While waiting in line, a woman sporting a Louis Vuitton handbag exclaimed to me that she was absolutely enamored with my purse. It’s black lace, with unexpected gold zipper detailing over the front. “Where did you get it?” she asked. I replied that I could not remember: it was some random place in the open market and the bag had cost $12. I actually didn’t notice that her bag cost a couple of thousands, until she sighed, “Your purse is so unique. I’m so tired of all these styles I get that start to look the same.” I peered at her handbag as she said this then, and then I bristled.
I tried to understand my reaction when she was being perfectly kind.
She meant well. I know it even now. But essentially she was complaining to a working class woman of being tired of designer handbags. Maybe I’m misplacing her too. For all I know, she could have saved up years for that handbag; although, from her cavalier attitude about how all her bags are the same—an allusion to multiple—I doubted this.
For her benefit, I entertained the excuse for her (that I’d misplaced her) anyway. After all, I’m often mistaken for upper middle class, and that misunderstanding is frustrating to me. I don’t know what it is about myself. When I confront people who’ve told me they get this impression, they usually point to the way I dress, the way I speak, or some other reason I find irritating. “It’s just that you’re so… classy!,” they say while I tastefully swallow down the retort, “Well that wasn’t.” They think it’s a compliment to tell me I’m not like the others in a truly not-like-other-girls-esq way.
The working class are artists, for your information. Highly cultured. Inventors and visionaries. And it’s also just as outstanding not to be either traditionally “classy” or well-educated. These things say nothing about a person’s conduct, character, or knowledge at all.
“In my home city,” my mother said to me yesterday, “the poor never arrive as guests to your home empty-handed. It is always the wealthy who come to dine offering nothing in return, unless the host, too, is wealthy like them.”