Thursday, May 19, 2005

Class and Marriage

Today's installment of the NY Times series on class concerns marrying into a different class and the problems that causes. To some extent, Mr. Geeky and I came from different classes, though not as different as the couple portrayed in the article. Mr. Geeky's family was working class. His father worked for GM and retired at 51 when his division was bought out. His mother never finished college and eventually became a teacher's aide making less than $20,000/year. They have lived in the same small two-bedroom house in a borderline neighborhood (going quickly downhill) for 40 years. An aunt and uncle and their children live next door to his parents and next to them are his grandparents (grandfather deceased now).

These kind of living arrangements were unheard of to me. Among my friends anyone who aspired to remain near their family was a loser and probably didn't have any options. Admitedly, this was only a class issue in our small rural town where there were no opportunities for those of us going to college. In an urban area, like the one I live in now, it's common to return to the fold so to speak.

Mr. Geeky also did not go immediately to college. His parents had not offered him this opportunity, so he went part time and worked full time. When his brother, two years younger than he, was ready to go, Mr. Geeky asked for help in going to college full time. His brother had always expressed interest in being a doctor, so they had planned for him to go to college, but since Mr. Geeky had not expressed a definitive career goal that involved college, they just hadn't mentioned it to him. In my family, it didn't matter what you thought you wanted to be, you were going to college. Mr. Geeky and his brother also went to the big state school down the road. I was expected to go a nice, and expensive, liberal arts college.

These minor differences were not terribly important. They colored some of our decisions and some of our interactions. The biggest difference that still shows after 15 years of being together is the do it yourself vs. hiring someone attitude. When I was growing up, we hired people to do everything--yard work, housecleaning, painting, car repair, even minor remodeling. Mr. Geeky grew up with his father doing everything himself--even minor car repairs. Mr. Geeky is always afraid paying someone will cost to much and he, like his father and grandfther, feel that if you can do it yourself, you should. I am constantly pointing out that jobs are more complicated than he thinks and he just doesn't have the time and therefore, it's worth the money.

In many ways, we've taken what's best from each other's class culture and adopted it. Mr. Geeky now aspires for his children to go to ivy league colleges (or at least of that ilk) and expects to pay for it. He appreciates good food and good drink. I appreciate having family close by and the importance of keeping our own nuclear family close. I also appreciate a good bargain and think more before spending extravagantly. Mr. Geeky realizes that sometimes "you get what you pay for" and is willing to sometimes pay more for something if it will last longer. I don't care how something looks all the time and Mr. Geeky pays attention to outward appearances more (when it's appropriate).

I'd love to hear from people with even bigger differences in their marriage. I thought it was interesting that they focused only on one couple. Does that mean there aren't that many people out there like that?