It’s hard for me to talk about class. I grew up on small Midwestern towns and I felt solidly middle class. My best friend for a while was the mayor’s daughter. I ran around with the police chief’s son in another town. (But I also ran with kids that “everyone” repeatedly told me were trash.) My dad was a minister and my mom taught school. That seemed middle class to me. There were many years when my mom didn’t have a teaching contract, so she subbed. And, in retrospect, it seems obvious that my mom needed to work for us to have enough money to get by. And many months, especially when I was little, where we ate corn bread for dinner at the end of the month because it was cheap and we kids believed it was an amazing treat.
And then I went to college and learned what middle class really was.
And then I got a job and got a raise that put my salary above my Dad’s.
It’s a weird moment when you’re 28 and you’re struggling to pay rent and you’re eating rice for dinner every night and you realize that you make more than your dad did when you were in high school. There’s not really any preparation for that.
But my point is that, growing up in small towns, there were class issues. But the distance between classes was very small (even if it was, in many cases, insurmountable). And all the differences we thought were so clear and universal didn’t mean shit when you went to a place that was 100,000 people, not 2,500. So, I thought I was solidly middle class, but I had two pairs of shoes at any given time–every day shoes and church shoes, even in college. And my prom dresses were either borrowed or home-made. And I only went to one formal at college because I certainly didn’t have clothes to wear to it.
I was lucky I came up during the grunge era, because a girl could get away with two pairs of jeans and seven t-shirts and two flannels and no one thought anything about it.
I don’t know if any of this gets to what I’m trying to say. Probably it doesn’t.
What I’m trying to mull over is just how a girl such as myself gets, in the same day, called an elitist and gets used as a local-color prop. It both seems weird to me and exactly right.