Friday, November 18, 2016

Do I live in a bubble?

Take this quiz before you read further. It's pretty fascinating. It's called Do you live in a bubble? A quiz

Bubbles have been on the brain ever since Trump won the Presidential election in one of the biggest political upsets in history.

According to this quiz, which was published by PBS, I live in an upper-middle class bubble. At first I wanted to argue that no I don't--I'm just middle class, just two generations off the farm--but the fact that I even took a PBS quiz in the first place makes that argument pretty pitiful.

My quiz results: "A first-generation upper-middle-class person with middle-class parents."

Honestly I thought I'm more second-generation middle-class. I just happen to be a big honkin nerd who prefers to read and geek out on the internet over watching TV and mainstream movies. Less classy, more nerdy. I'm a paraprofessional librarian. No MLS for me. Just a love of lifelong learning and a passion for institutions that help educate and enrich people's lives.

Which is harder than you'd think. It challenging to help ALL SORTS of people. Rich and poor. Black and brown and golden and peachy. Pissed off and joyful. Readers and video gamers. Often the same person. You just never know who the person is that's going to ask the next question and you have to be prepared to help them if they're a business man in a suit or a two year old with a booger in his nose.

Once a patron called Telephone Reference and asked something about The Big Bang Theory, meaning the TV show, which I had never heard of, and so my answer had to do with The Big Bang Theory, meaning the origin of the universe, which he had never heard of. We were both so confused! Two bubbles collided on that day.

But the more I think about it, maybe I am upper-middle class. I do loathe Walmart. I tolerate Target, but my favorite place to buy my clothes is this thrift shop near an affluent neighborhood. Rich folks donate the best stuff. I've found some amazing pieces from Talbots and Lands' End there at a price that doesn't break my frugal librarian budget. When I'm desperate I do buy from Lands' End online--if it's on sale. It's like, I don't have the money to be "upper-middle" but I have the taste of someone in that category. And I don't mean to put positive connotations on the word "taste". Taste schmaste. I wholeheartedly believe people should ignore fashion trends and what society says is proper attire and wear what they love because they feel great in it.
"Refuse to wear uncomfortable pants, even if they make you look really thin. Promise me you’ll never wear pants that bind or tug or hurt, pants that have an opinion about how much you’ve just eaten. The pants may be lying! There is way too much lying and scolding going on politically right now without your pants getting in on the act, too." --Anne Lamott
From what I've been reading the main difference between lower-middle class and upper-middle class is education level. I am not the most well-educated person if what you consider to be well-educated is a college degree. But I've always been a big reader, a deep thinker, and a person who questions authority. An autodidact with an attitude.

I have an associate's degree from the community college. Between that, my hard work and experience I landed my cushy children's librarian gig. I am incredibly lucky to have worked for the same public library for 23 years--virtually my entire adult life. But because I don't have a bachelor's degree, let alone a master's degree, if I lost my awesome job it would be difficult to find another one as good and as decently paying as the one I have now. I can't just pick up and move to San Francisco on a whim, so here I am, living with my man in Kansas.

I married a man from a lower-middle class family. He didn't go to college (even though he's one of the most intelligent people I know) but his brother did. His mom drives a forklift and his dad is a retired manager of a pizza chain. (I knew who Jimmie Johnson is because my father-in law is a huge NASCAR fan.) My husband has an open-mind, a quick wit, and he's deeply curious about the universe and all that makes it tick. He reads, but not textbooks. Mostly Fantasy and Science Fiction, but occasionally a nonfiction book about a man who escapes a detention center in North Korea. He watches things like Parks and Rec and Metalocalypse on TV in his free time when he's not fixing our dishwasher or retiling the roof. He's a renaissance man. I dig him a lot.

I have a funny family history, class wise. A big mix of lower-and-upper-middle class. My maternal great-grandfather was a doctor (a chiropractor) who loved Victor Hugo so much he named one of his daughters Jean Valjean, only they pronounced it Jeen Valjeen. My maternal great-grandmother was a stay at home mom who lived in the country and baked the best lemon meringue pie according to my mom. My maternal grandfather was a plumber who read, both fiction and nonfiction, incessantly. He probably would have gotten his PhD had he not been orphaned at age 11 and kicked out of school after eighth grade because he couldn't afford the textbooks. My grandmother was a stay at home mom until her kids left home and then she owned a beauty salon. My mom was a stay at home mom until she divorced her first husband (a salesman) and married my dad (an office manager/accountant) who got laid off in the seventies and so my mom went back to work as a dental assistant, a sales clerk at Wards, and later as a bookkeeper for a dental company. No one in my family, except for my great-grandfather and one of my five siblings has had a college education. Well, and me, with my little ole two year degree that took me eleven years to get around to finishing.

My dad's side of the family is much more cut and dried. My dad is a first-generation middle class man from a working class family. His dad grew up on a farm, the oldest of 10 kids, and he moved to the city (St. Joseph, MO) to work in the slaughterhouse. His wife, my grandmother, grew up on literally the farm next door to my grandfather. She was the oldest of twelve and she moved to the city with her husband and one-year old son, my dad. She was a stay-at-home mom, but their family struggled to pay their bills, especially since my grandfather struggled with alcoholism.

My dad got drafted into the army, and when he got out he used the GI Bill to pay for an accounting certificate from a local business college and went to work for a truck line. After twenty years, he was the office manager and made $20,000 in 1970, enough to support his first wife and daughter, his second wife and kids, and have enough to buy himself a bitchin Camaro when his mid-life crisis kicked in. Then he got laid off and my mom had to work to make enough money for us to afford our mortgage payment. I think deep down my dad felt ashamed. Men of that generation took far too much pride in their occupations and not enough in being a kind, decent man.

I married a guy who makes less money than I do, but he does way more housework and upkeep on the house. We split child-rearing about fifty-fifty. Maybe sixty-forty, but only because I'm a tiny bit more of a helicopter parent than he is.

So, what class am I?

My favorite restaurant is Cafe Sebastienne. It's local, and located inside the Kemper Contemporary Museum of Art. Definitely upper-middle.

My second favorite restaurant is Elsa's Ethiopian restaurant. Also local.  Located in an up-and-coming mixed-use, affluent neighborhood. More upper-middle.

But the first time I ever got a pedicure was a month ago when I had to take my eighty-nine year old dad in to get his nasty ass diabetic tough as NAILS toenails trimmed and I thought what the heck, why not. Plus, Dad paid. Frugal!

I get my hair cut about once a year at Great Clips. Definitely lower-middle.

I shop at thrift stores (lower) but I buy Talbot's and Lands' End (upper).

I read incessantly and stay well informed of current events. I hate watching TV. It bores me to tears. Unless it's Futurama or Portlandia or Bob's Burgers (upper, upper, and more upper.)

I want my kid to go to college because I think she'll love learning ALL THE THINGS, not because I want her to train for some high-wage job. I'd rather she be broke and work with Doctors' Beyond Borders than get a business degree and make a living by making a profit off of other people.

I love art, and philosophy, and political science. I hate shopping, and beef, and reality TV. But I also don't mind hanging out with smokers and drinkers and people who place more value in authenticity than wallet size. I don't think that having a college degree means you are necessarily smarter than someone who lacks a college degree. When my blinds broke I didn't hire someone to replace them. I hung blankets over the windows and appreciated the light streaming through the colorful fabric.

I'm a blend. I'm more than a label. I'm a mixture. I'm me.