How to fail at being middle class

Tigger asleep and blissfully unaware of her unvaccinated status. Picture: Renee Moodie

Tigger asleep and blissfully unaware of her unvaccinated status. Picture: Renee Moodie

I took my cat to the vet yesterday, for her vaccinations.

Now this is not unusual – but it is for me. This cat has not in fact been vaccinated since 2005 – and neither had any of the other late lamented animals in our house.

When I confessed this fact to a group of friends, there was a pause and a small intake of breath all round.

Because not vaccinating your pets is a Middle Class Sin.

I have a good excuse – a retrenchment in 2002 and several years of freelancing meant that a bunch of non-essential expenditures got jettisoned fast. Vaccinations for animals were on that list, and I just never got into the habit again. We use housesitters rather than kennels when we go on holiday, and so there was never an outside imperative to get their jabs done. And this was a group of ageing pets who didn’t wander the neighbourhood. (The present last remaining cat is being vaccinated because I intend to take in some kittens.)

See what I did there, though? I felt compelled to explain why I have been such a bad person. In the middle classes, you can never relax your vigilance.

There are many other ways in which it is possible to fail at being middle class. Here’s the list that should be keeping me awake at night:

* Failing to put sunblock on your child. This will cause not just the small in-breath but also verbal castigation: “Here, would you like to borrow mine?” Failing in the hat department is a little less heinous: sometimes the child will simply not wear one. But there is a still a sense of disapproval.

* Not returning library books on time. This might be personal to me, but I can feel my grandmother and mother behind me in the queue, shocked that I have to pay a fine.

* Not being able to discuss, in excruciating detail, the merits and demerits of all the schools in your area (or indeed, the whole city).

* Now knowing, to the nearest cent, the value of your property.

* Not having a garden that is at least presentable (even if this is attained by a garden service). An untidy pavement is also a Bad Thing.

* Not making at least a small attempt at recycling. Even it’s just the little bread tag thingies.

* Not making an attempt to get your child in a bath. I once confessed that my son had not seen the inside of a shower or bath for the entire six-week summer holidays (sea water counts, surely?). There it was, the little pause and the in-breath.

* Playing fast and loose with the school haircut rules. Good middle-class people have children with short, neat hair. They are not calculating how far over the collar the hair can go before Mrs Johnson at school will notice.

As you can see, dear reader, there are many ways to fail at being middle class. How much do I care? Not a lot. The world will keep turning whether of not my house is properly painted. And, as the world turns into 2016, may I wish you all a preposterous new year (a phrase immortalised in our family after it was uttered by the seller of a very middle class Christmas tree).

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Main picture: Joshua Alfaro, Unsplash

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