Back in the springtime of my life, Mama and I would wander wherever the wind blew us. It was hard for her to feel at home anywhere, or with anyone. It wasn’t any old cliché about it being me and her against the world, because there wasn’t anybody else on our planet. Not until I started flunking out of school that is. Then they started coming out of the woodwork. Some blamed my failure on her being a single mom, others scolded her for the “instability of the living arrangements.” In the end though, the Powers-That-Be let her off the hook. I was just “retarded” they told her, and there wasn’t really anything anyone could do about it.
Poor counties may have the cheaper rent and taxes and such, but when it comes to getting anything from the government, like decent schooling, ya get what ya pay for. And, as I’ve mentioned, ma and I were poor. High-class poor, but poor nonetheless. So, for her boy, she tried to both put down roots, and save up to move to a better school district. It took a few calendars and a fistful of zip-codes but eventually we achieved the American Dream. We went from being blue-ribbon blue-collar in a poor town to blacklisted white trash in a wealthy one.
If you’re unfamiliar with the idea of Social Class in America, the concept of there being “high-class poor” must really sound strange to you. And if you’re from the United States, there’s a good chance it’s downright unfathomable. But, believe it or not, the U.S. has its own strange kind of social strata that is the foundation of everyone’s life. And though everyone is sure the tier they’re on is the best, it can still really suck being the lowest on the scrotum-pole.
It’s not unheard of for blue-collar workers in the top of their fields to make 80, 90, or even 100-thousand dollars a year. The thing is though, no matter how much money they make, they’re probably not going to suddenly start wanting to hang out with the “prissy, boring snobs” who were born with that sort of money. And even if they did, those who achieved that American Dream will likely never be able to scrape off the stigma of being “low class.” It’ll be obvious in their accents, hobbies, and views. And without the acceptance of those blue-bloods, they’ll never have opportunities to get access to, or make connections with the powerful people who turn the screws that screw the rest of us. Because it’s not about economic class; it’s about social class.
Statistics show that those raised in upper-classes get into better schools, have better health, get higher paying and safer jobs, are less likely to be arrested, have more effective networking opportunities, live longer lives, and get a zillion other non-monetary privileges that are probably worth more than money. No, your social-class isn’t “lower” because people in others are better, it’s because the further down the ladder you go, the more out of reach things get.
Though most grown-ups disapproved of all the moving around mom and I did in my formative years, I feel it was good for me. It helped cultivate an almost zen-like ability to go with the flow, and taught me to try and make the best of just about any situation I find myself in. Thanks to how I was raised, I’ve been able to slide all over the class spectrum, and pick up a rather sundry gaggle of friends as I do. There are certainly strata I feel more comfortable in, but for the most part I can get along with just about anyone with an open mind, no matter how different our backgrounds. And in some ways, this irritates me.
Like most fools, I occasionally like to believe that I’m a consistent entity. Even though I am quite sure of the opposite. So when I find myself speaking, acting, or even thinking differently depending on the people I’m surrounded by, it sometimes needles me. And I make an effort to pull back to the version of me that, for whatever reason, I spend the most time trying to be. This changing back and forth of speech patterns and posturing is called code switching, and most of us do it all the time without even noticing. We talk to bosses differently than we do folks back home. A janitor different than a lawyer. Someone from our class as opposed to someone from another.
Each class has its own rules about everything; personal space, volume, manners, topics of conversation and taboos, and whatever else you can think of. Consciously or sub- we usually pick up on these, and try to play their game. And though my brain believes that simple, beautiful, little poem that explains why code switching is elegant and articulate, I grew up in a class that, above all else, despised those who tried to be something they weren’t. Proud poor folk who’d rather starve than sell-out. But I’m not that anymore. Not just that anyway.
And so fucking what if we sometimes contradict ourselves, we are ginormous, and we are Legion. That doesn’t make us two-faced, not a coin flip. Not this or that. We’re more like a roll of a die. Different numbers come up depending on the conditions of the roll, and though the 1 and the 6 are different sides, they’re still the same die.
The crazy motherfuckers who’ve made Physics their lives. The ones who go to the big schools, think up the big ideas, and get paid the big bucks, whether quantum, cosmological, relativistic, or what have you, they insist that the math and evidence have hard-ons for theories about parallel universes. My favorite, or at least the one I think is the simplest, is that if the Universe is infinite, and there are only so many ways to arrange matter, than eventually, if you go far enough out, combinations will have to start repeating. And not just repeating in the exact same way they’ve formed here on our Earth, which of course they will, but also in slightly different ways. Go deep enough out in forever and eventually you’ll have to come across every possible combination of atoms, elements, people, and situations.
This is the type of shit my mind sometimes upon me forces me. It’s really just a game of What-If masquerading as science. Because, somewhere out there, there’s a reality where I never resigned from the professional world and am still climbing to higher and higher levels of middle-management. One where I don’t have an arrest record. Where I’m married with children and living in the suburbs. One where luck wasn’t on my side and I got into a drunk-driving accident and am now unfeeding into a bag. And one where I never let my mother’s argument win out over the working-class values I’d picked up along the way, where she never talked me into becoming a college-boy. There I’m still working construction, maybe making three times as much as I am now, but I’m a lower social-class conservative, and I voted for Donald Jizzmonger Trump.