Now, being the son of my dad, there are some inherent peculiarities in me. I’ve had one too many lectures about being responsible with money to not sit and clip coupons from Tesco’s or some other store when I should be out rebelling against my parents and all. It seems like I’m not living up to the ideal of the spoiled brat of the upper ten per cent who should spit Bollinger on each other at the exclusive London clubs.
It is actually quite funny. I had this talk with Stephen, who shares my fate of being a reluctant member of the upper middle crust or the lower upper crust. We can’t even flipping decide on the proper class attachment here.
If you go by the English system, and I suppose we should follow that given where we live, we’re both middle class. In England class belonging is the kissing cousin of ethicity. You’re born into a class and never leave it, regardless of how much money and fame and influence you gain. This is why the billionaire Alan Sugar is still considered to be working class.
If we go by the American system, then we’re both shoe-ins for the upper class. Over there class belonging is counted by how much money, fame and influence you have, and your birth isn’t such a factor at all when you count your class attachments.
Stephen even more so than I because his parents are bankers and banking consultants. His parents could have put Stephen in one of the posh private schools of this town and noone would have lifted an eye-brow, and he would have become an insufferable elitist like the rest of the wankers from those schools. Instead they put him in the state school with Mark, just so he’d not develop any particular airs.
I suspect that they did this, although I have been too polite to ask, because they are English and want Stephen to be attached to the middle class and not the posh toffs and the children of the peerage. The egalitarian Swede in me scoff at the very idea, but it’s probably something Stephen’s parents haven’t even thought about as they acted instinctively to reaffirm their class belonging.
So because one set of parents we had no idea existed made an educational and slash or class choice over fifteen years ago, Stephen became Mark’s best friend, and then at one point because of another set of coincidences Stephen started to talk to me over a hedge, and then decided that Mark and I should meet.
It makes your head spin, it does. All these little coincidences that made me marry a proud member of the working class who is as enmeshed in the English class system as Stephen’s parents.
That has its charms as well as its downsides and its peculiarities. I’ve told you before about the strange and curious conflicts that Mark and I have had about money, and in particular about the money that my parents have saved for me over my life. Now, it’s not that much – in the great scheme of things. Just a few hundred thousand pounds. But it is certainly far more than any of my friends and aquaintances have.
The charm is, of course, that we don’t have to start out our adult lives starving and pinching pennies all the time. The downside is that we have these conflicts, which thankfully has been mostly absent for the last year. The peculiarity is that with this house, Mark’s parents theoretically have more money than me because if his parents were to sell it, they would get a pretty penny here in this area where house prices just keep rising even though the rest of the economy is in tatters.
Now, they’ve promised not to sell it until we’re out of University, so we do have a place to stay for now which brings our costs down a lot. We don’t have to rent a place. And that’s another peculiarity, because my parents think we should pay Mark’s parents something because they think we’ll become irresponsible with money if we stay here for free.
With my parents, two more or less ideological socialists that acquired very good paying jobs, money has always lead to a certain balancing act between the genuine comfort of the bourgeoisie and the revolutionary instincts of their younger selves.
So, yours truly had to listen to lectures about financial responsibility, and they’ve been very cold to the ideas that I should have iPods and fancy computers and all the bling stuff that should come with being the single child of the ten per centres.
And Stephen’s parents have made decisions for him all his life to prevent him from becoming something that his parents appear to loathe, the moneyed and arrogant little Bullingdon wannabe that attach their view of other people to how much money they have, and whether they went to the right schools and met the right people.
It seems like our parents, mine and Stephen’s, are a bit mental. There’s certainly no logic or forethought often-times, and they appear to act on instinct most of the time. And thus we find ourselves pondering the curious inconsistencies of our lives, as well as the funny contrasts that exist between us and our friends.
I am glad I know Stephen. I am glad that there’s someone out there that appear to view things the way I do; that our lives are comedies of errors in some ways, and that people who actually struggle with money or prospects or aspirations would find our little problems ironic.
Both Ben and Abbie certainly have sometimes looked at me, and at Stephen, as if we’re these alien beings. Most of the times I suspect that they are entirely correct. Particularly when I sit clipping coupons for Tesco because I should, rather than because I have to. As if my doing so changes anything important, and as if doing so magically makes me less of a member of the upper crust than I am.
In the end, maybe mine and Stephen’s own peculiarities are just as strange as our parents’. I certainly can find no logical or practical reason to pinch pennies. Since we do, does that make us more moral people than if we didn’t? Does it change the fact that we’re privileged brats with trust funds? I don’t think it changes anything, and thus we are walking ironies. What little it may change is that at least we’re not pathetic walking ironies.