“What separates you and me from the great unwashed,” he started, “is that we both have the potential and the desire to be better people.”
But that was a phrase that, as he would later come to understand, annoyed and hurt me. It was an awkward place to find uncomfortable classist remarks. In a letter that detailed his feelings for me and why he felt I was so special, he tried to raise us above everyone else as if we were somehow more willing to change than everyone else.
But it was a phrase that I grew up hearing because of my upbringing. I was a farmer’s daughter who was brought up in a family who didn’t particularly care about material items. We could, as long as we saved and scrimped well enough, save for the things we needed; we could sometimes, rarely, afford the things we merely wanted if we saved the money we had left over.
Because we never had the most expensive cars, the most fashionable clothing, the biggest house, the newest technology, people around us constantly made remarks about our well-being. Because we preferred casual clothing and were more comfortable outside of formal events, they assumed we were uncultured and uneducated. I heard people refer to my parents as stupid, dirty, and always abusive just because they were farmers; I heard people say that the only reason they farmed was because they were incapable of doing anything else. I’ve overheard people who pitied me because they felt that it was “child abuse” to grow up on a farm, believing that my parents would take me out of school at any minute to tend to the fields.
But it wasn’t just me who had to deal with it when I was growing up. All children who were seen to be poor, all children who came from any background that middle-class suburban people in my area didn’t understand, were treated as if we were a scourge. We’d never understand, we couldn’t see the system we were born into, we’d never be capable of doing anything, we’d be a waste on the government and all those tax-paying citizens, we had no potential. These were things said to us and behind our backs; these were things that parents would say behind closed doors, only to have their children repeat to our faces. I’m certain my parents tried to hide it when people talked about us in that way.
And all of that was made even worse if you were non-white.
I told him this; I explained it clearly and concisely that those individuals who had access to more resources than I ever did used this phrase to refer to me and my peers. They used it to separate themselves from the lower-class people, to draw a line between Us and Them. They used to it show how much better they were for such access, as if it made them better than everyone else. That’s why it hurt me and made me not want to talk to him, and that’s why it pushed me away.
“I didn’t intend for ‘the great unwashed’ to be offensive,” he told me. “The only time I’ve heard it used is in IT to refer to the masses of computers connected to the same internet; it was just in my mind. I didn’t realize it had an alternate meaning.”
And right then and there, I realised it. I realised that I couldn’t keep going with someone who was back-peddling and doing such a lazy job of it. I realised that either he genuinely believed what he said and couldn’t be broken of it or he genuinely thought I was that oblivious to not put the pieces together and see that he was trying to excuse himself for such a miserable turn of phrase. If he couldn’t just stop and apologise, stop and understand why what he said was hurtful, he never would. He would keep provoking me, keep pushing buttons, and keep making the same pitiful excuses in the hopes that I would stay around and put up with it.
But I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to be with someone who sets us apart from everyone else, acting as if we’re better than everyone because we have access to opportunities that others don’t. I didn’t want to be with someone who invalidates the lived experiences of marginalised groups, ignoring the history of why things are as they are today and blaming people for their “lot in life.” I didn’t want to be with someone who is incapable of showing basic empathy, refusing to just apologise for hurting someone rather than trying to explain it away as if the person he hurt is being irrational.
Because I didn’t want to spend my life educating someone who is supposed to be my significant other on why he shouldn’t talk over women, why he should understand that people at the “bottom of the hierarchy” aren’t as clueless as he seems to think they are, why he shouldn’t be blatantly or casually racist, and why his classism is going to hurt more than the people around here. And this was just the last straw, of many, that made it quite clear it would never work.
“I know provoking isn’t productive,” he told me after I explained that it would do nothing to help his case, “and I don’t want to. Sometimes I get frustrated and do it on impulse. I try not to.”
But that isn’t the case. Just prior, he’d openly told me that the whole reason he’d said provoking things is so that I would yell at him; it was apparently the only way that he could confirm any feelings I had because they seem to be so non-existent.
Except you can’t have it both ways. You don’t get to say you try to [...] Continue Reading…
It is with great pleasure that I can announce my completion in my practicum! I’m turning in all of my paperwork today, which means that I’ll have my teaching degree finished. This makes me so incredibly excited, especially as I had been waiting for over a year to do this. I’m still sort of dancing about it!
I had an absolutely wonderful placement at a beautiful school with the most absurdly well-behaved students, and I had a brilliant supervising teacher and very welcoming department of co-teachers. This placement was exceptionally valuable, especially as these people – whether they did it [...] Continue Reading…
“I just said it to piss you off,” he told me as I was seething with anger at him. “And obviously it worked.”
Perhaps it was his age, I started thinking. Perhaps being 24, he’s too immature to know you shouldn’t incite your partner. But no, age is never a good indicator of maturity; I should know better than anyone how much I hate when people make that connection. He’s immature because he’s inexperienced and unwilling to learn; he’s immature because he doesn’t want to listen to someone else’s feelings or understand their dreams. He’s immature because things that don’t [...] Continue Reading…
I started realising today that a lot is going to be changing in my life, which means that I actually need to start working out what it is that I want to do. I’ve got half a year left with university, and I still haven’t made any decisions about where I want to go, what I plan to do or how I plan to do it. It’s no big deal, right?
So I made a short video blog about it. I apologise for the fact that my voice started dying halfway through it. I’ve been sick for the past two [...] Continue Reading…