Friday, September 19, 2008

I Tried to Post This Way Earlier But Blogger Was Wigging Out.

When I was growing up we had a house and a car. After a while we had 2 cars. Dad worked, mom stayed home (until she went to work for a while) and we kids went to public school. We had running hot and cold water, clothes on our backs, shoes on our feet and never, ever once went to bed hungry.

Houses, cars, clothes and shoes were not always new but -at least where we lived-there was no stigma around hand-me-downs. Sure, they maybe didn't always represent your own personal fashion choice, but "new to you" could be kinda fun. (And a few years later, with the rise of vintage stores, it became hip)

In my memory we were middle class. Looking on it as an adult, I suspect we were teetering in the other direction. In fact, I knew it as a kid, but only instinctively, the way kids know things when parents think they are being clever with their hushed tones and tight faces that spread into force smiles when the kid walks in. My parents worried about money.

The worry didn't stem from anyone being spend-thrift. Not to mention that Dame Judi was one of those who could (still can) decorate a house with charm and elegance out of cast off furniture and restored bits that would have been abandoned by anyone else. AND she fed six people every night with good, wholesome food. The fact that she could concoct 4-5 meals by coaxing the goodness out of the same hunk of roast beef was just a testament to her housewifery. (You do realize that "housewifery" is pronounced house-whiff-er-ee, right? I love that word).

But despite Sean's hard work and Judi's creativity there was, I dimly suspect, not quite enough. Not enough to save up, not enough to pay down, not enough to go crazy and take the kids to Disneyland. But it was still enough by most standards. I refer you to the whole house-food-clothes-education thing. And thus it was that even though I suspect that by financial standards we weren't, I always thought I'd grown up in the middle class.

The Spouse was definitely raised middle class, split-level house in the 'burbs, mom at home (she stopped working when the babies started coming), and the panoply of cars, clothes, etc. etc. that marked comfort.

Fundamentally, I suppose that's how I've always defined "middle class"...the comfort around the edges...not just the "things" like a house and 2 cars and a chicken in the pot, but the idea that you could easily get another chicken if unexpected guests dropped by. And I suspect, at least for people of my generation "middle class" has always been more an idea than a reality.

But it is different today. What a lot of us used to think of as middle class doesn't exist anymore. We have a whole lot of people who are "working poor" and I suspect they are the ones who used to be "middle class". They have jobs and houses and cars but they have to worry every frakking month about how to make what they earn stretch to pay the bills, feed the kids and coast until the next check. Meanwhile they pray that no one needs any medical attention, that the car keeps running and the house doesn't spring a leak. As for things like vacations, college and retirement?


I can't help but diverge into a little political analysis. On the one hand you have a guy who was pretty much raised in poverty AND shunned the cushy money that could have come from a Harvard Law degree to work among the disadvantaged in Chicago with a cat who's married to an heiress and doesn't know how many houses he has. Obama is disparaging about the fact that his book sales have made him a millionaire while McCain thinks "rich" starts at $5 million dollars. Which, of course, leads me to believe that if that's his "rich" cut off is $5 mil, he's got a majorly skewed notion of where the middle class exists. Which means that, hello?, when he talks about the struggles of the middle class he sure as hellfire ain't talkin' about you and me.

But it's a lovely fall day and I digress. There is a whole other definition of rich that we could discuss. Because the other kind of rich isn't in houses and cars and wardrobes (although heaven knows all of those are very groovy things). The other rich has to do with contentment with one's lot in life, having good friends, being at peace, being loved. It also probably includes having enough pie and a blog buddy or two with whom to share it. In that, I know, we are all rich.

Bare Naked Ladies "If I Had a Million Dollars"

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Blogger Sling opined...

Rainey,if I had a million dollars,I swear to god I'd buy you a monkey!..

September 19, 2008 8:47 PM  
Blogger Lorraine opined...

Dude, I have ALWAYS wanted a monkey.

September 19, 2008 10:02 PM  
Blogger Molly opined...

i remember when you guys did this for Thanksgiving talent at the cabin.

and my mother STILL wants a monkey.

September 19, 2008 10:32 PM  
Blogger sageweb opined...

Oh I was wondering what happened to this...It showed up on reader yesterday but not on your blob.

If I had a monkey I wouldn't need a million dollars.

September 20, 2008 9:03 AM  
Blogger rosemary opined...

I know I have whined in a comment on one of your other posts...but, Steve and I were not raised middle class, put ourselves thru college and worked like dogs to raise 7 kids together giving them advantages we did not have like paying for a college education. We put only the minimum into our retirement funds thinking we'd be OK now....and I mean right this minute. We were OK 8 years ago...we were gonna be OK. We are not now, right this minute OK. We are screwed even if the stock market goes up and up and up again. That sad comment I made about Steve falling over dead in an airport on the way to another job feels way too real. A million dollars? Hell, I'd jump at 100 right now. I'd use the monkey to panhandle. Sorry to be a spoiler.

September 20, 2008 10:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous opined...

Ba Ha Ha Ha (Note no W)

Hhhhmmmm, did Bush really bail out the people who pushed bad loans on the middle class, and who then screwed them out of their houses and into bankrupcy with outrageous inflation of property values.

Shouldn't he have put them in jail?

Oh well, what do tree huggin hippies know anyway.



September 20, 2008 2:18 PM  
Blogger Lorraine opined...

Good times, Mols. And I wish I could give her a monkey.

It was a wacky blog day, Sage. And clearly there is a whole lotta monkey love in Blogtopia.

Anonyba, see, the problem with you hippie tree huggers is you think too logically. Stop that.

September 20, 2008 3:50 PM  
Anonymous DoraLong opined...

Plus, if you had a million dollars you could pay somebody to clean up after the monkey- just sayin'

September 21, 2008 5:22 AM  
Blogger Miss Healthypants opined...

LOVE the song. ("...but not a real green dress, that's cruel.") *tee hee*

Also, you and I must have been thinking similarly. My blog post today is somewhat about materialism and how I need to get away from it.

Of course, the way this country is going, we may all need to become much less materialistic!

September 21, 2008 4:48 PM  
Blogger D.A. opined...

Lots of interesting observations. As you may know, class was and is a major issue in UK society, an issue which too many people are scared to address and discuss openly. What I also find interesting is the differences between 'middle class' (or ANY class) now'and 'middle class' in the past.

Take the Divine L. She was most decidedly brought up in a 'middle class' family... but when she was young that meant a family in which only one parent (ie the Dad) had to work and the kids (of which there were several) could be sent to private primary schools and taken on at least one foreign holiday every single year.

Nowadays in Britain, there is no way in HELL a family could even BEGIN to contemplate such a lifestyle unless BOTH parents have seriously good, full-time jobs... and if both parents are working, the family dynamics suffer... and you get increased alienation etc etc etc.

Do write more about this sort of thing when you feel so inclined.

By the way, I thought it was 'huss-whiff-er-ee', but then that could be a 'potato/potaaato' thing ;-)

September 22, 2008 5:29 AM  
Blogger LostInCO opined...

oh I saw your post on reader friday, but then couldn't comment. Love this song. There is a version of it where they sang live in Boulder and were making all sorts of Mork jokes in the song. so funny. :)

September 24, 2008 9:22 AM  

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