I didn’t blog yesterday. Why? Well, I’ve been avoiding this post for some time…
I currently live in Surrey. We exist on my husband’s (well above the country average) wage. I’m an actual Surrey housewife.
I’ll let that sink in…
We earn enough that we have a nice flat, feed ourselves and 3 cats (organic high protein only), eat out/have take aways when we fancy, buy new clothes and gadgets because we fancy them, have food delivered by Ocado, and John Lewis and Lakeland Limited are my idea of shopping heaven.
For at least 15 year of my life I lived in houses with no central heating or double glazing. I can’t comprehend how people can afford to drive a car when it’s not absolutely essential for work. I don’t know how you’re meant to fund a university degree (not the fees, dear Gods not the fees. The everyday living). I can’t bring myself to set up a direct debit to charity, because “what if we need that bit of cash?”. I’ve never been skiing, and I’ve never even sat on a horse (this last one might be a lie. I don’t remember sitting on a horse… A donkey, yes, horse? no).
I owe a massive amount of gratitude to my parents. I was well into my late teens before I realised we’d grown up quite poor. Between creative cooking and handmade clothes I had no real idea. We enjoyed days out (museums, parks, stately homes and castles) and seemed to have an abundance of present for birthdays and christmas. I realise now that’s because my parents, mum in particular, were (and are) bloody amazing.
Yet, despite this oblivion, and despite now living the middle class cliche, I feel I don’t belong here. Each time I go to a ‘posh shop’ I wait to be stopped and asked to show them my bag (it’s worth noting this has NEVER happened).
And we don’t talk about it. Not generally anyway. I mean, I joke occasionally, but to friends whose parents have given them deposits to buy their first house with (!). So I often feel like I’m ‘just visiting’ this world, and I’ll soon get found out. That I’ll be made to move back to the “ambulances won’t go into this estate without a police escort” areas I used to live in and have my only food options to be ASDA smart price.
I was extremely lucky to be gifted with a brain. That, good schools (which we walked miles to go to, thanks again mum!) and parents that took an interest and played ‘educational’ games (I have vivid memories of word and classical music based amusement) meant that I sailed through school. My GSCEs took very little effort. But, then I hit the world of selective education. An all girls school. I was handed a posh (expensive) uniform and titles for my ‘summer projects’. Umm, what? What’s a summer project? But there was no-one at the school to answer, it was summer, and everyone knew what was expected of them right? I started my first week knowing I was already behind, knowing I was already the outsider, and knowing I’d have to embarrass myself in front of my “we already fit in this system” classmates (who, I feel the need to point out were always lovely. They never made me feel like I was an outsider, the poor kid, it was entirely the expectations of the system we were in).
Any time I see about how non-private school kids need to be encouraged into university I get angry. Not angry about my own life, I’m very happy where I’ve ended up, but angry for those kids who don’t have the support structure around them like I did. For the brainy kid whose parents couldn’t give a crap about their education, or can’t be bothered to read a story with the kid trying to learn new words.
If I didn’t fit in, how will they?
I’m slowly getting used to the idea that I’m ‘allowed’ to be in ‘posh’ places. I doubt I’ll ever be comfortable with tipping service people on a much higher wage than I’ve ever earned. And it’s unlikely that I’ll ever feel confident walking in to a restaurant and paying more than £15 for a non-steak main.
John Lewis however? You can pry that out of my cold, dead hands…
ETA: A hat tip to this blog post for, eventually, prompting me to write about this