Sunday, April 01, 2007

Working Class Schlub

I think I might have crossed over to healthier Trish today. First, I turned up the humidifier really high all night and I woke up without a sore throat for the first time in a while. I skipped church and slept late. I needed it. I had some energy for a good part of the day.

This afternoon, I took the kids and their friends bowling. Bowling is an interesting thing, to me. It's something that you can do as a family, yet it is also individual. You can develop your skill, and feel good about a game (or not, in my case.) My daughter's pretty good. My favorite part of bowling is watching the crowd. I like bowlers. Bowlers are generally not glamorous, wealthy or worried about being beautiful. They don't feel bad about asking for the french fries to get refried for not being crispy enough. I struck up a conversation with a guy who was bowling next to us. I mentioned to him I was always interested in the bowling crowd. He said "Yeah, pretty much we're all your basic Working Class Schlubs."

I looked around. Yeah, he was right. Then he said "But you know, I've never met a bowler who wasn't a pretty decent person."

It got me thinking.

Two years ago, we moved from Boulder to Lafayette, Colorado. Now, you have to live here to know the difference. Boulder = wealthy upper middle class university town with an abundance of Buddhists, vegetarians, old hippies, self-help practitioners and over-the-top real estate prices. No bowling alleys.

Lafayette is 8 miles away. The houses are about 30% cheaper, if not more. Lots of vegetarians, old hippies and others who can't afford Boulder. Plus, your Working Class Schlubs. And a bowling alley, a Wal*Mart, and a couple pawn shops.

We moved because we decided we didn't want to pay a premium just to live in Boulder. It wasn't easy for us to live there, even though we (I) fancied ourselves Boulder people. The funniest thing about moving to Lafayette was realizing how much we like it. We fit in just fine. I had always joked in Boulder that we were the Simpsons to our neighbors Flanders. We were the ones most likely to be playing loud rock and roll in the garage and having a fight in the kitchen.

At the bowling alley today, I was thinking about my dad. He used to take me and my brother bowling when we were growing up. My dad was a banker (still is). He was the son of a mill-worker in Pennsylvania. My mother was the daughter of two army base employees in North Carolina. He went to college in Pennsylvania. His father didn't. His mom, Laura, went to a teacher's college, I believe. She was something else. The first woman on the school board in Cornwall, PA. A music teacher. Kinda crazy, but I loved her with all my heart. "Never had a headache in my life" Laura was a character.

Sometime in the early 70's. we moved from the more working class Morris Plains, NJ to the more upper-middle class Morris Township - right next to Springbrook Country Club. I remember it quite vividly. I was about to be in 5th grade. I remember my dad making the offer on the house ($55,000). It was a big deal and there were some arguments about whether we could really afford it. My parents liked to golf. They had met out in California - my dad was in the Navy and my mom was, well, away from North Carolina. She might have been going for an associates degree, which she didn't finish.

So we moved to Springbrook. What I never understood until today was, damn, we were in over our heads. There was a lot of pressure coming down from my mother in particular, to measure up. To do as well as the neighbors. Not too long after we got there, they split up. So there I was - the First Divorced Family in Springbrook 12 year old. Oh, the looks I got. I hated many things about Springbrook. Belonging to a country club went against every liberal bone in my body. When I was old enough, I stopped going. I wasn't comfortable there. I tried to be. There wasn't anything wrong with them, I just didn't understand them. They knew things I didn't. There were good things, too. I made a lifelong friend. I had some fun. The houses were beautiful, lots of green trees in the summer and an entire golf course to roam around on and get in trouble on.

So at the bowling alley, I realized, hey - I think I'm a Working Class Schlub, at heart. I've always expected so much from myself. Thought I would get a Phd. Thought I should have gone to a private college in the Northeast. Wondered why I didn't make it big like my friends who went off to work on Wall Street. Making it big was never my goal, though. I was truly, truly going to save the world somehow. A VISTA volunteer, a sociologist studying the urban poor in Chicago, a homeless shelter volunteer-of-the-year - making money was never the point.

What if it was just good enough to be a mom who takes her kids bowling? What if I stopped comparing myself to Hollywood and felt confident in my body with it as it is? What if the most important thing was being a pretty decent person?

I'm tired. The plague of colds and infections I've had has triggered MS and I've been struggling with that. By the end of the day, I am worthless. When MS is messing with me, I only have about 7 or 8 really good hours in a day. After that, I just have to lie down. Tonight, I'm lying down with the notion that maybe adjusting my expectations of myself might be in order. It's no fun to walk around all the time feeling like a failure.

I'm too tired to do a good job on this. Thanks to my friend Jay for sending me a very thoughtful email that got me inspired enough to take my kids bowling today :-).

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