Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Low Class

The subject of the week on the blogosphere seems to be class. Lower class, Upper class, European class…

“You can tell if she’s a lady by her hat and her shoes.” That’s what my Italian grandfather used to say, or so at least my father – a card carrying member of the communist party - would quote him. That was the extent of his opinion on class.

My German-Jewish ex-husband had much more refined ideas of class. Europeans, he told me, have clear methods of identifying class. The focus, he’d tell me, was on table manners and accent. The ability to pile a few peas, along with some mashed potatoes and a piece of meat on one fork held in the left hand with the tins facing down, and navigate them into your mouth without having any peas fall off, is a sign of class. Even higher class would be to do it without the mortar of the mashed potatoes holding the peas in place... Contrast with American standards – first you pre-cut your meat, then you transfer the fork to your right hand. You scoop up the peas up with the fork tins facing up, and go for the mashed potatoes in the next round. What is considered upper class in American table manners? I think it’s keeping your elbows off the table and keeping your mouth shut while you chew.

One of my last trips with my Ex was to Germany. Before the trip I jokingly showed off my knowledge of German. It was really my knowledge of Yiddish. The words Yo (yes). Azoy (I see). He cringed. I sounded like a country bumpkin he said. Only farmers talk like that. Pronouncing those words properly – Yah, Ah Zou – was imperative. He wanted to make sure I didn’t go around with him sounding like I’d just fallen off the pumpkin cart.

All through the trip I couldn’t get those words out of my mouth. In either accent. I couldn’t decide which I preferred. Sounding like a country bumpkin, or trying to sound like the upper class of a country that I still consider the great satan… Which class did I really want to belong to?


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