Straddling the class ladder and family

Just a quick post as I head off to bed. Tonight after a tasty dinner cooked by the Spousal Unit I ended up spending some time talking with my Dad trying to make light conversation about life and the state of the world. Yet it was one of those conversations that veered a little off course which frankly is quite common with my Pops but by the end I had one of those light bulb moments. My dad has now been with us a few weeks and it’s still an adjustment and part of it is due to his rather acerbic personality, coupled with the fact that ours has never quite been a warm and fuzzy relationship. However the light bulb went off tonight that some of my general discomfort is really based on the fact that I am a class straddler.

I have never made a secret of the fact that I am a child of the working class, as I often joke during my childhood we alternated between two states, poor and working class. Working class was what happened in a good year and  poor was the rest of the time. However due to just making different choices than my folks made, I am no longer officially a member of the working class though in many ways it’s what I still identify with. Though as I discovered it’s a lot easier for me to identify as working class when dealing with friends who come from family money than with my own father.

During his time here there has been that sense at times that he does not quite understand how we live, why we make the choices we make. One night he actually commented to us “So this is how you live” on the night in question it was a Saturday night and the hubby and I were getting ready to settle down to watch a movie and share a glass of wine. Ours is a quiet existence, far more stable and frankly quieter than what I grew up with.

Like most working class kids I did not grow up in a household where simple discussions were held for no reason. Instead my parents chiefly my Dad ruled the house as if it were his kingdom and the rest of us were serfs. Rules were laid down and you followed them lest you wanted to get your ass kicked. Alfred Lubrano is his book Limbo talks at length about this, part of the reasoning behind this is that for many working class folks, their home is the only place where they have a say and can actually control things. My father seems amused that our five year old is allowed a voice in things, once again tonight reminding me of the good ole days when you could slap a kid upside the head. Having been the kid being slapped upside the head I have no desire to create those memories for my own kid.

As a straddler I realized even seemingly small things like buying in bulk seem to perplex my Dad, as he asked me today why I had bought multiple packs of batteries. It was one of those moments where I clearly felt the divide between how I was raised and who I have become as an almost 40 year old woman. One of the legacies for me growing up with little is that for years I had behavior bordering on hoarding but now I simply like to keep a well stocked house. After all it would make no sense to buy toilet paper one pack at a time in house with two bathrooms.

I often struggle with my working class roots in professional settings yet tonight I realized that even with family that movement up the class ladder can create a disconnect and frankly it saddens me.

6 thoughts on “Straddling the class ladder and family

  1. It does create a disconnect and a distance that can be very uncomfortable and frankly makes me want to keep to myself most of the time. It’s the feeling of being misunderstood. And the sense that maybe people think you’re trying to be fake, that is, something you’re not.. Thought-provoking post Shay.

  2. Wow, how I can identify with this post. I haven’t read the book Limbo, but reading this description, it seems like it would help me understand my own dad a lot better. Thank you, as always, for writing so thoughtfully about the peculiar position of being a class straddler.

  3. This hits home for me today, big time. Financial, but more importantly philosophical drifts between family is a really, really hard thing. Thinkin’ on it…

  4. I know exactly how you feel. I hadn’t heard to that book but, I have a feeling I’m going to like it. I’ll be purchasing it really soon.
    Great post.

  5. Wow, BGIM…you and I have a lot in common.

    I grew up very poor as well. I was raised by a single mother who struggled to put food on the table and send me to school.

    Now I’m married with enough money to live a comfortable life. But I will always remember when I had very little of anything.

    Like you, I feel it is important to keep a well-stocked home because some of my needs weren’t met as a poor kid growing up. My husband isn’t wealthy but he also never experienced the poverty and unlike me, he didn’t come from a broken home.

    He thinks that I hoard stuff, too. I understand where you’re coming from…being stuck in the middle. There is definitely a disconnect.

  6. My situation is similar to yours but still different. I was raised in a fairly well off family but once I became an adult I decided to live a simple life. My family cannot relate. They think that I have lost my mind.

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