Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Life Lessons I Missed Out On

Months ago my family decided to cancel cable. It was too expensive and led to mindless TV watching with no purpose. We are still able to watch our weekly shows thanks to a subscription to Hulu Plus and network television websites that air their shows over the internet. This has led me to being bored at night when Hubby goes to work, looking for shows to keep me occupied. I was first introduced to Weeds, and was able to watch the entire show (which was 8 seasons long, about 20 episodes per season) in a week. Yeah, I was both proud of this accomplishment and ashamed at the same time. Next was Raising Hope, but it took me about 2 weeks to get caught up on that one because the kids watched it with me. After that came Grey's Anatomy, and that took me about a month to get through 170+ 42-minute long episodes. Now it's Shameless. I'm done with seasons 1 and 2 and am getting caught up-to-date on season 3.

If you are familiar with these shows, you'll see that 3 of the 4 shows have something in common- they deal with white trash families. In Weeds, Nancy bounces from upper class to lower class white trash, but let's face it- she's a skank. Raising Hope is about how a white trash teenager knocks up a serial killer and has to raise the kid on his own, with the help of his white trash family. Shameless is about an alcoholic father who is never around so the oldest daughter raises the kids herself, but the children scam and steal their way through life.

Grey's Anatomy was a fluke, I know. That show is just good as hell. And there are hot doctors. Yum!

I tried watching shows about middle class families or even upper class families. While I fell in love with Parenthood in the beginning, half way through season 2 they lost me somewhere in between the fancy lawyer chick wanting to have a second baby when she doesn't have anything to do with the first kid, and the family screw up actually getting his life together and making something of himself. Boring.

I seem to have this fascination with watching TV shows about lower class families. I'm not sure if it's one of those things where it helps me feel better about my life- that no matter how tight money gets that I'm not stealing TVs to pawn or making internet porn to help pay the bills, or if it's the fact that part of me feels jaded for having missed out on so many life lessons because I was raised middle class.

Yeah, you read that right. Jaded because I was raised middle class. Yes, I will explain.

I was raised in suburbia, then moved out to the boondocks when I was 10. My dad was a fireman, my mom
had various white collar jobs during my youth. I was raised to not skip school, not steal, not cheat, to work hard for what I got and to appreciate what I had. I was deathly afraid to skip school, finally attempting it in the 10th grade when my ex-boyfriend (years later became Hubby) was in a car accident, so I ditched school to visit him in the hospital, but ended up calling my mother on the way to the hospital to confess everything. Yes, I was a goodie-two-shoes.

According to these TV shows about white trash families, I missed out on learning cool shit, like how to ditch school to go buy illegal fireworks in the next state. I missed out on learning how to lie to perfect strangers to scam them out of a few bucks for cigarettes. Hell, I missed out on knowing which store to buy my cigarettes at when I was underaged. My pansy ass just gave money to an 18 year old and had them keep the change. Holy crap, the money I could have saved if I had just bought them myself.

Did you know that if you have a baby that you don't want, you can just drop it off at the fire department and they'll take care of it for you? My dad was a firefighter and I didn't know that shit. He never came home telling me someone had dropped off another baby for them to deal with. According to both Shameless and Raising Hope, that's a life lesson taught to people in the lower class, because both of those shows have referenced it.

While I was learning to calculate the rate needed to bail water out of a boat that is sinking in order to keep it afloat, lower class people are learning the rate a small, medium and large bag of weed sells for. If the end of the world is nearing, which life lesson is more valuable? Unless you are in a sinking boat and happen to have a calculator on you, I'm going to go ahead and say I got the short end of the stick there.

I didn't even know what crystal meth was until I had to give my ID and sign a piece of paper when trying to buy sudafed for a massive head cold one time. Sick and now pissed off, I asked why I had to go through a damn security check and that's when I was told that sudafed is used to make crystal meth. I googled it when I got home. Interesting stuff that I wasn't taught in the middle class society.

I don't mean to make light of the problems inner city kids face that middle class people generally don't have to deal with- that's not what this post is about. Nor am I here to say that one class is better than another, or that every person who grew up in a lower class society or middle class society are like those TV shows depict. I'll be the first to say that people who grew up under harsh conditions know how to live, how to survive, and have experienced things I couldn't even dream about.

When Hubby and I separated, I started dating a guy that, to put it nicely, was white trash. I graduated salutatorian of my high school class, he dropped out in the 9th grade to sell drugs and work construction. I told a story of the first time I ever smoked weed and puked my ass off, he told stories about tripping on acid for a week straight. He called me naive, I called him a callused asshole. We worked out for a while, but looking back now, I think I was probably fascinated with a side of life I had never ventured into before. In the grand scheme of things, I was naive. People joked that I was the pretty little white girl who lived in my pretty little middle class world. And, to be honest, I was.

I ended up dating white trash one more time before Hubby and I got back together, and it was through that guy that I learned my lesson. He grew up in the true fashion of Shameless, with absent, alcoholic parents and doing what he needed to do to survive on the streets. You don't know you are dating white trash when you are dating them, either. Not even when he takes you to meet his ex-crack-addict sister who lives in a single-wide with her teenage daughter who has 3 kids by 3 different daddies (and she's only 18), you don't know you are dating white trash. Not until he cheats on you with about a dozen other women and you haul ass 2 states away and look at the situation from the outside do you smack your forehead up against the wall... repeatedly.

Again, I'll repeat that I'm not saying everyone in lower economic brackets are like the characters on TV- those shows are fiction. They are, however, based on some sort of reality, especially on themes that seem to overlap between the different shows. I'll say, too, that if you can't accept a stereotype that you are a part of and laugh about it, then you need a sense of humor. I'm a naive, sheltered white girl who can't dance and has a southern accent from hell so people think I'm dumber than a bag of bricks. When I blow them away at trivia games, I'm the one laughing then. I am what I am, and a lot of what people think of me is true. It's the times they are wrong that I live for- that look on their faces. It's fun.

So, here I am, 32 years old, wouldn't know the smell of crack if someone was sitting next to me smoking it, couldn't scam a person if I tried, too scared that if I decided to set up a web cam and charge people money to watch me iron clothes naked to make extra money, that someone I knew would happen upon my live feed. If my family needed money ASAP, I wouldn't know where to go to buy weed to try and resell, or who to try and resell it to. I'm sure if the end of the world was near I'd be able to steal what my family needs because my survival instinct would kick in, but I've never even really been in a fist fight nor do I plan on ever getting into one.

Fiona and Steve, Shameless
Characters Fiona and Steve, Shameless
And hell, don't even get me started on the upper class people. I wasn't taught how to match a purse to a pair of shoes, what weekend vacations in Paris were like, what type of investment yields the greatest reward, or even the difference between a nanny and an au pair. That's probably why those TV shows about the upper class just piss me off by whining about valet parking or having to use their platinum visa because the gold one is maxed out. At least the shows about lower class families teach me useful life lessons that I apparently missed out on along the way.

Like how wearing a bra outside the house is completely optional. And, while you aren't wearing a bra, you can wear a practically see-through white tank top, no underwear and a short skirt that shows your koochie. It's all okay. Walking around your house naked when guests are there, too, is perfectly fine, as is having sex wherever you want to- don't worry about other people, kids, cops, your parents. Just throw down wherever and if someone gets emotionally scarred or the image of your ass burned into their brain forever, who cares?

Good grief, I've sure been a prude when it comes to these things. Damn middle class upbringing.

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  1. I know I should have gotten more out of this blog post, but in reference to the shows you watch, I recommend United States of Tara (showtime, amazing) =)

    1. Thanks for the suggestion. I will definitely have to look it up, now that I'm caught up with Shameless (sigh).

  2. Very funny, thank you for sharing! As someone who grew up as white trash i can tell you, a lot of the funny shenanigans in the shows are true!

    1. That's just like the stereotypes about the South. I'm a southern girl and I can tell you that most of those are true, too. I embrace stereotypes. It makes life fun when something thinks they can pull one over on you by busting out a stereotype and you are all, "Yeah... And? Your point is?" Ha!

  3. Seriously, it bugs me to heck that redneck is cool now!! I spent most of my childhood being picked on for being redneck and now everyone is tuning into shows like Duck Dynasty, American Hoggers and Hillbilly Handfishing. Like its something new jeez!