Saturday, May 31, 2008

Family origins: a declassé bourgeois

That reflects my family background. My family, at least the family that I grew up with, was at one time really influential and wealthy, was a mover and shaker in Macomb County Michigan politics and even to a certain extent influential on the State level of Michigan government. But it started to fall on harder and harder times, becoming more isolated from the rest of the rich people and poorer and shoddier, until by the time of my parents, my mom started to essentially be part of working class culture, eventually even marrying an auto worker, who was a step father. I grew up in these two worlds, with my mom bringing a sort of sensitivity to and awareness of elite culture but with the culture that I actually lived in and functioned in being pretty much working class, at best lower middle class, and not really connected at all with what sometimes was present at home. I think my mom thought she could pass on class by osmosis, but when the rubber hit the road we weren't plugged in to the sort of elite society that could provide that. There was always a tension between the two worlds, the world at home and the outer world, and as they say there's only so much that a well intentioned mother can do...I grew up outside of the elite culture but still exposed to it, and then, miraculously, I got the chance to finish up high school at the sort of elite school that people like my Mom would have gone to.

1 comment:

bob said...

Fascinating! My family history on both sides is characterised by very rapid upward and downward social mobility. In every generation, it seems, one member struggles up into respectability and one member - the "black sheep" - falls into the lumpen world.

I'm the first generation of my family that has - despite my best intentions - managed to hold on to the middle class life my parents carved out from their proletarian upbringings.