There is SO much in the ethers about class and status.
Especially when it comes to money or implications about money. It can be fascinating to notice (at least, when it’s not personally painful!). There are deeply-embedded, tribal, status-seeking messages that can flood us throughout the day. Thinking about what to wear for what occasion. What car we drive, if we do drive a car, and what others think when they look at it. Coming off as “poorer” or “richer” can both be painful, yet the perfect balance is impossible since there are so many different “eye of the beholders” out there to consider. Even if I am trying to NOT be affected by all those eyes of the beholders, I am still affected by it. It can take my attention before I even realize it. So what does it take to minimize personal pain, living in a society where class matters?
I have a story for you.
Bae and I got to go to a fancy gala this year, thanks to one of his gigs. They gave him and a +1 free tickets, which was a wonderful gift. I’m pretty sure that was my first real gala. I said yes because there was going to be wonderful music. All the rest seems burdensome to me…dressing up, getting to the city, crowds, being out late. (I really still am a country girl!)
The event is over and I am just now looking up ticket prices. The top supporters paid $15,625 per person to go to an extremely nice party and support a good cause. 1 of those tickets would pay my current rent for 16 and a half months. Wow, that is humbling, a bit baffling, and kind of amazing. And there is an undercurrent of tension that I am not supposed to say this out loud. That I am being rude to acknowledge it in public. So weird!
It was a visually beautiful scene, with a live jazz trio before the show. We were offered flutes of champagne and/or a shot of bourbon at the door. (More class noticing…I’m sober. So I “just” had sparkling water. That puts me above people who drink cheap booze yet below people who can handle their expense booze. Yet hipsters who drink cheap booze and can still show up the next day to code well at work are kind of above me too? It’s endless!) The appetizers were so tasty that even Brussels Sprouts came out as taste bud rock stars.
I was both glad to be there, and always have a good time with Bae. I noticed there were certain parts of the room that felt comfortable to me, and other parts I felt I bounced off of. We tried to gracefully slide into a room in the back and were stopped at the door because it was only for Luminaries. Granted, the one who stopped us was super gracious about it, and I jokingly told him and Bae that they are Luminaries to me.
I could go on and on about looking at and being looked at, where we were seated and what it seemed to mean, and that the one person I knew there, was someone working the event. (And even then I need to self-consciously qualify that he is kind of high up in the event management company, because I want you to think that I am just in that right place where I didn’t pay 16 and a half month’s rent for my ticket but I also didn’t know anyone who was “just” on catering staff there.) Instead of going on, though, I will share some tools that help me when the class self-consciousness goes into overdrive:
1) When I’m in the illusion that I’m a whole lot better than or less than someone, I picture them as a baby. In addition to babies being ridiculously adorable and cuddly, it also reminds me that the person has a whole life story. Regardless of how much money and status they have access to, they have survived on Earth this long, which is a major accomplishment.
2) Gratitude! I know we hear it all the time now, but it really is major. For me it’s not just thinking in a rote way about gratitude (though that can be a nice way to get into the state). It’s a state of being that helps me flow and notice all that is going well. Painful class noticings are often a more contracted, fearful state. The other night when I just let myself take in the music and the gentle crowd murmur and how much Bae makes me laugh, it started to matter a whole lot less what I was wearing and who thought what of it. So what that I hadn’t paid money to be there? My enjoying it and being present was a nice contribution, too.
3) Be the first to connect. If I’m feeling lonely, left out, or isolated, it often is the last thing I want to do, to take a chance that I might be rejected. I’m on the middle of the introvert/extrovert spectrum, and I know that matters, too, for how easy that action seems in the moment. For all of us, though, being able to proceed with curiosity, with willingness to be open, radically increases the chance of being pleasantly surprised.