Takes One to Know One

I’m thinking about status.

How it is important to me. I mean: in what way.

In the Ask A Friend exercise the pal who is far and away the most status conscious person I know was the one who made the point that the ‘thing I should let go of’ was concern with status. I think she maybe has a point. So I am examining the nature of the beast.

She and I also discussed a lovely BBC tv programme, Mum.  There is an utterly ghastly character who is separated from her husband and with transparent insecurity misses no opportunity to mention that she used to have a pool, used to ski in Gstaad. My friend admitted that she feels a compulsion, when meeting new people, to drop into the conversation within 45 seconds, that her previous garden was several acres. She used to be the lady in the big house. Host events for the village, that sort of thing.

I used to live in a big house in town. So did just about everyone I knew. Some of course, far bigger, and with holiday homes, jewellery and cars to match. Luckily I have no interest in any of that. We were never quite in their league. But I did like having a nice home, comfortable, well located and spacious. (Maybe too comfortable: I barely stepped outside it).  In fact it turns out it was all a sham, but that is another story.

The big house, kids in private school etc were in a way nothing to do with me. I was a stay at home mum. Married to a man I’d met at business school. I thought the reason we had a relatively nice life was that he was very hard working and very smart. It’s easy to think that about your own good fortune. We hear the fat cats with their performance related bonuses say they are worth it. They believe it. It’s asymmetric though: when things go wrong it is just rotten luck.

In law my contribution as a stay at home mum, supporting my husband’s career, is deemed equal. We could not both have continued in the careers we had when the children came along. I stayed home by mutual agreement, and that left him free to stay late at work, to go to meetings abroad, without worrying about childcare, having clean shirts and whether there was food and loo roll in the house. But I always felt bad.

I felt lucky, as well. I loved my kids to the moon and back, loved being their mum, looking after them, being with them, making their tea, cuddling them. But I was dissatisfied. I was not being stretched. And the longer it went on the worse it got, because my confidence tumbled down, down, down, and the amount of time the children took up diminished. And I didn’t know what to do with myself. I still wanted to be there when the kids went to school in the morning, when they came home in the afternoon, when they were sick, on holiday or in a school play. And I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to do or that anyone would pay me to do. Frustrating.

Anyway, I’ve lost the big house.  I’ve lost the banker husband.  And the kids have all but flown the nest.  I no longer bathe in reflected status.  And I feel stripped naked.  Back to bare bones, if there were not so much redundant flesh to hide behind.

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Florence Feynman

I am a middle aged, middle class woman, thinking.

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