Dating Across The Class Line
You are smart, educated, financially secure, and well on your way to becoming a success in your chosen profession. How you got to where you are is no mystery. You grew up in a decent and stable middle class family. Your parents were themselves educated professionals, as are all of your siblings and just about everyone you’ve ever known in your life. It was expected that you would go to college and pursue a career as a lawyer, banker, consultant, or business executive.
The conditions and manners of the class into which you were born have made you ambitious, disciplined, confident, and intellectually curious. Coming up in that world, you have never had occasion to date anyone from outside of it. Your first dates, your first lay, even the first girl you thought about marrying—all held aims and attitudes similar to your own.
But you recently met someone—or perhaps took notice of her for the first time—far removed from your style of life. While you are thoroughly middle class; she is thoroughly working class. Perhaps it is the young woman who cleans your office or the cashier at the canteen you go to for lunch or the voluptuous beauty who you see every day during your morning commute. There is something about her that has captured your attention. She radiates honesty, energy, and sexuality in a way that the more cultivated yet reserved women you’re used to dating do not.
Most people like to think that dating across the class line is not an issue. Love is blind, we are told, and the differences in occupation and schooling between two individuals should not matter.
A moment’s reflection, however, will expose the absurdity of such a belief. Take, for example, the first step that must be made before you can even date: asking the girl out. It is much easier to proposition a complete stranger from your own class than a girl from the working class. You see more of the former. In the office, at company socials, at the parties of friends, in the various restaurants, bars, and lounges you visit when on business—all are places where you are surrounded by women who speak as you do, think as you do, and are open to being social with men such as you, in both a professional and romantic capacity.
But what do you say to a woman with whom, on the surface, you have nothing at all in common? She may make eyes at you; she may give you all the signals that her bourgeois sisters send when they are interested in man; but you cannot respond to her as you would to them. It’s not like you can strike up a conversation about market indicators or company gossip as you hand her the money for your tuna roll. Just about any move you might make while she is working will prove awkward for both you and her.
In truth, there is no universal solution to this part of your inter-class dating riddle. It is best to catch her when she is all alone, which may be difficult since you most likely work different hours. If, however, you have managed to isolate her from her co-workers you should take one final moment to ensure she is really into you before you advance. With a middle class girl you can exchange numbers, flirt a little, and not worry too much about what comes of it. Such women, as you know, are as interested as you are in being discrete. However, if you make a move on a working class girl who is in anyway associated with your place of business and it turns out she is uninterested, she is likely to spread the word about your overtures, which will make you a figure of ridicule.
Once you’ve exchanged information and you’re relatively certain that she is interested, you have to decide what you want. Here, it is best to be honest. If you only want a fling, then you should be up front about that.
If you go out with her a few times and find her fun, lively, and easy to talk to, then you should think hard about the practical realities of dating in a more serious way. Although you find her a perfectly lovely girl and she feels the same about you, the two of you come from different social worlds. She may have interests, thoughts, and beliefs that spark unending curiosity and affection in you; but those close to you may not be so tolerant and accepting. She may dress and carry herself in a way that you find charming and attractive; but your family, friends, and colleagues may not be as open and receptive.
The bottom line is that you must be prepared to confront the challenges that your family and friends will put about your choice of girlfriend. You will also need to prepare yourself for the inevitable misunderstandings and tensions that will emerge as a result of the fact the two of you are from different social classes.
All of this can be managed and the relationship be made to work. But you must, in the first instance, be willing to disappoint and do battle with the people you love; and, in the second instance, be willing to extend a special form of sensitivity and consideration to someone who grew up in circumstances different from yourself.
About Christopher Reid Chris was born in Washington, D.C. and lives in Britain. He works as a blogger, essayist, and novelist. His first book, Tea with Maureen, has just been published.