The class system we live in these days is a lot less clear-cut than the famous Two Ronnies ‘I know my place’ sketch. My dad’s a train cleaner and my mum works on the phones at our local council.
They might have been considered working class at one point, but can now afford to rent a four-bedroom house where they live, and go on holidays abroad. Certain commentators might be absolutely furious but – god forbid – they even have a really big telly.
I guess that probably makes them ‘new working class’ or ‘lower middle class’ if we had to classify things. Despite the fact I went to uni (shout out free higher education in Scotland) and live independently in London, I still consider myself the same class as my parents.
I’ve never had a handout or inheritance windfall, and my childhood was decidedly ‘normal’, going to a state school and getting a job when I was 15.
Now, as an adult, I don’t date people outside my class. When it comes to dating, many may say that class has nothing to do with it. If someone’s values aligns with yours and you’re on a similar intellectual level, then what’s the problem? I can’t answer that in a scientific or logical way.
All I can say is, I’ve never dated someone with a hugely different upbringing to me without it causing problems. Using these experiences as a guide, I refuse to put myself through that in the future.
Some of it certainly comes from resentment. Having worked my way up the career ladder and done my share of seven-day weeks to fund the unpaid work that’s unfortunately a necessity in my field, I find myself absolutely livid at people who’ve never struggled.
Of course, why would they want to? If you have things given to you, you’re bound to take them. It just doesn’t sit right, and I’ve noticed there’s an indignant #NotAllRichPeople attitude among those who’ve had a leg-up financially and thanks to their class privilege (having a posh accent or connections high up in companies).
As a white woman, I fully acknowledge my privilege. I started on a higher rung of the aforementioned ladder just by being born a certain colour. I’ve never met an upper-middle or high class person who seems to be able to accept the ways they’ve been lucky, though.
Instead they’ll pull out some story about how their grandparents knew a coal-miner or emphasise their lefty leanings as if it’s charity work rather than a political opinion.
Another side of it is probably wrapped up in a sense of shame. It’s a hard thing to write about, because my parents are two of the most amazing people, and would give me the clothes off their backs if they had to.
As I spoke about in my Money Week piece about growing up poor, though, when money is tied to worry and embarrassment as a child, it really never leaves you.
One of the greatest family holidays we ever had was from one of those £9 coupon offers in The Sun, and most of my clothes when I was young came from car boot sales.
These aren’t things I’m ashamed of in themselves, but when I talk about my childhood with someone, I want them to relate rather than offer pity. I love my parents so much that the thought of someone I was dating coming into their home and not ‘getting’ who they were or looking down on them (consciously or unconsciously) is hugely upsetting. I highly doubt my loud Irish mum and outspoken Londoner dad would get on with a stuffy rich stiff-upper-lip family.
This isn’t necessarily an easy rule to enforce. I don’t means-test people before we get into bed or check their family history online. I can often tell in the first meeting whether they’re from an upper class background, though. Are there gaps in their life where they’ve never had to work, perhaps so they can go travelling?
Check. Do they have a suspiciously nice living situation despite working in a junior role? Check. Are issues like poverty or government cuts discussed in an abstract way (almost like they exist in a completely different realm)? Check. Again, none of these things make them a bad person.
If your best friends are Hetty and Tomothy and you all love to go to Wetherspoons ironically before your ski trips to Val D’Isere, then cool for you. Whenever I have dated people who flagged these signals, however, it’s only been a matter of time before something bigger came up.
A reference to supporting fox hunting here, an assertion that positive discrimination is wrong there. Suddenly you realise that your lives never aligned, and that your lived experiences make you too different to ever see eye to eye.
If you’re upper middle class or above, I’m not sure why you’d want to date me either. Perhaps you want to show your last girlfriend Beatrice that you’re edgy and caring and she was wrong about you judging people. Perhaps you’re going through a phase and want to make your parents angry.
Bring home a girl who never went to private school and talks like a sailor. Sorted. Perhaps you want to ease your guilt having moved to an area of rapid gentrification. Either way, I’m not your gal.
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