Class Will Come to Order!

Dear Aunt Bossy,

Recently, a couple of us were talking about a mutual friend, and I mentioned that she was upper class. Two of the others exclaimed that that could not possibly be true because she had no money, “came from nothing,” and grew up in some state like Kansas.

They said she learned how to pretend to be upper class from a rich woman who had taken her under her arm.

I don’t think that is possible.  What do you think?



Dear Wondering,

Class is such a touchy and elusive subject, especially in America, where we pretend like it doesn’t exist.

First, let me assure you that, however it is defined, (and there are a myriad of ways to define it) that it has nothing to do with money.  If it did, the Kardashians would be classy.  They have a lot of talent, are gorgeous, work harder than any of us, are filthy rich, but they ain’t got no class.

I am Middle Class.  I went to school with many upper class girls, and no one had to tell us that they were.  It is very subtle, involves a lot of “Je ne sais quoi,” and is impossible to replicate in adulthood.  It goes beyond good manners, taste, and choosing the right dinner fork.

I’m pretty sure it can’t be learned.  You are born with it.  Witness the gals who go to NY or LA and land a rich guy.  They buy vast places on Park Avenue or Beverly Hills, load up with Aubusson rugs, Old Masters, and heavy silver.  They go to the best hairdressers and plastic surgeons, study flower arranging and French, write perfect thank you notes, and join all the best charitable boards.  But, they are not mistaken for upper class by the upper class, who – because they are upper class – treat them with respect.

I’ve been thinking about this subject since it was raised,, and pondering, and it was finally made clear to me by a friend who comes from that world.  She said,  “It can’t be perfect!”  I looked down at a gorgeous chair in her fabulous house, and saw a hole in the fabric on the arm, and immediately knew.  I remembered reading that Bunny Mellon, one of Jackie Kennedy Onassis’ best friends, asked a decorator to mar a new chair so it wouldn’t appear too new. Shabby chic originated in that world.

This is a complicated subject, but class is certainly not limited to those from the manor born. Elements of what create that world can be found in anyone, no matter their background, education or financial status.  When the cleaning woman turns off the vacuum to say good morning, when you walk in, that is class.

I would venture to say that your friends who insist that a woman with no money who came from some state they have probably never visited and know nothing about, just proved to you that they ain’t got any more class than the Kardashians.  Flash and cash do not equal class.

The most important thing I can say about it, apart from the fact that it does not depend on money, is that it is irrelevant in the big picture.  A person’s value does not stem from background, social status, or even education.  Knowing who you are, being true to yourself, and making a contribution to society is what adds value.

P.S. Spell check appears to have class.When I used “ain’t” in a satirical way, instead of “don’t,” spell check reprimanded me.