Mr P and I sometimes jokingly argue about who was the most working class when growing up. Mr P’s dad used to cycle to work every morning, whereas we never had a car at all. Ever. We didn’t get a telephone or a VCR until I was about 10 years old. Mr P can remember having a black and white TV.
So you van see that we’re pretty much on par in the poverty stakes.
My upbringing on a council estate and our lack of hard cash used to be a constant source of embarrassment when I was at primary school. When writing up what we had done that weekend, my entries would inevitably be “went to the pub with my dad” whereas everyone else was going to theme parks and on educational nature rambles.
I remember going to my friend’s house (both of her parents were school teachers) and being amazed that they ate dinner sitting at the table and that they had to wash their hands before doing so. This makes it sound as if I was dragged up rather than brought up. I wans’t. My mum did an astonishing job raising three little girls on her tod but the differences between me and my middle class friends were very apparent.
So apparent in fact, that I took to lying about what we did during weekends and school holidays. I recall making up an entire holiday in Greece when I was about 7 – something which my friend, J, still takes the piss out of me for.
The other day, Mr P and I were discussing this and he admitted that he did the same. He once told someone he was a lacrosse champion and often made up glamorous holidays and fun weekend outings to keep up with his richer friends.
Then, something changed. Something came along that made a council estate start in life and a working class status cool, something to be admired and not embarrassed about. And that something was Oasis.
The Mancunian band were proud of their working class roots and, through them, made myself and Mr P proud of ours. Once I reached the age of 13, I wouldn’t dream of making up lies about my class. I would gladly invite my middle class friends round to our council house, I would laugh about how our TV was roughly 50 years old and wasn’t even operated by a remote control. I even bought a top with a Council Estate Princess slogan emblazoned across the front of it.
Somehow, Oasis made being poorer, being working class, cool without making it exclusive., There was no saying that middle class people couldn’t like Oasis but there was a feeling that maybe they didn’t quite get it as much as their poorer counterparts.
Some might say the concept of class is outmoded these days but I’m not so sure. I went on to get a degree and Mr P and I now live in a – allegedly – salubrious part of the county. That’s all very well but we only got there by working for it and I would never dream of labelling myself as middle class.
This is easy to say when you’re not being teased at school for not wearing the ‘right’ trainers; I just hope that, if class is still a question of contention in playgrounds, that there is something, or someone, that helps the working class kids overcome their need to lie about their wealth and to value their roots.