Real Class

A while ago the great literary critic Paul Fussell wrote a book about class.  It described elements of status and sophistication.  In short, the book itemized what makes for class and status.  Some of the things we think are classy are wealth, sophistication, knowledge of wines, appreciation for art, going to opera, dressing well, eloquent speech, good manners, sporty cars, certain political opinions, biting wit, and other things.

A while back, I bought into that definition.  I even tried in my own way to become classy.  The trouble with that understanding of class, is that it depends on external things to make one classy.  So you need a symphony, you need fine wines, you need cars, you need artworks, and all manner of things that are outside a person.

I view things differently, now.  My new view is largely influenced by my partner.  She showed me a different aesthetic.  In fact, a different ethic.  Now I see class as integrity.  In the view I now hold, there is nothing classier than someone being up-front, honest, and sincere.  A person who can enjoy simple pleasures, such as going on a walk, playing a board game with friends or family, talking on a porch while watching the sun set, such a person knows the things that matter in life.  Now I value plain speech, direct communication, simplicity, and that priceless quality so hard to define: innocence.

Classy people in the Fullell sense may have a hard time with children.  Children see through affectations, and airs.  And caring for children can be undignified according to the Fussell view on class.  There is that scene in “As Good as It Gets” when the preppy suitor of Carol the waitress spurns her with the line, “Too much reality for a Friday night.”  He is referring to Carol’s asthmatic son who has vomited.  Her mothering was too real for the classy world view of her upscale suitor.  Class that can be vulnerable to life is shallow.  But if a person is simple, unaffected, direct, and sincere, children will love her or him, their class can’t be undone, and they are possessed of a lovable character.  That, to me now, is real class.

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. jonolan
    Aug 19, 2018 @ 08:22:51

    Well, there’s a huge difference and inherent overlap between be “of” a social class and having class. If one wants to use a purely “blueblooded” example, look at the differences in behavior- and the attitudes between “old money” and “nouveau riche.”

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  2. davidfekete123
    Aug 19, 2018 @ 08:53:19

    I like what you say about old money and nouveau riche. I had personal experience with both at Harvard, and the difference was striking. I found old money accepting and kind; nouveau riche stuffy and snobby. Old money didn’t fear losing status by talking with an impoverished student like me, while nouveau riche tried hard to establish their “superior” standing.

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