will make much more sense than trying to fit some cookie-cutter mold or follow a superficial solution.

But really, it's all about just throwing up your hands and accepting that, "you know what, fuck it -- I like both Mozart AND Hanson, and that's just the way I roll, so there," and then seeking out people who are cool with that. And I promise you, they're out there -- I can show you my address book full of friends who have been cool with that in me.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:13 PM on October 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


The documentary Born Rich was just mentioned on the blue, and there was an interesting answer given by one of the female subjects as to why she only dates rich men, especially because she already has all the money she could ever want. She said she had dated a non-rich guy who was appalled that she spent $6,000 on purses, and thought she should feed the poor or something with that money. But collecting expensive purses was her hobby, and she didn't see why he should stop her.

I have the same problem with someone I know, who is always discarding expensive things. If I don't want to be known as the trash-picking guy, sometimes I just have to let it go.
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:14 PM on October 7, 2008


I'm so painfully conscious and insecure because I almost never see people cross class lines when it comes to dating, and only occasionally when it comes to friendship

Then, like other posters suggested, you are hanging around the wrong people. I live in NYC, which is rife with some of the most clear-cut class distinction imaginable, and I've still managed to find a large circle of friends for whom class is largely a non-issue.

I grew up in rural Appalachia, to a single mother. During my childhood we struggle through being poor,and eventually made it to lower middle class. There were times when my mom took a second job at Burger King. I worked from the time I was 15. I went to a state school on a full scholarship. I worked in retail management for 7 years before transitioning into my professional career.

I've found that many people are curious about my background (or at least my accent), but few of them judge me because of it. My boyfriend of four years is the child of upper middle class bohemians (a writer and a designer), was born in London, and raised in Manhattan. Yet we are struck by how similar in temperament and attitude we are.

I don't know what advice to give you other than to roll with it. If people are jerks, then don't play with them. But don't fool yourself into thinking this is how everyone "is".
posted by kimdog at 2:14 PM on October 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


Wow, I find it interesting that I'm getting a message that "it's all in my head". I've had very real experiences, and observed a lot more...

You mention this, as well as vague bits about perception of status. Can you give a concrete example of something that has bolstered what you think of as others judging you on what class you belong in? Maybe you are noticing things that aren't really what you think they are.

When I was greek in college, there were some chapters that didn't accept prospective members because their parents weren't prominent people in the community. I've heard members from those chapters FLAT OUT SAY IT.

Some classist and "reverse" classist comments I heard within the last few weeks...

"I'm totally interested in this girl, but she's JUST a manager at Express, that really sucks".

"It's really stupid that "Susan" got her Homecoming dress at Macy's for $200. I got mine at a thrift store for $15. I guess mommy and daddy or that douchebag boyfriend got it for her."

*To me* "What your parents didn't go anywhere exotic for their honeymoon? If they didn't have enough money to go somewhere nice for a honeymoon, maybe they should've delayed their wedding."

"You drink orange soda? I thought only ghetto people drink that."

*To me* "No, I don't want to take a road trip to Chicago, especially the north side, it's too many snobby righ people!"

"I would never marry a guy who went to a state school".

I hear stuff like this all the time. And, like I said earlier in my post, I almost never see people cross class lines when it comes to dating. Maybe a half-dozen of couples that I know.
posted by sixcolors at 2:31 PM on October 7, 2008


What other people think of you is none of your business. If they are making it clear that your background isn't good enough for them (and you might be projecting a bit here), you need do nothing, because this is not your problem, it's theirs. Having a lower class background myself, with a bunch of intellectual snobbery attached (yes, what a fine mix), I discovered that the older I got, the less it mattered. Also, people who declined to play that game did well, because it wasn't even an issue. Lastly, this question I asked a couple of months ago might help.
posted by b33j at 2:35 PM on October 7, 2008


How did I forget to mention this? My own father admitted that he sometimes resents me because I didn't have as much of a hard life as him.
posted by sixcolors at 2:35 PM on October 7, 2008


Do you really want to hang out with those people? In cases of such rudeness, my standard is to ignore it, because I can't change them.
posted by b33j at 2:37 PM on October 7, 2008


Okay, most frat/Greek people are known for being classist jerks. This is not news. These are also not people that I would choose to hang out with.

The rest of your comments are either indicative of someone just being a douche or random hilarity. So what if orange soda is known for being ghetto? It's tasty! I love chicken fried steak and anyone who looks down on me can suck it.

I think you're taking this all WAY too personally. Sure, people are jerks. But my question still stands: are these the people you want to be friends with?
posted by youcancallmeal at 2:37 PM on October 7, 2008


My own father admitted that he sometimes resents me because I didn't have as much of a hard life as him.

This just sucks, but it's your father's problem not yours. I mean, he is the one who raised you and allowed you to have the life you have.
posted by youcancallmeal at 2:38 PM on October 7, 2008


I'm going to give you the same advice I gave to Anonymous Fedora Guy in an infamous AskMe thread. Because even though the subject matter of his question and your question appear different on the surface, I think there's actually a common underlying problem (especially in light of the questions you keep asking about what seems to be a consistent pattern of overanalyzing the surface aspects of how you relate to others and how they relate to you).

In a nutshell, I advise you to start relating to yourself and others on the basis of qualities rather than quirks, preferences, socioeconomic indicators, or any other collection of outward signifiers you seem to keep mistakenly latching on to as the "key" to who people are.

Simply put, there are honest, kind, compassionate, engaging, honorable, loyal, and loving people of ALL classes, belief systems, and backgrounds. Strive to be one yourself, and you'll start to find them in your life.

My boyfriend and I come from different class backgrounds, and yes, we have our differences about certain things that are grounded in our upbringings. But they are a minor part of the overall fabric of our relationship -- one that's based on mutual affection, attraction, honesty, and respect. There is no difference so big that we haven't ultimately been able to laugh about it. And that's got nothing to do with the fact that he has a high school diploma and I have a master's degree.
posted by scody at 2:40 PM on October 7, 2008 [4 favorites]


My extended family varies from blue-collar to middle. One thing I tend to look at is the similarities more than differences. Yeah, my extended family is varies a lot by class, but we all love to talk and try new things. So someone brings jello to the family reunion and someone else brings sushi. Everyone tries a bit of the sushi, eats a lot of the jello and talks.

Try to see how you're similar with someone, don't just focus on how you're different.
posted by stoneegg21 at 2:52 PM on October 7, 2008


Honestly, I don't see what the problem is. I grew up in a similar environment, and never saw the need to label myself as one or the other. People say dumb, classist things around you. The most appropriate response is always: "Really? Huh." and change the subject.

It sounds like there are more pressing self-confidence issues here.
posted by OLechat at 2:53 PM on October 7, 2008


I live in NYC, which is rife with some of the most clear-cut class distinction imaginable, and I've still managed to find a large circles of friends for whom class is largely a non-issue.

(I'm using this quote strictly as an example, not having to do with the person who said it)

In defense of the OP (whom I admittedly am not quite understanding), of the large circles of friends that a lot of us have that we think are immune to being influenced by or thinking about "class":

If you're a middle class person income-wise, how many of your circle of friends live below the poverty level? How many are millionaires? Probably not many or none, I imagine.

The truth is that for the most part, we hang out with people like us. I think the OP feels like she can't fit in because she can't find the "like hers" - she's got a foot in both worlds.
posted by tristeza at 2:54 PM on October 7, 2008


I don't care about how you grew up, I care about whether or not you're a decent person now.
posted by wherever, whatever at 3:03 PM on October 7, 2008


What really matters really is shared values-- if you share those, you can get through virtually every cultural difference and if not, you will have difficulty.

How should I communicate this? I think I'm ok in locating people's values, but don't know where to go from there.

I'm going to give you the same advice I gave to Anonymous Fedora Guy in an infamous AskMe thread.

Should I laugh or cry about this?

If you're a middle class person income-wise, how many of your circle of friends live below the poverty level? How many are millionaires? Probably not many or none, I imagine.

I don't know any right now, but some of the people I know were extremely poor as kids and teenagers.

I think the OP feels like she can't fit in because she can't find the "like hers" - she's got a foot in both worlds.

That is correct.
posted by sixcolors at 3:10 PM on October 7, 2008


I don't know any right now, but some of the people I know were extremely poor as kids and teenagers.

I was trying to make the point that as much as a lot of us are here saying "oh, no, me and my friends don't ever consider class, no one I know ever even thinks about it", we all probably DO in fact hang out with people of like "class".
posted by tristeza at 3:17 PM on October 7, 2008


Should I laugh or cry about this?

Seriously? I'd suggest thinking about it for awhile first, without reacting.

Reflect on the qualities you want to cultivate in yourself as a decent human being. Then reflect on the people you know who also share some of those qualities. Then think about what relationships -- both platonic and romantic -- might look like when they're based on those qualities.
posted by scody at 3:22 PM on October 7, 2008


Seriously? I'd suggest thinking about it for awhile first, without reacting.

I was joking.

Very funny that I was compared to such an infamous person on here.

Very disturbing...that I was compared to such an infamous person on here.

Reflect on the qualities you want to cultivate in yourself as a decent human being. Then reflect on the people you know who also share some of those qualities. Then think about what relationships -- both platonic and romantic -- might look like when they're based on those qualities.

Will do.
posted by sixcolors at 3:28 PM on October 7, 2008


I think the OP feels like she can't fit in because she can't find the "like hers" - she's got a foot in both worlds.

Are you college educated, do you have a job? What is your income level? That's the world your feet are in. It's not that you can't find people who match your background, but that as a result of your background you have sympathy for other styles of life that some people may not.

So again, I think the problem is that you need to find some friends who aren't so catty about social class. Easier said than done, I know, but most people here are surprised that you can't find friends who don't constantly diss other people and their living situation. So there must be a greater problem explaining why those petty people are the only ones you can find.

I think that dropping your ideas about class would be extremely beneficial. You can't do anything about other peoples' behaviors, but you can change your own and thus be more appealing to the people you really want to be friends with.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 3:32 PM on October 7, 2008


It wasn't intended to be "disturbing," sixcolors, which is precisely why I wrote "even though the subject matter of his question and your question appear different on the surface, I think there's actually a common underlying problem." Feel free to take umbrage, but the advice was offered in good faith. Ignore it, and the other advice in this thread, as you like.
posted by scody at 3:38 PM on October 7, 2008


And yes, I knew you were "joking" -- but in that way that's, if you're honest, really only half-joking, right? The reason I answered back to you seriously is that I believe you deserve to be treated like an adult who is genuinely interested in dealing with these issues and finding a better way to be in the world and around other people.
posted by scody at 3:42 PM on October 7, 2008


There's an interesting documentary about social class in the US that's I'll recommend, although it's actually quite hard to get ahold of. People Like Us (2001) is usually only available at libraries and for educational use, which is too bad, since it offers a pretty extended consideration of just the sorts of issues you're talking about, including dating (one woman is shown getting dating lessons on how to fit in with people of a higher social class). If you're as preoccupied with these questions as you seem to be, it will surely be interesting viewing, even if it doesn't manage to answer very many of your questions.

As for how to put people at ease. . . the short sad answer is that you can't. Not entirely, anyhow. With practice and careful observation you'll be able to make a better impression on some people, but not everyone. People who have strong reactions against the poor or against the well-off will wince a little whenever they see you exhibit a behavior that they feel is typical of the group they dislike.

The better news, maybe, is that most people--except for those that lead extremely insular lives--have to deal with similar problems. Dealing with people of other races, religions, national cultures, and so forth always involves a process of accommodation of difference that's never exactly comfortable or easy. We all have identity issues to negotiate, and it happens that class is one of the particular crosses that it's fallen to you to bear.

Is that especially helpful? I doubt it. But if misery loves company, perhaps you can love the fact that you've got lots of company in your efforts to work these problems through.
posted by washburn at 3:43 PM on October 7, 2008


So again, I think the problem is that you need to find some friends who aren't so catty about social class. Easier said than done, I know, but most people here are surprised that you can't find friends who don't constantly diss other people and their living situation. So there must be a greater problem explaining why those petty people are the only ones you can find.

I am surprised too, but the other way around. I'm surprised how such lines are easily crossed in some member's worlds. That has to be awesome, and it gives me hope. Perhaps I should relocate. I live in a metropolitan area that's known for being the most segregated cities in the country.

With a few exceptions people just do not date across class lines.
...or religious lines.
...or racial lines.
...or political lines.
...and you won't find a Greek with a hipster...unless they're me.

I associated mostly with the Greek types in college, and hipsterish types (though they deny it) in graduate school. I don't think there's many other subgroups of who are stereotyped as more pretentious as those two, just pretentious in different ways. I used to think it was only false stereotypes, and everyone are douches, but now I'm beginning to wonder if the stereotypes are true.
posted by sixcolors at 3:54 PM on October 7, 2008


Just be you, a little bit street, a little bit high class. Don't sweat it. You're no better or worse than anybody else. The only people you'll have issues with are those who are hyper-aware of status. And really, they don't count for much anyway.

I just dropped back in to say "here, here" to this. It's dead, spot on. I'm a black girl from Brooklyn who grew up eating government cheese. I'm a long, long way from that place both physically and financially, as is the rest of my family, but those days, making grilled cheese sandwiches from the yellowest cheese on the planet, forever shape who I am today.

I do my best not to say rich person=asshole, poor person=uneducated and unworthy of being heard. Because over the course of my travels, I've met folks who defy both of those stereotypes. I haven't bothered to look at your age but I dare say as you mature, you'll sort this question out on your own.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 4:03 PM on October 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


I always got more prejudice about being college boy from my family's blue collar associations and on the blue collar job sites I worked on while in college than I do today from yuppie Ivy League types. Especially younger self-identified progressive type wealthy people absolutely adore having someone around who can speak to the experience of a working class upbringing; I think I find this vague class fetishism more weird and gross then any kind of prejudice I've received recently.

Honestly, at this stage in my life I don't give a fuck if someone thinks I'm a little too rough trade (which I've been told), nor too smartypants. I kind of don't give a shit what people make of me, period. I think this confidence radiates outwards and tends to disarm a lot of prejudice before it builds up too much momentum.
posted by The Straightener at 4:13 PM on October 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


It wasn't intended to be "disturbing," sixcolors, which is precisely why I wrote "even though the subject matter of his question and your question appear different on the surface, I think there's actually a common underlying problem." Feel free to take umbrage, but the advice was offered in good faith. Ignore it, and the other advice in this thread, as you like.

I enjoyed your advice to the fedora guy. I wouldn't say that we had the same underlying problems, but we have similar approaches. I do recognize the approaches I am using is wrong, but I don't know which approaches are right. I know that people are more than their wardrobe/books/records/whatever and even their class/politics/religion/race. That was the point of my post, but maybe I am doing a poor job articulating it.

In a nutshell, if I find someone who I would like to date is somewhat different from me on surface and in background, but maybe sharing deeper values and life experiences...how would I approach them? How do I communicate those deeper values? Am I making any sense?
posted by sixcolors at 4:16 PM on October 7, 2008


Have you ever tried to hang out with neither Greek types nor hipsters? Not to perpetuate even more stereotypes, but these are people who belong to groups that specifically cultivate the issues that you're experiencing. Sorority women are hand selected by committee, it's hardly a random sampling. Hipsters, in my experience, are upper-class anyway, just trying to rebel against something by drinking shit beer that now costs as much as good beer.
posted by hwyengr at 4:17 PM on October 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


Like notjustfoxybrown, I am guessing that you're young. As an adult with my own career and my own money, I never really think about the income level in which my parents were raised. It's irrelevant. I guess if my parents were super rich or super poor now it might effect my life, but in the middle of the bell curve where most of our parents are, their childhoods or current financial positions don't have much of an impact on us grown-ups.

Likewise, I generally don't give much thought to how much money my friends make unless they very conspicuously consume. And I have absolutely no idea how most of them were raised or how their parents were raised, and they don't know my background, either. Not that it's hidden, or a taboo topic. It's just nothing that's ever come up in conversation.

Classy people don't talk about their money so much.
posted by amro at 4:36 PM on October 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


Some classist and "reverse" classist comments I heard within the last few weeks...

"I'm totally interested in this girl, but she's JUST a manager at Express, that really sucks".

"It's really stupid that "Susan" got her Homecoming dress at Macy's for $200. I got mine at a thrift store for $15. I guess mommy and daddy or that douchebag boyfriend got it for her."

*To me* "What your parents didn't go anywhere exotic for their honeymoon? If they didn't have enough money to go somewhere nice for a honeymoon, maybe they should've delayed their wedding."

"You drink orange soda? I thought only ghetto people drink that."

*To me* "No, I don't want to take a road trip to Chicago, especially the north side, it's too many snobby righ people!"

"I would never marry a guy who went to a state school".

I hear stuff like this all the time. And, like I said earlier in my post, I almost never see people cross class lines when it comes to dating. Maybe a half-dozen of couples that I know.


If I came across any of these people, at work, at a restaurant, through friends, I would avoid them like a particularly bad smell.

Being an asshole is just being an asshole. You can spend a lot of time deconstructing particular asshole types and pouring over the tiny little details about the way that their assholery expresses itself in the universe, but why bother doing this? If you're Karl Marx or Sigmund Freud or you're writing a thesis or doing research for an awesome acting job or something, okay, analyze away, but good god--we have our feets for a reason. Use them to walk away.

Any of these things would have me excusing myself from that conversation in no time--why are you exposing yourself to this? There are perfectly nice, smart, funny people in the world who come from a wide variety of socioeconomic backgrounds who are capable of good times, pleasant conversations, and awesome relationships. Why in the world would you stand there and talk to the kind of asshole who says things like, 'I would never marry a guy who went to a state school?' How are you finding these people?)
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:46 PM on October 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


Even though you weren't singling me out, tristeza, I'll answer your question. I have a young friend who lives in section 8 housing with his mother (who never learned English, even though they've lived in NY for 20 years). He is largely supporting his mom and his teenage sister on an administrative assistants salary. I have an older friend that temps and works as an actress when she can get the gigs. She's come perilously close to becoming homeless, and I've helped out with food money on occasion. I dated and remain friends with a trust-funder who's father has a school of business at a large university named after him. I have friends that were living the high life during the dot com craze, and who are now continually concerned about making ends meet. Not all of these friends are in exact same circle, but there is overlap.

It means that sometimes I buy the drinks, or sometimes have my drinks bought. It means that many of our get togethers are at someone's apartment instead of restaurants so that no one has to pass on dinner out because they can't afford it. Are the bulk of us middle class? At this moment yes. But in my experience "class" is pretty fucking fluid depending on who is having a good or bad year. Except for the very wealthy... it seems hard to knock them out of that catbird seat.
posted by kimdog at 4:57 PM on October 7, 2008


sixcolors, in many of your posts you express generalities about groups of people. You seem to build up a lot of expectations based on the labels you've given them. In many cases, you're sorting people into groups based on superficial stuff, and then having your expectations about that label either supported or dashed when they do something that falls out of the norms you associate with that group. The reason I bring this up is that it really seems to me that your social life would be a heck of a lot easier if you allowed people to be themselves, and stopped categorizing them all the time. Then you could interact with people based on their actual personalities, and not the box you've sorted them into.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:59 PM on October 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


When I was greek in college, there were some chapters [...] Some classist and "reverse" classist comments [...] "It's really stupid that "Susan" got her Homecoming dress at Macy's for $200. I got mine at a thrift store for $15. I guess mommy and daddy or that douchebag boyfriend got it for her."

It sounds like you're around college age. There's a reason history contains a lot of student political activism; people around that age are working out what their beliefs are, but at the same time can have a surfeit of passion for their current ideas.

In other words, with a few years' more life experience you can expect your peers' views to mellow somewhat.

For those who have grown up like me, what did you do to put people with different economic backgrounds at ease, without completely changing yourself?

My situation is somewhat different to yours, but relevant for reasons I won't bore you with.

Once I am friends with someone I will have a pretty good idea of how they and I get along - Some people appreciate jokes involving dick punching, some people appreciate jokes involving classic literature, some people appreciate both, some people appreciate neither. Some people will smile at a particularly eloquent turn of phrase while others will find the same thing pretentious, others just confusing. As I say, with people who are your friends, you know which personality traits to turn up and which to turn down.

Before people are my friends I have a simply strategy, and that is to shut up. Maybe I've worked as a welder on a factory shop floor and I have a $400 car and I like takeout pizza; maybe I've taught university courses and I collect paintings and I like thai/italian fusion cuisine. Maybe all the preceding is false, maybe it's all true. But I will not be alienated from people who are not yet my friends, because if any of those topics come up I can bite my tongue and let other people do the talking.
posted by Mike1024 at 5:00 PM on October 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Read some Pierre Bourdieu!

France. A little dated. But still, holy mackerel! The insight into what makes class...happen.

It won't guarantee that you'll be able to relate to the folks who are dipshits about where you come from, but it will help you get a grasp on why these class distinctions matter, why we hang onto them (or shed them) so violently.

And then, hey, you can probably be the only person in the stuffy room who has actually read Bourdieu!

(It doesn't go over well when I casually throw him - or other unfamiliar names - into conversations with people who don't care. But that's regardless of class.)
posted by bilabial at 5:17 PM on October 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


"I hear stuff like this all the time. And, like I said earlier in my post, I almost never see people cross class lines when it comes to dating. Maybe a half-dozen of couples that I know."

I've dated "above my station" before, and my current girlfriend and I have different backgrounds. Additionally, I've been friends with millionaires and grew up in a poor black neighborhood.

I jokingly refer to myself as petit bourgeois, under the ol' quip that petit bourgeois "either have taste and no money or money and no taste." I've always been poor, and likely always will be poor (curse you, writing, for being the only career path I've been suited to!); my girlfriend comes from solidly middle-class folks. I went to a third-tier state school, she went to a top tier state school.

How do we manage? Well, the things we're interested in are similar (books, music, film, art, etc.), and I, like most of the lower class, have been blessed with prodigious genitals.

We each find our things to be snobbish about ("Yes, I suppose I'd rather hang a Thomas Kincaid painting than have both my hands cut off…") and things to be populist about ("Every food should be a sandwich!"). And we're able to make fun of our class tendencies, that I get aspirational pretensions when dealing with paintings and populist when dealing with rap music. That we can do this with other people is pretty much our test of friendship.

So, when people get classist around you, make fun of them, and make fun of yourself. They'll accept you faster, you'll take the sniffs out of their nose.
posted by klangklangston at 5:25 PM on October 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


In a nutshell, if I find someone who I would like to date is somewhat different from me on surface and in background, but maybe sharing deeper values and life experiences...how would I approach them? How do I communicate those deeper values? Am I making any sense?

Yes, you are making sense. But you are also asking the same question again and again. And the answers are largely the same, again and again.

There simply isn't a two-sentence version of "how to get along with people" that you will read and all of a sudden the lightbulb will light up and you will get it. It doesn't work that way for almost anyone, and certainly not for someone like you who really struggles with interpersonal relations.

Yes, the US is a sharply class-stratified country. Yes, many middle-class people demonstrate their middle-classness by indicating their discomfort at discussing class. Yes, people poor and rich and in between can be assholes about passing judgment on others. You aren't making this stuff up, though you certainly are being a magnet for people with poor manners.

But your fundamental issue is no more with class than Fedora Guy's was with his hat brim. You are fixating on minutia and missing the big picture, and based on your questions you are remaining stuck in the same frustrating position.

And maybe that's part of who you are, and part of what you need to accept and embrace about yourself. Maybe you are one of the people who doesn't "get" human interactions intuitively and seamlessly, like some other people do. I don't think diagnoses are always all that important, but certainly a lot of what applies to someone on the Asperger's spectrum could apply to your situation.

The point being, I think you need to better understand yourself before spending this much energy trying to understand the subtleties of other people.
posted by Forktine at 5:28 PM on October 7, 2008 [7 favorites]


In a nutshell, if I find someone who I would like to date is somewhat different from me on surface and in background, but maybe sharing deeper values and life experiences...how would I approach them? How do I communicate those deeper values? Am I making any sense?

It seems to me that you're getting the cart before the horse here... unless I'm missing something I don't see how you can know that you share deeper values and common experiences with someone before you approach them, (unless of course your google-fu is legendary - there's a name for that - I think it's called stalking!).

Seriously though, it seems to me that you're worried about 'investing' in the 'wrong person', and keep looking for some kind of magic interpersonal algorithm - there ain't no such thing... Dating is all about chemistry: if you get 'a buzz' from someone you'll know it, and then you just say 'hey, you wanna hang out?' and take it from there - it really is that simple.

Whilst I can totally see where you are coming from with this (it's quite sweet and almost admirable in a way) if you start trying to communicate 'those deeper values' straight away most people are going to run for the hills. It's been said before here, but you've really got to start in-ter-acting and going with your gut and not getting to hung up if things don't always work out the way you expect... you have to feel your way.

FWIW I used to prejudge people a lot, I really try not to so much now because I've learnt the value of being surprised by what I find - I heartily recommend it.

On preview: seconding Forktine too...
posted by Chairboy at 5:39 PM on October 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


too hung up, of course... meh... preview is my friend, preview is my friend...
posted by Chairboy at 5:47 PM on October 7, 2008


My dad's side was blue collar or poor. My mom's side was middle class. Both had issues with that fact and would sometimes put me in the middle of things. In my twenties I came to a certain conclusion:

It's their problem, not mine. Life was much smoother after that.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:49 PM on October 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


With a few exceptions people just do not date across class lines.
...or religious lines.
...or racial lines.
...or political lines.

Really? That's rather unusual to me. Like I said earlier, I grew up in the south and I'm currently in a mid-sized college town in Tennessee and I see people dating and marrying across lines all the freaking time. I've got Republican Christian friends dating atheist Democrats, black and whites, poor as shit with trust fund. Maybe it's just the circle I run with (hippy-type persuasion with a heavy emphasis on history/anthropology graduates), but we all seem to be with who ever makes us the happiest. Really, the closest I've ever dated within my own class was my recent ex. And he had a ton of issues with how people saw him and how they related to him. He was constantly assuming that people were judging him and treating him poorly. That had way more to do with our break up than anything. But he was raised like I was, rural, Southern and teacher parents. We had less in common overall than my boyfriends who were different nationalities, races, religions, or class.

It just comes down to who you want to be. Do you want to care about stuff like class and how you fit in or do you just want to be you? Yeah, I make more money than a number of my friends or family. When they give me grief about how much I spend on my hair or shoes, I just laugh it off or offer to share. You find common things, you enjoy them or you don't. In the end, your friends, the people that love you? They do so because they want to. Not because you use the right fork or can flash the right sign. Just because they can. Anybody else is not worth your time.
posted by teleri025 at 6:12 PM on October 7, 2008


Coming in on this pretty late, but what the heck. I don't really relate to the class issue, but I sympathize with the idea of feeling stuck between two groups, and yet a part of none. I have interracial parents, African American mother, and a Polish father (how's that for a mix?) In my youth, I felt I didn't fit in the predominantly white communities we lived in because I am black. But when we would visit my mother's friends and family, I felt like there was some secret shared code between them that I didn't get because I grew up in a lily white town.

Eventually (and I say "eventually" because I was in my 20's before I started coming to grips with this) I realized the "black" thing is just a cop-out. From experience, I know I have sufficient social skills to appear charming and likable to people in polite society. Some people take to me, some don't. It's the same for everyone. If it turns out the reason someone doesn't care for me is my skin color, or (from the other side) my lack of ethnicity, that's fine. It says more about that person than me, and actually, lets me off the hook, as opposed to a character flaw I could reasonably be held accountable for. It was a really staggering moment, emotionally, when I realized I had spent years of my life feeling self conscious and worrying about how people would relate to my skin color and upbringing. Seeing as they are the only parts of my persona that I could not change. I let my fear about this color my life, shunning social activity in high school and college. I'm not saying there weren't bigots in my childhood. But in looking through my memories, I can see that they were few and none presented me more than a brief moment or two of unpleasantness (among many other, unrelated unpleasant moments). More importantly, they were assholes. If they hadn't disliked me for that, it would have been something else. The biggest regrets, are all the things I didn't do, because I let my fear hold me back.

My advice, for what it is worth, is to make it your daily goal to improve your social skills. Take pride in your ability to put people at ease (and if you don't have that ability, work on it). Stay open-minded and expect new friends and relationships. When I do this, I am generally pleasantly surprised. If you make an effort to make a connection in this spirit, and it doesn't work out, just move on. And if you are worried that the connection didn't happen because the other person has a hangup about your social class, trust me, there is nothing you could have done about it. Intellectually, I think you know you are better off without that kind of person, or thinking in your life.
posted by MetalDog at 7:00 PM on October 7, 2008 [4 favorites]


You don't listen.
posted by kelseyq at 9:33 PM on October 7, 2008


"... or money and no taste."

Those are what my grandmother would call "five dollar people with 10 dollars."
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 9:56 PM on October 7, 2008 [4 favorites]


This is nuts. Stop hanging around with people who would say such jaw-droppingly stupid things as those examples, stop tolerating and thereby endorsing them, and most of all stop caring so much about their own obvious insecurities!

Here are some of the responses those kind of comments deserve, and responses like this are what makes people stop being such asses:

Comment: You drink orange soda? I thought only ghetto people drink that.
Response: Mmmm.... then I guess I sure loves me that ghetto soda.

Comment: It's really stupid that "Susan" got her Homecoming dress at Macy's for $200. I got mine at a thrift store for $15. I guess mommy and daddy or that douchebag boyfriend got it for her.
Response: Wow, have you considered therapy for your jealousy issues?

Comment: No, I don't want to take a road trip to Chicago, especially the north side, it's too many snobby rich people!
Response: Are you fucking serious? That's your criteria for a trip? What, you think they're going to infect you with snobby germs? Are you fucking KIDDING ME?

Comment: I'm totally interested in this girl, but she's JUST a manager at Express, that really sucks.
Response: Wow, you're an amazingly shallow dick!

Comment: If they didn't have enough money to go somewhere nice for a honeymoon, maybe they should've delayed their wedding.
Response: Wow, or maybe you should save that ridiculous opinion for yourself next time, so I don't have to kick you in the vagina?

Comment: I would never marry a guy who went to a state school.
Response: Wow, you're an amazingly shallow dick, too!


You will lose a lot of "friends" with responses like this. But that's not a bad thing.
posted by rokusan at 10:40 PM on October 7, 2008


I think class was a lot more important in an era when the circumstances you were born into determined your destiny. In medieval times if you were born a serf, you were a serf for life.

One of the great things about the modern western world is that, to a large extent, we can make our own destiny. Some people have to work harder and some people have it easy, but basically, a wide variety of careers and futures are open to most people.

Maybe I'm overromanticizing the American Dream but there is something very exciting and liberating about it.

I guess what I'm leading up to, is after a certain age (usually 18 or 19 or whenever you move out on your own) your parents' money is your parents. Once you start fully supporting yourself, it really doesn't matter how much money your parents make, or what kind of class background you come from. Most people starting to make it in the world start out living in a more divey place than the one they grew up in, but it's their divey place and they're in it together with their friends/roommates.

After writing this I read some of your previous questions and it sounds like you're still living at home. Bingo!

Move out, get a job, start supporting yourself and living in a hovel and then you will be able to relate to the other poor young people who are also trying to scrape by. It sounds bad, but we all have to do it sooner or later, and it can be a lot of fun.
posted by Flying Squirrel at 2:18 AM on October 8, 2008


This is not a snarky comment: It might be a really interesting experience to join a commune.
posted by Flying Squirrel at 2:45 AM on October 8, 2008


Wow, I find it interesting that I'm getting a message that "it's all in my head".

No, not necessarily. The fact that some people have told you "wow, I thought only ghetto people drink orange juice" is indeed not in your head.

The part that IS all in your head, though, is the importance you are giving those people's opinions. Yes, they're saying that to you -- but YOU ARE BELIEVING THAT THEY ARE RIGHT ABOUT THAT, and YOU ARE BELIEIVING THAT THEIR OPINION MATTERS.

THAT is the part that is all in your head -- the part that is REACTING to what they say with "wow, I drink orange juice, and these people are criticizing me for that, I must be an outcast." We're not telling you that what they say is in your head. We're telling you to replace that response with, "....why am I hanging around assholes who make social value judgements based on citrus fruit?"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:29 AM on October 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


From this question and other questions, it's pretty clear you are way, way way overly focused on creating an identity for yourself. "Am I the hipster girl from across the tracks? Am I the vegetarian sorority girl?" And this identity has to be special! It has to be unique, because you are special and unique! You seem torn between this desire to be everything to everyone and still hold on to this perception of yourself as a special, unique snowflake.

This is exacerbated by what seems to be OCD-tendencies. You get fixated on all of these little details, figuring if you probe it and analyze it and break it down into tiny little pieces you will understand the "relationship machine" and from there construct that perfect identity and perfect way of interacting with others that will give you the friendship and approval you so desperately crave. And you are so focused on details, so focused on figuring out your theory, that you haven't picked up on the fact your overall premise is wrong. For example, the whole buying-and-selling used goods on EBay question. In the end, I don't know if you understood that it wasn't that there was a magical method to easily making mondo profits off of Goodwill finds that people weren't revealing to you, it's that no such magical method existed. Your overall theory was wrong. But instead of accepting that and going down an whole other different route, you kept banging your head against the original, flawed premise.

A similar thing is happening here with your relationship questions. You have this theory that there is some special way of interacting and some special way of constructing your identity that will make you appealing to everyone you want to be appealing to, while at the same time retaining a sense of self. And nobody is able to give you details as to that special way, because that way doesn't exist.

Do you want to know a great way to relate to everyone around you? Understand that you are not the only person who has identity conflicts. You are not the only person who has identity conflicts. The vast majority of the population who has ever been under the age of 30 has gone through massive identity conflicts where they were trying to define to themselves who they are. It's why young people get so caught up in attaching themselves to the sports they play, or the clothes they wear, or the music they listen to, or the place they came from, or the people that they're not. It is because everyone, like you, has been confused and afraid about what it means to "be yourself", what it means to be an adult, what it means to be independent and part of a community, and how to balance your beliefs and dreams against the beliefs and dreams of others.

There are exceptions--for instance, if you belong to a really tight community, like a religious community, and you are raised with belonging to that community as your identity and you are surrounded for your whole life by people who base their identity as that community, you may never get the chance to have an identity crisis because you won't be exposed to anything that would incite you to have one. In another question, you seem to indicate you come from a very strong religious background. I wonder if the reason you are kind of freaking out about "Defining Yourself" is because you grew up in a community where everyone's core identity was pretty much the same thing and you fear not having that will prevent you from every developing your own community of friendships, and you are worried about your own identity crisis because while you were growing up everyone seemed to know exactly who they were.

The point of all this is to understand that, after everyone goes through these identity conflicts, most people finally find people when they realize who they are is not about the music they listen to, the place they grew up, or the food they eat. It is how they interact with people. You should not strive to be the vegetarian-sorority girl-hipster-from-both-sides-of-the-tracks. You should strive to be that thoughtful, good-humored chick who is a great listener. Or that kind woman who is deeply loyal to her friends but breaks a sharp, biting wit out of nowhere when she feels they're being attacked. Or that creative, free, slightly-crazy girl who is loves trying new things. Or whoever you are.

Sure, where you come from, the religion you grew up in, these things can make it easier to empathize with people who come from similar backgrounds, but they are not a requirement. If they were, nobody would be friends with anyone else because we all have "surface" differences in some way. That's why we gotta connect through our personalities. And you can do that by being compassionate and by listening and asking questions. There are some people who are not going to get past the surface differences. You ignore those people, and find the people who can.
posted by schroedinger at 11:52 AM on October 8, 2008 [16 favorites]


My family is similar to yours. My dad's family was hard working, recent immigrant and struggling. My mom grew up in WASP affluence - as in, she could walk into every store in town and have anything by putting it on her dad's account, no cash or credit card needed. After they were married, the class distinction continued in their professional lives. Mom had a corporate management job; Dad had a skilled blue collar job.

When my mom hangs out with my Dad's friends from childhood she completely comfortable. If she notices that they live in a poorer neighborhood or have less education, I've never seen her recognize it. Occasionally, they give her a good natured ribbing about how lucky she was as a child. When my dad is with some of my mom's coworkers at first he does find them stuck up and out of touch, but after a few minutes they are just people. When they have parties, everyone mixes just fine. Occasionally, we circulate to make sure people are introduced, but after that they can connect.

Here is what I learned from my parents.

Be comfortable in your own skin.
Neither Mom or Dad is proud or ashamed of their background. It's simply part of the fabric of who they are and there's no need to judge that. Acceptance of yourself is quite simply one of the most attractive qualities in a person.

Find friends who share your values, not your status. You connect with people not over boats and clothes, but over shared values. It's not about both of you being Christian or Muslim, but about both of you practicing the value of kindness.

Relax. No one feels comfortable all the time. Maybe you'll get things wrong, but it'll be fine. You were supposed to bring the hostess a covered dish or booze and not flowers? Well, NBD next time you'll get it right.
posted by 26.2 at 12:10 PM on October 8, 2008


Late to the party, but anyhow ..

Dad grew up in a family where his father was highly educated (several degrees) and very definitely white-collar (worked in Law). Mum grew up eating whatever they could get from charity.

I grew up in situations from eating charity to comfortably upper-middle-class.

My husband grew up in a highly affluent family; money was never a problem. He grew up surrounded by the fabulously wealthy and the not-so-wealthy.

Now, we're both yuppies, dinks, whatever. We earn a lot of money, compared to the average - although we, too, had our times where we were reliant on charity to eat.

Our friends cover the gamut from millionaires to poor. From people who worry about spending $2 on a coffee, to people who think nothing of spending $200 on a bottle of wine.

Class? Can't say I really have ever figured out it's importance.
posted by ysabet at 6:22 PM on October 15, 2008


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