I don’t particularly believe in the class system and I’ll tell you why: I don’t really have a place in it. I was brought up just outside Croydon, South London. My mum didn’t work during my childhood and my dad worked hard to support us – my mum, my brother and I. When I was about 10 my dad lost his job and we struggled. It sounds so daft but although I had a very happy, idyllic childhood with two loving parents, we didn’t have much. I never had Pokemon cards, they were a waste of money. We waited to find a Tracey Island in a charity shop. Most of my clothes were from the charity shop actually, that or George of Asda. I know it sounds silly but I always felt different from my friends: they all watched Cartoon Network on their digital TVs (this was the 90s remember, no Freeview boxes in those days), played with their Gameboys at break time and went on holiday to “abroad” – I didn’t leave the UK til I was 15. That’s not to say I wasn’t happy: I was. It’s just that I got free school meals at a school full of kids with their Dexters Lab lunchboxes full of Mini Cheddars. Before you all sneer “oh woe is you, no Gameboy? How did you ever survive?” let me reiterate that I am grateful for what I had and I know there are plenty of others with far less than I had. Anyway, I digress.
My parents got me in to a comprehensive high school 3 miles from home in central Croydon. My dad was working for a big company up in town and my mum became a dinner lady at the local primary. I thrived at high school. I made great friends and had a wonderful time but although it was highly selective on the grounds of Christian belief, the school went downhill once they were forced to admit community places. I left with average GCSEs. At A level I worked my arse off. My boyfriend was extremely supportive and I excelled all expectations, gaining a place at Royal Holloway, University of London against all the odds.
Upon arriving at RHUL I became acutely aware that I sounded different from my peers. I made a conscious effort to enunciate and not drop my t’s. I was in receipt of a full maintenance grant and bursary as by this point my mum had stopped work to battle the cancer that eventually claimed her life. It was at this point that I noticed a rhetoric that only the supposed middle classes went to university. You must be middle class Laura, you’re here aren’t you?
Am I middle class because I worked my ass off to get here? Do you immediately become middle class the second you graduate? Am I middle class because I blog and have done well in education? I don’t know. This is why I struggle with the class system. I don’t feel like I have a place in it anymore.