[Update: this was written before Vance revealed himself as a Trump-loving jerk, and while there are a LOT of problems with Hillbilly Elegy, it still told me something about my upbringing, so I'm leaving this up.]
[Update: Vance is pure evil, so I removed the 60 or so words referring to him and kept the substance of the post. 4/18/22]
I'm more and more realizing that I come from a middle-class family that thinks like a working-class family.
--Neither my parents nor I had any conception that there was such a thing as financial aid for college. No. Clue. I had a Regents' scholarship, and we thought that was all that was available. [Edited to add: The idea that you would get competing offers from private schools and play them off against each other, as is apparently common, might have occurred on Mars for all we were aware of it.]
--Intense mockery from the larger extended family for wanting to do what Hamilton calls "rise above my station." Which job did I want? Nurse or teacher? What's puzzling is that some of them were professionals--lawyers and such--so I think this was probably gender rather than class-based.
--Which state school did I plan to attend, the one 40 miles away or the one 60 miles away? (Vance talks about this place-bound thinking as a class issue; ditto for private versus public institutions.)
--Rules were for keeps, whereas for middle- and upper-middle class students, rules were meant to be bent with a well-placed phone call. Here's what I said about them in 2009:
As I said in a too-long comment over at Sisyphus's blog, if you were raised with working-class values (as I was, and which transcend technical middle-class status), you thought that when someone told you the rules, they were really the rules. You didn't realize that you could argue your way out of them and convince people to do your bidding, because that's not how the world works for you if you don't have class privilege to back it up. And then, when you saw others sail past the rules that you'd abided by, you felt angry and betrayed, because you'd played by the rules and they hadn't.I did not know that rules would bend to class privilege until well beyond graduate school. Now I make a point of telling students like me, "Look, let's make a call and see what we can do."
So, forthwith I give you, as seen at Flavia Fescue's, the first jobs meme.
1. Babysitting, a lot of it, enough to buy my first typewriter in high school. Now that I think of it, some of my wages from being a cashier probably paid for part of it, too.
2. Tried to get a job at the library but couldn't. Ditto a newspaper job. Jobs were scarce in those days.
3. Supermarket cashier. My mother, using her influence, got me an interview at the local chain supermarket, where I worked at a checkout stand through high school and college. I felt lucky to have this job, since each summer I had to earn whatever spending money I needed for the whole school year. This was back when you had to memorize prices (no bar codes), so I got to be good at it fairly fast.
4. Job I did not try for: waitress, due to an intense hatred of smoking and knowing that I'd have to clean ash trays. This was before "smoke-free" anything.
5. Worked in food service in a dining hall, both on the serving line and prepping vegetables.
6. Drugstore clerk. Hated it.
7. Filing and typing in an academic office.
Flavia, I thank you for posting this list, for I had thought that maybe I was making it up about the class dimension of jobs. In thinking more deeply about it, I can see that I wasn't.