Friday, February 04, 2005

Am I classist?

Wow, I didn't realize it'd been so long since I posted. I honestly don't understand how "real bloggers" do takes me forever to write a takes even longer to get inspired to do so.

But tonight I've got some inspiration.

I'm struggling with a frightening possibility: I am classist.

I want to flush out the reasons I believe this to be true, what it means, and if it's necessarily a bad thing (I'm not so sure).

I never understood the idea that America is a classless society, probably because I was raised in the upperclass. My grandparents had three homes and gave all of the grandchildren trust funds. Manners were enforced early on (hand-written thank you notes an absolute must). I was a debutante. Attending college was the only post-high school option in my family; even the black sheep of our clan went. To me, it was obvious that many (the vast majority, in fact) people did not live like my family. Never that they were any less or worse than us, but that they didn't have money like us.

So why the classist meandering? My choice in men.

I have had four boyfriends. Three of them are the some of the most intelligent people I have ever met. They go to prestigious schools -- UCLA, Northwestern, and the University of Chicago. The other worked at a fish market and had no school or career aspirations. I was (and am with one) very emotionally involved and attached with the first three. I cheated on the fourth. I lost interest, and when he wanted to get back together, the reason that kept me from doing so was this one memory I couldn't shake. We were driving around and I was saying how such and such was so phallic, and he said, "what does that mean?". Okay, I know this seems ridiculous from the outside, but it really bothered me that he didn't know what phallic meant. Other words too, like pensive...I don't know. I know that pensive isn't a particularly common word, but these things really bothered me.

I've always been interested in current events, and I spend a good chunk of time reading up on them. I've really started savoring the label of intellectual. Tieing or beating Ezra in argument is no small accomplishment, but it comes often these days, and I LOVE it. But bringing out my intellectual self has led to some sober reflection; remembering the phallic moment, and how that relationship could never work for me now. I don't think I could ever again date someone who isn't politically aware and passionate, who doesn't engage their mind (and mine as well). There's this guy who works at a local coffeeshop who flirts with me a lot. But when he does, I can't help thinking, "This guy is always here working at this coffeeshop. Did he follow the election? Does he know why SS privatization is bullshit? Did he listen to the state of the union last night? Does he know why we desperately need nationalized health care? "

But I am worried. I am worried that these thoughts make me classist.

I'm taking a class right now about the history of racism in the US, along with eugenics and other traumatizing topics. We talk a lot about class, specifically how pseudoscience was used to establish some as "feebleminded", biologically less intelligent than whites, and used to justify sterilization. I know these are extreme examples, obviously not wanting to date someone without my education level doesn't equate to sterilization, but I worry that feelings like mine reinforce the stratification of our society. Most people from the working class can't afford and aren't encouraged to go to college. Thus it's unlikely that they'll fulfill the requirements listed above. This isn't because they're not intelligent, or don't want to learn, it's just hard to spend your time reading up on the intricacies of SS privitazation if you're working two jobs, or if you've got no one to discuss the ideas at length with.

I know I'm making assumptions here, but you get the equation: my not wanting to date someone without my education level reinforces stratification because it denies people the chance to move up in society.

Then again -- I'm not sure that's true. I'm part of an educated elite, but I chose that title. Most of the people I go to school with do not feel this passionately about knowledge and would probably not have these qualms about education levels. Really, the most essential social movement is from working to middle class, not working to upper or middle to upper. I'm not requiring money (I want to work in public health or a nonprofit) -- I'm not closed off to someone from a different class when they share my intellectual desires.

I think the question here is one of stereotyping. Maybe I'm being too judgmental of the guy from the coffeeshop. (Not that I'll give him a chance, I've got a better boyfriend than I could ever dream of) But surely there are people who didn't go to college that care about these things and are really intelligent. What it really comes down to is personal preference: I want someone like me. Which is what we all want. Who's to say my stereotyped working class man wants to hear me rattle on about politics for hours anyways?


At 5/19/2005 12:24 PM, Blogger Lori said...

That's not a classist attitude, and it's nothing to be ashamed of, either. It's who you are. You may be a bit pedantic (at least your post appeared to be), but who cares? We all have our flaws.

I myself spent many years in a supplemental "academically talented" program during grade school, took AP Honors classes in high school, and possess a higher-than-average IQ...but was expelled from college in my third year. Go figure. I hated college and found it useless (for me). Now I work in finance and am making more money than most people with whom I would have graduated.

Also, I have little interest in politics. I would no more watch a state of the union address than count the cracks in my living room ceiling. It's apathy, not necessarily stupidity, that prevents me from being more passionate about that kind of thing.

Maybe you should try talking to your barista. He might surprise you. Then again...why spoil the fantasy? Sometimes the image of a big, brawny, empty-headed hunk does the trick on those cold, lonely nights....;-)

At 5/19/2005 12:32 PM, Blogger Kate said...


Thanks so much for your comment! It's my very first one! Methinks I'm overly excited by this...

Politics has definitely become a sort of fixation for me, as it's something I often use to inject my intelligence into conversations. It's become so integral to my everyday life (and my everyday conversations with the boyfriend...) that I can't really imagine not having regular political discussions. But you're correct, many many many intelligent people could give a shit about politics.

As for the cute barista, I have a (immensely keepable) boyfriend so no reason to chat him up. Also, I recently found he's only 17... heh. If you saw him though, you'd swear he was at least 22, I promise!


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