Class Issues in Graduate Education

Wouldn't that be a nice, dry title for a nice, dry essay about po' folk incursions into the foothills of the intelligentsia? I've occasionally dreamed of writing such an essay, but I never will: the pitfalls outnumber the benefits, and what COULD it be but a description of the strange alienation Brian and I have felt in the company of our fellows during our post-baccalaureate pursuits?

Better to save such personal memories for fiction, drama, poetry, anything but an essay, in which the attempt to make wisdom out of experience is too naked to be true.

So let this blog entry suffice for any essay I might have written or did write in alternate universe -- to put it bluntly: most of the peeps in grad school are decended from the relatively well-off, and the average upper-middle-class grad-school enrollee gets mighty uncomfortable when he discovers one of his classmates grew up in a trailer, or didn't graduate high school, or was divorced young, or went to community college, or worked two jobs to pay for tuition and child-support in addition to rent and ramen.

Note I said "most" -- not "all."

But it really is most.

There is this "oh, us" comraderie, in which people (in any walk of life) stand around comparing their experiences, delighting in the things that are the same. Most don't consider it the end of the world, though, if someone in the conversation -- gasp! -- has a different experience of things. I don't think it's too hard to accept if someone says, oh no, I couldn't have asked my parents for rent money: they wouldn't have had it! But upon saying such a thing, all that gleeful laughter about milking mom-n-dad fades to uncomfortable gazes askance. Should I have lied? Should I have pretended my life has been like whatever you say? If you want to hear my contribution to the bull session, can you at least hear it without acting like I've just farted or belched the alphabet in front of your sheltered maiden aunt?

In their defenses, though, they never asked to hear it more than once. :-)

Coming from where I come from (a transient, international tourist-destination where people get drunk and do things they wouldn't ordinarily do -- and meet people they might not otherwise meet), I've always been pretty comfortable around people of all walks of life: I've had friends who were millionaires and petty lords -- I've known people who lived in European castles. I've also had friends who were homeless, whose lives were filled with bouts of rape and disease. And I've known lots of people in-between. But the only ones I've found who treat me like a weirdo for not being just like them have been the artistes I've met in various post-grad endevours.

Any guess I would make as to why that is would be pure bullshit.

But it's true.

Again, I said "most" -- not "all." Honestly, if you're bothering to read this blog, I'm probably not talking about you.

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