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17 April 2016

Are you upwardly mobile? Have you left your old "class" behind? [More:]
I come from a poor working-class background but I'm now quite firmly in the middle-class, according to my profession, lifestyle, location and numerous other things too complex to quantify.

(It's worth adding that in the UK middle-class probably means something different from the USA. It tends to mean the professional, home-owning, financially-stable, educated people, the ones who can afford a second home by the coast just for weekends, who consider themselves the intelligentsia, eschewing popular culture... it's quite difficult to describe...)

This part of the article in particular resonated with me.
I felt kinship with Hoggart’s essential loneliness as every exam he passed took him further away – in travel and in experience – from his working-class neighbourhood and closer to a place that was more comfortable in every way except for the emotions that accompanied him.

I still identify myself as "working class", even though everything about me is probably far from that, except for my union membership. I feel as if I don't fit in anywhere now. I'm clearly an interloper into the middle classes, but I feel I have little in common with the working classes either. Education has made me an outsider, an observer, but rarely an accepted participant. I still feel like an imposter.

What's your story? Have you moved away from your cultural and social roots?
I don't really know.

My dad grew up plowing behind a mule, then my folks paid his way through college (he was really smart) with mom supporting him via her job; then he made enough money to afford some of the nicer things and a really nice house; but he couldn't manage money and lost most all of it and died from a brain tumor before he could retire.

I'm starting over after paying off all the bills from my husband's cancer and failure of his business coupled with my being laid off during the recession. Since I'm 56, I'll never recoup all the financial hits, so I'll never retire.

I still think of myself as middle class although I'm lower class financially - mainly because I have a safety net in my mom, who would take me in if needed and because I'm very liberal and worked in design, thereby gaining a wide exposure to "middle class cultural stuff" which feels more like "home".
posted by mightshould 17 April | 16:49
I feel like we are in the same class I grew up in, even though we're a two-income family and my Mom stayed home with the kids. I can't imagine what else I would want/need but it's strange that the extra $$$ doesn't seem to make our lives drastically different.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 17 April | 18:16
I grew up pretty working class, dad was a mechanic and we never had a whole lot of money around the house. Right now we're pretty solidly middle-class by any definition. I was always an odd kid who spoke like a newscaster at an early age so I never had to loose a working class or New Jersey accent. If anything I had to tone it down a little as an adult.
posted by octothorpe 17 April | 22:13
My mother grew up rich. My father grew up poor. They raised us in a hippie multicultural universe (Cambridge, MA, 1970s), with the ongoing rah-rah message that we're all the same. As a result, I got rejected by the children of her rich friends and the children of his poor friends. I never fit in anywhere, something I still deal with today.
posted by Melismata 18 April | 12:54
And I'm solidly middle-class, if by middle class you mean having a decent car and cable and working 2+ jobs and not saving very much yet making more than my parents ever did. These definitions never seem to work for me.
posted by Melismata 18 April | 12:59
The first nine years of my life, when I lived with my birth mother, I was what you might call a member of the "underclass" (we had to look up to see the lower class)-- on welfare and foodstamps, living at times in the projects, truant from school, spending time in fostercare when my mother found herself in the psychiatric hospital again, practically feral.

Then, when I was nine, my father took me in, along with his wife (my second mother), and I was solidly middle, if not uppermiddle, class-- ranch house in the suburbs, piano lessons, summercamp with tennis and horseback riding lessons, never hungry or dirty again. It was quite the adjustment, as you could imagine. I, too, never have felt at home anywhere. I felt out of place at my father's, like I was stealing someone else's life, the proverbial cuckoo bird, and I felt even more out of place when I'd visit back with my birth mother and brother on that side (different father). When I told my birth mother over the phone that I was going to graduate school, with a full scholarship, her one-word reply was, Why?
posted by Pips 18 April | 13:20
I suppose these days I'd consider myself educated white trash. I know which fork to use, but I still make a snack of Miracle Whip on white bread.
posted by Pips 18 April | 13:24
Pips, Cambridge is (one of) the PC foodie capitals of the world. I don't ever tell most of my friends or family that I hate Whole Foods. I literally can't eat the food at my sister's house. My mother has a biological need to see me eat (no such inclination from sis) so she cooks things that she knows I'll like, but it's usually accompanied by a strange sauce and definitely accompanied by a long lecture on how healthy or earth-friendly each ingredient is.

When I was a kid, I was shamed for wanting the red jello with whipped cream at a hospital cafeteria. People would be shocked, shocked at the amount of non-foodie food that I eat. And it's not even "junk" food per se, it's just a pleasant hamburger and salad (romaine lettuce? With no Indonesian nuts? Not good enough, those are not free-range tomatoes!!) at a local diner. And I get along very well with the "townie" people who frequent those diners. It's getting to the point where I'm ready to tell people "ok, so I'll die sooner than you. You win."

What's interesting is that while my mother grew up rich, she and her brother had a similar experience: their father was a rich doctor, but he married a poor pretty girl from the wrong side of the tracks. (When he died young, his family was furious that his money was going to that floozie and sued to get the money, but lost.) And my uncle and I often bond over those feelings of never fitting in (he gets along better with "townies" too even though he grew up rich).

Ok, therapy session over now...
posted by Melismata 18 April | 14:47
Hard to say... I think my parents' financial status varied wildly throughout my childhood. Sometimes we seemed comfortable and sometimes money seemed tight. We lived in a condo but my parents drove nice cars usually and traveled a lot and ate at fancy restaurants. If I had to choose I'd say we were solidly middle class.

I think I'm a bit above where my parents were at my age, but still middle class.
posted by amro 18 April | 16:48
I don't really know. I've never really identified as part of any 'class' group, perhaps at least in part due to growing up in NZ and later Australia, two countries that strongly deny any class structure exists in their society. That's not really true of course - it just means there is no 'formal' structure of where people belong. I think it's perhaps a bit different in large cities like Sydney and Melbourne, but (in Australia) I've only lived in a city that has something of a beach bum culture anyway, so the guy with the scruffy beard dressed in faded board shorts is just as likely to be a property development millionaire as an unemployed 'full time surfer'.

I guess, compared to the rest of my immediate family, I've been somewhat 'upwardly mobile' - mine were the only kids to go to private school, the only ones to go to university (or at least start and, hopefully, finish!). My sisters are all well and truly in the lower income brackets and I'm the only one that's had a 'career' of any sort and gone on to earn a more than average wage. I'm the only one that has ever bought a house or even been in a position to do so (perhaps losing all that in splitting with my ex was a lesson from life telling me not to get above myself ;-)).

I guess, if pressed, I would say I grew up working class and am now firmly ensconced ni the middle class so, in that sense, yeah 'upwardly mobile' isn't inaccurate in my case.
posted by dg 18 April | 16:59
Realistically I grew up upper middle class though in a blue collar neighborhood and thats still my status -- upper middle class. I've never been very interested in getting downright rich, nor were my folks.
posted by bearwife 18 April | 23:46
I'm a product of the 70s suburbs, and, though I have different tastes than the rest of my family in terms of books or music or food, I imagine that by any standard measurement I am in precisely the same place today. I feel like I've been lucky -- it's my parents who made the big change from what their parents were (small-time farmers, itinerant orange grove workers, etc.) -- I'm just the next generation.
posted by JanetLand 19 April | 07:37
I grew up solidly working-class in a classic 60's suburb. I was the first in my family to graduate college, and, for the first 25 or so years of my post college life, I was very much financially upwardly mobile. But, I never could leave my blue-collar roots behind, and they have always had a huge influence on my politics and world view.

I'm no longer upwardly-mobile. I'm actually on a downslide now. But, I still cling to those roots in my mindset. And, by "blue collar" I mean what that used to mean back before the working class became enamored of divisive talk-radio and FOX News.
posted by Thorzdad 20 April | 07:36
I'm not too far off where I started. I grew up in the academia-arts-media world, far from rich but surrounded by people who were; now I'm in the tech world, still not rich, still surrounded by people who are.
posted by tangerine 22 April | 00:30
Friday Question NOT from the Book of Questions || Shhh! I'm going to Las Vegas next week.