The Privilege meme

I picked this up from the Singing Librarian, and decided that it was an interesting quiz to do.

It was devised by PhD students at Indiana State University – Will Barratt, Meagan Cahill, Angie Carlen, Minnette Huck, Drew Lurker, and Stacy Ploskonka. If you participate, they ask that you please acknowledge their copyright.

My parents were what’s now termed asset rich and cash poor. We lived surprisingly frugally in a great big house so we looked flash on little cash, and it’s left me slightly uneasy about privilege ever since. That, and the combination of being raised by women who spoke like Celia Johnson while growing up surrounded by the inverted snobbery of the 60s and 70s. I notice that today’s young hackerati are perfectly comfortable describing themselves as “middle class kids”, but I still feel slightly embarrassed and uneasy about it.

1. Father went to college.
2. Father finished college.

Sandhurst counts, presumably.

3. Mother went to college.
4. Mother finished college.

She was told she hadn’t studied hard enough to return for her second year, which left her with no good argument to put for me when I… Oh, never mind.

5. Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor.

Well, my sister’s a solicitor and I’m stepping out with a doctor.  Oh, and my father-in-law was a university lecturer. I have to conclude that we’re as professional and middle class as all get out. So, despite the Americanisms, yeah, I guess.

6. Were the same or higher class than your high school teachers.
7. Had more than 50 books in your childhood home.
8. Had more than 500 books in your childhood home.

Had more than 5,000 books in my childhood home, though I doubt it was up to 50,000. As Scout says in To Kill a Mockingbird: “I did not love to read; you do not love to breathe”.

9. Were read children’s books by a parent.

Until I was over 18, graduating from Winnie the Pooh through to Jane Austin.  One of the formative experiences of my life.

10. Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18.

Private lessons I assume – my parents very sweetly paid for piano lessons and riding lessons.  Pigs were more likely to fly than I was ever likely to play the piano, and ponies and pony-girls just intimidated me, so it was a lovely gesture but a complete waste.

11. Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18.

No.  The failure of the piano lessons and riding lessons probably put them off.

12. The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively.

I don’t know what or who “people who dress and talk like me” are, and I never watch tv anyway.  Um. My family could have stepped out of an Agatha Christie in many respects (those Celia Johnson voices) or Morse, or the Midsummer Murders even. Is being a murderer with be-a-u-tifully en-unc-i-at-ed vowels a positive representation or a negative one?  You decide.

13. Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18.

No freaking way.  Credit cards for teenagers?  No. Absolutely not. My parents had more than enough problems preventing their own costs from turning into debts to give us little debt-lets of our own.

14. Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs.
15. Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs.

Local Education Authority Grant.  I didn’t realise at the time how lucky I was.

16. Went to a private high school.

Er.  Yes. It was pants though. A very nice school for the sweet but unintellectual daughters of doctors. Loathed it. Still get flashbacks.

17. Went to summer camp.

Mmm. Opera camp. Just typing it makes me blink in amazement.

18. Had a private tutor before you turned 18.

Nah.

19. Family vacations involved staying at hotels.

Do guest-houses and pubs in English and Scottish seaside towns count as “hotels”?  They do, don’t they.  In fact my parents were pretty frugal with regards to summer holidays, and we tended to lig off family and friends who lived nearer the coast than we did.

20. Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18.

Hah! No. None of it was.  It was either second hand (school uniforms) hand-me downs (I had two big sisters) or home made.

21. Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them.

Surely a 10 year old Fiat 127 doesn’t count?

22. There was original art in your house when you were a child.

But all painted by relatives. Pretty good, some of it, though.

23. You and your family lived in a single-family house.

I’m not sure what this means.  We were a three generation household, grandparents, parents and kids.

24. Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home.

Mmmm.

25. You had your own room as a child.

Mmmm.

26. You had a phone in your room before you turned 18.
27. Participated in a SAT/ACT prep course

28. Had your own TV in your room in high school.

I can remember being shocked by people who had TVs in their rooms at uni.

29. Owned a mutual fund or IRA in high school or college.

30. Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16.

I’d never even been abroad before I was 16. In fact the first time I went to Europe I was 28 or so and married.

31. Went on a cruise with your family.
32. Went on more than one cruise with your family.

33. Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up.

Oddly enough, they didn’t, but that was more a matter of their own philistinism than anything else.  I think it was “educational” and so they delegated it to the school to do that. My Ma read a lot of pretty middle-brow stuff, and that was it.

34. You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family.

I remember once, aged 5, being held in front of an open internal door and being told that I could feel the heat coming out of the room (I couldn’t) and that I should learn to shut doors. I also remember having baths by candlelight because of a mixture of powercuts and fuel prices.  I remember frost on the inside of the windows, though that was only one winter. I do remember lying in bed for an hour because it was too cold for me to want to get up. I may not have known how much the bills were, but I was very aware that fuel costs money, and still am.  I cannot leave a light on in an empty room to this day.

So 16 yeses out of 34.  I was raised and educated with middle class values but my parents were surprisingly uncultured: lots of books, but no trips to the theatre, art galleries, museums or concerts.  Privately educated, but definitely on the cheap.   There wasn’t, as I said, a lot of spare cash to go round.  However, I am irredeemably middle class. I’m nervous around plumbers and comfortable with lawyers, and I guess that proves it completely.

Oh well.

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4 responses to “The Privilege meme

  1. Opera camp? Please, AB, you must expand further on this.

    The rest of your responses are also fascinating (I’m trying to imagine the combination of you and a pony, and it’s just not working), but surely you can’t be surprised that this made me blink in amazement as well.

  2. Oh, it was a slightly structured version of “let’s put the show on right here in the barn”. It was organised for middle class (boarding school) adolescents by a woman who’d learned from having a disabled daughter that activities create memories, and memories are what last.

    The first one was “Captain Noah and his Floating Zoo” when I was 10 or so, and the next year it was “Joseph”. Those ones weren’t actually camps – we were ferried to and fro twice a week for about three weeks in the summer. Then I suspect the ferrying mothers rebelled, and the woman who’d organised it gave over her barns, paddock and kitchen to serve as theatre, dining-room and campsite for a week. I think we followed on immediately after the pony-club, which must have contributed to the fragrance of all. The loos put me off Glastonbury for years.

    We progressed through The Threepenny Opera (Gay, not Brecht), Orpheus in the Underworld, Oklahoma and West Side Story. There were at least a couple more which I cannot remember. I was still involved when I was 17 but not once I’d gone to university. I think we were encouraged to leave and make room then anyway.

    It was certainly fun, and the standards were surprisingly high. There must have been a charge, to cover the hire of the loos which did improve year on year, but I don’t think it was that expensive because everyone chipped in and it wasn’t run for profit.

    It moved to Taynton in Gloucestershire in the early 1980s, but it doesn’t appear to have survived through to the Internet age. I’ve not been able to find any online references. I suspect that key adults (musicians, choreographers) decided to no longer be involved.

    But a week of intense rehearsing followed by two nights’ performance (and preceded by 3 months of organisation) is an incredibly good way to put on a children’s opera.

    Aphra.

  3. That sounds like a fantastic way to create memories, as you put it, though I’m not sure I’d have enjoyed the fragrance, either. You’re probably absolutely right that the absence of key adults is probably what brought it to an end. That makes me wonder whether there’s anything similar running now where I could volunteer my services as enthusiastic adult/stage crew/whatever to serve as a memory-creator. Unfortunately, other kids’/teens’ holidays I’ve helped with in the past have actually cost me more than going away for a week for rest and relaxation. That probably shouldn’t stop me, though, should it?

    I’ve done Gay’s ‘Beggar’s Opera’ before (in the version that Benjamin Britten played about with, to use the technical term), but we spent a month on it instead of a week. There’s something immensely appealing about “let’s put the show on right here in the barn!”

  4. SonofRojBlake

    1. Father went to college.
    Yes.
    2. Father finished college.
    Yes. And then I never saw him again. So it doesn’t count, I think. So two no’s, so far.
    3. Mother went to college.
    Yes.
    4. Mother finished college.
    No, because I turned up. Which I knew from an early age. Again, I think the “Yes” to question three is cancelled out.
    5. Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor.
    No.
    6. Were the same or higher class than your high school teachers.
    Definitely not.
    7. Had more than 50 books in your childhood home.
    8. Had more than 500 books in your childhood home.
    Whoah. Score two for two. A little over a thousand, I think.

    9. Were read children’s books by a parent.
    Yes. Indeed, forced (it didn’t take much) to use my library card too.

    10. Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18.
    Nah.

    11. Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18.
    Still on just three…

    12. The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively.

    Geeks and trekkies? Don’t be daft.

    13. Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18.

    Didn’t even realise this was possible, does that count as a minus point?

    14. Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs.

    Not a penny. Full grant.

    15. Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs.

    Full grant.

    16. Went to a private high school.

    Nope.

    17. Went to summer camp.

    Didn’t even know such things existed. Again, minus one?

    18. Had a private tutor before you turned 18.

    Don’t be silly.

    19. Family vacations involved staying at hotels.

    Odd one… yes it did. On precisely two occasions, but yes. Score a half. So 3.5.

    20. Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18.

    Only child. Had to be. 4.5

    21. Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them.

    Yeah right. I paid for my own damn car, and on the day I passed my test my mum came to pick me up in it, and THEN seriously proposed the idea that she was not going to let me drive it back to her house. Not going to LET me drive MY car. The woman defines “control freak”. (I drove it back to her house – but I’m damn well having a point back for that. 3.5)

    22. There was original art in your house when you were a child.

    Nope.

    23. You and your family lived in a single-family house.

    Yes, due to death. 4.5

    24. Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home.

    Yes, due to death and insurance. 5.5

    25. You had your own room as a child.

    Only child, so yes. 6.5.

    26. You had a phone in your room before you turned 18.

    Nope.

    27. Participated in a SAT/ACT prep course

    No, if that means what I think it means. I aced every test I took anyway, so it would have been a waste of time.

    28. Had your own TV in your room in high school.

    Had my own COMPUTER in my room in 1983. 7.5

    29. Owned a mutual fund or IRA in high school or college.

    Nah.

    30. Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16.

    Yes. 8.5

    31. Went on a cruise with your family.

    Weirdly, yes. Long story. 9.5

    32. Went on more than one cruise with your family.

    Don’t be silly.

    33. Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up.

    Again, weirdly, yes. 10.5

    34. You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family.

    No idea. Power cuts happened to everyone. 11.5.

    Is 11.5 a big score?

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