Let me preface this by saying that I am not a sociologist. I’m more of a social observer. So these are all observations, not facts.
People always talk about factors that inter-racial couples have to deal with, but what about the inter-class couple?
I never thought about this as an idea before until college. I always dated guys in the same social class as me (lower middle class). They were usually from single parent families where the mom worked hard and the dad was never around, like my family. They lived in decent neighborhoods in urban areas, like me. We had after-school jobs and got $10-$20 allowances.
Then I went to college and experienced one side of the inter-class relationship spectrum while dating a guy of a lower class than me. We moved into the slums, our lights were cut off. We had to hustle. And I was in super culture shock. My parents were disgusted and we broke up because it was really just too much to deal with. I realized that I felt that I was better than him, better than us and I “deserved more”.
Fast-forward to now. My current boyfriend is of a much higher class than me. His mom was married. Him and his sister have the same father. His mom is a super-educated entrepreneur. They have saving accounts and stay in nice hotels and own a purebred poodle. They travel to other countries. And they have college degrees.
The idea to write this only came about last night, when I totally freaked because I booked a hotel for us for the weekend, only to realize that it’s an absolute dive. I’m really not too upset about the quality of the place. Traveling with my aforementioned ex meant staying in crummy motels off the strip and living in a house with urine stained carpets. So, needless to say, I have a high tolerance for this stuff. It’s more an embarrassment because I can’t do any better. When he books rooms, we’re at the Sheraton at the Prudential. When I book rooms, we’re at the Quality Inn in Boonville.
And there are other things. He has a “real job” with a decent income. I’m an Americorps member on food stamps. As the lower class person in the relationship, I feel as if parts of my “strong black woman” independence are being compromised because I can’t do or contribute on the same level that he does.
I read this article in the New York Times called “When Richer Weds Poorer, Money Isn’t the Only Difference”. It’s definitely a few years old, but it tells the story of an inter-class married couple from Mass., outlining different issues that they’ve had to deal with, all surrounding “the cultural scripts we’ve all grown up with”, as Cate Woolner (half of the interviewed couple) mentioned.
I wonder if this idea of “not being good enough” is common in inter-class relationships. It’s not a matter of insecurity or low self-esteem. This feeling of anxiety comes solely from a “Cinderella complex” where I don’t think that I belong in the castle with the prince when I got there in a jacked up pumpkin in a donated dress and slippers.