Like most British people with time on their hands and no sexual partners to waste it with, I spend a lot of my life thinking about class identity. Because I speak like an EastEnders regular – all glottal stops, dropped aitches and harsh, unforgiving character assassinations – everyone assumes I’m working class. And, to be fair, there are certainly indications that I might be. I lost my virginity on a council estate, I call my grandmother ‘Nan’, I’ve eaten tinned rollmops, and there were at least three girls called Charlene in every class at my school.
But people move on, things change, and nowadays describing myself as ‘working class’ feels a bit disingenuous. After all, I work at a Russell Group university, have friends who went to Harrow, and sometimes, at meetings, I start sentences with a passive-aggressive, ‘I think you’ll find’ – rather than smashing up the board-room and directly telling my colleagues that they are wrong, and also, possibly, morons.
It’s been a long hard slog – from a sink estate in Thamesmead to the hallowed halls of a 1950s red-brick. I’ve stumbled over the class barrier and, mostly, I fit right in. I air my dirty laundry in a sex blog, stave off alcoholism with occasional periods of abstinence, and send thank-you notes to minor acquaintances at every opportunity. There are still occasions when I stand around baffled – unsure whether I’m being insulted or complimented by strangers who tell me my outfit is ‘fun’. But the food is better at parties, I know more people called Dominic and I groom my body hair far less often.
The only real drawback to social mobility, so far as I can tell, is the men. There is a crisis of masculinity, and it has reached its peak with middle class millennials, who just won’t let you know whether they want to fuck you until your eyes bleed, or leave promptly and swiftly erase your number from their phone – or perhaps, kind of, both. They aren’t quite sure – could they maybe think about it and get back to you next week, or in a couple of months, when they’ve talked it over with their sister and possibly, their Dad?
The middle class is exclusively populated by men who cycle around on fixie-bikes, with tight trousers and over-sized beards, like an archetypal butch from a 1970s gay porn movie. Or else ones who leave the house dressed in un-ironed combats and ancient converse, wearing a faded t-shirt with a 90s cartoon character printed on the back.
For fuck’s sake, aspirational 1980s parents. What were you doing to your boys?
I’m not saying that there aren’t cunts among the working classes. I’ve definitely had my fill of the unreconstructed South East London lager lout – with his gym fixation, close personal relationship with his mother and an ounce of skunk hidden in the glove compartment. But at least they’ve always got quick wit and predilection for danger, and – so long as you aren’t married to them – will let you know outright when they’ve expended their sexual interest in you, and wish to move onto pastures new.
There is nothing less sexy than middle-class British politeness. Which is why the heterosexual middle classes are mostly joyless and ambitious – with haggard young women attending luncheons in beige two-pieces and portly, blustering husbands ‘working late’ over dinner with a perma-tanned escort.
For those of us who grew up in Woolwich, showing our nipples to potential love interests for drinks, romantic subtlety is not a thing that can learned by mere exposure. It doesn’t matter how many times you try, we do not get when understated flattery is an indication of supressed lust, and when it is a glib, insincere utterance borne of an awkward conversational lull, which indicates your questionable breeding.
We just want you to ask us out, or to stop talking. Just stop talking. And fuck us. Please. Because in less than a decade’s time our wombs will have dried up like crispy autumn leaves in a heat-wave, and there will be no babies. And we’ll have to have sex for pleasure rather than procreation, like plebs – which would defeat the object of transcending the working class in the first place.