Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Status

I finally found one of the threads in my brain I've been trying to turn into a full tapestry. Let's see how this goes.

How much do other people think about status? I think about it a lot. I think about who has it and why. Status is far more important than people want to admit in pretty much every area of life. Dancers try to tell me they aren't status whores but they have spent many thousands of dollars on costumes to be impressive. Really?

I'm status obsessed. I can say it out loud as well as in writing. I think about the potential status repercussions for my actions. I like to toil in isolation and show up with something cool. I don't like being seen sucking. If I can't do that, well, I guess I don't need to come out of isolation.

I'm a weird place socially. I am not present in any community enough to be an Alpha. I know it. I accept it. I don't really want to be a leader. It's a lot of pressure. But I'm not really a group member. I suck at that. My experience of being part of the hierarchy is that I have to be on the bottom and shut my fucking mouth about it.

I re-watched the movie Whale Rider recently. The little girl was explicitly told she had to sit in the back and not participate while the boys were trained. Obviously she wasn't as good as them. They had dicks. They are better.

That was really and truly how my childhood was oriented. If someone had a penis and he wanted to be "right" you had to let him. I certainly went off and lived that experience again with Tom. I don't do that any more. I argue with Noah. I am kind of an asshole when I am right. I have a lot of years of bitterness around being told I am wrong. It's not fair to Noah. He thinks it is a small sin in the scheme of things. I have gotten much more polite over the years.

Noah and I have long, complicated conversations about status. In terms of income we are in the top 10% of the country. In the bay area we are fairly median. We consciously choose to live in a smaller, cheaper house than most of our friends want to live in. Noah deals with a long commute so that he doesn't have to spend way more money on a mortgage. This was what he could afford to buy ten years ago. I'm told we should upgrade now. My thought is, "Nah, I can remodel when the mortgage is paid off." I won't be able to buy a house that feels perfect. I'll have to change it too. Why not just put all the effort into this house? Why leave my garden? I've done a lot of work here. This is my piece of dirt. I have changed it.

Because where I live is rather low status.

People snicker occasionally. You live in Fremont? I don't really understand the sneering. Mother fucker my family is from Bakersfield. This is a step up. I promise. It helps that even my neighbors think we are on the low end of things. We don't spend money in flashy ways. I think a month-long trip to Europe is a high status thing to do. I'd rather do that than spend more money on rent.

Noah was talking to me about how people want to be able to identify very high status people and very low status people and they don't really want to think about the bits in the middle. That's sticky. I'm in the middle these days. I have been on the bottom. I know very well what it feels like to be looked at and judged to be less of a worthy person just because of the things you don't have. The rest of my family has standard poor-person-values in terms of wanting status symbols. You may live in a roach infested dump but damnit you have expensive shoes. Or a big car. Or something. I don't want to have. I want to do.

Most of the people who inhabit my world are fairly bright. I know a lot of ivy-league-educated people. I live in that kind of place. I always know I am not one of them. I know that I am a social climber. I know that I really belong on the lower end of societies scale on most things. I spend my time around people who are demonstrably higher status than me wondering when they will look down on me. I didn't go to CMU or Stanford or MIT or... They still talk about it all the time. Clearly it is a big part of their self-perceived status. If it is such a demonstrably large part of their perceived status it isn't much of a jump to think that they therefore judge other people on the same criterion. All I have to say is that my university was named for a city when I went there. Now it's just "East Bay". Woo. That's pride to have. Even the school isn't proud of being in Hayward. Let's try to pretend we have some relevance compared to places like Berkeley. We're part of the bay area too! Ugh.

I forget that the ivy league educated people aren't any smarter than I am. I feel intimidated by them. I never even took trigonometry. Obviously I am as stupid as a rock. At least that is the attitude the geeks have. In their little status hierarchy I am extremely low status.

I think I married Noah because, near as I can tell, he has a higher opinion of my status than anyone else. Even before marrying me. He thought my experiences and strengths add up to a person of considerable value. I think he married me because I look at him and see very high status. I can't believe someone like him would want someone like me.

I crawled out of the gutter. I come from uneducated people with no work ethic to speak of. I come from drug abuse, alcoholism, and heinous abuse of various flavors. It feels like I am an untouchable. How could a trust fund baby from an ivy league see anything worth having? Status is a complicated thing. If you are sufficiently mobile you can trick people into only seeing your current life situation. If you do that then you can have some degree of social mobility in the middle. You will never be high status that way. Such assignments carry longer term consequences. They are for people who are fairly consistent in their life. You can carry low status with you. I feel like I am trying to outrun mine.

How much do I have to do? How much do I have to accomplish? What do I have to learn? What do I have to do to throw of the stink of being low status? I don't know. These days it seems like the stench is only in my own mind. I have managed to learn how to pass. People don't question me about my status unless I tell them I am white trash. Maybe that is why I do. I'm fucking tired of how these middle status people don't want to honestly talk about what that means.

I'm in the middle. Probably lower than you. And sometimes I can't help myself but I hate you for it.


8 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. I don't *really* hate people. Not individuals. It's just muddy. You are spiffy. :)

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  2. But I have a favorite castle! That doesn't make me high status?! :)

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    Replies
    1. I think it does. But I'm like that. :)

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  3. One of the beauties of travel is receiving a different perspective on our first world 'status' stuff. Having seen really poor people living in wretched conditions - yet seeming to be content- kind of throws the monkey wrench into my mind about my own first world status.

    And I haven't yet gone to the countries where this is (reportedly) rampant.

    I do think about status somewhat. I have a degree from a middle class university; I have done several academic programs since graduation but no further degree. I no longer work and that really leaves me questioning my status. I can't even claim 'full time Mom' as my job. These days I tend the house and garden and do some volunteer work. Beginning to feel a bit of persona non gratis.

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    Replies
    1. In 20 years what would you like to brag about having done?

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  4. Hmmm. I had an Aunt who went to college when she was in her sixties/seventies. She graduated top of her class!

    Don't need more formal education, but returning to school for subjects which interest me appeals. Some academics, some applied arts.

    I do do some volunteer work which feels good (adult literacy and food deliveries for refugees and immigrants.)

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  5. I think about status a good bit, and I'm probably lower status than you are...I think the preoccupation with status comes from knowing we are on the low end of the stick.

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