Class: a preoccupation as old and ingrained into British life as scowling at the weather or throwing sticks for dogs.
From Chaucer to Zadie Smith, great writers from every era have sought to examine the peculiar hierarchical structures of wealth and privilege and explain how they define us.
The Art of Being Middle Class is a new book inspired by the cult blog The Middle Class Handbook, and though it's far from intended as a series tract on anything, its very existence is proof positive that class is still a subject we love to debate, discuss and, most of all, make fun of.
And where once playwrights and authors would mock the common man to amuse the gentry (or do it the other way round), today's target of choice is undoubtedly the neuroses and anxieties of those in the middle.
Here's ten pointers from the book on how to be middle class. How many of them do you recognise as true?
An essential guide to cheeseboard etiquette
Take care to follow everyone else in using the same knife for the same cheese – no one wants Stinking Bishop on their Tomme de Montagne.
Being asked a question while you’re eating
Nod ponderously as if weighing up the question before answering, while you are in fact thinking only of getting the food down as quickly as you can.
Equally hard to give as to receive
The not-so-secret anxiety of Secret Santa – You receive alcohol. Secretly you’re quite pleased, but then you worry that everyone thinks you are so dull and insular that they just couldn’t think of anything interesting to get you.
How to encourage guests to leave
If you’re caught out by a lingering guest or group of guests you don’t know that well, the trick is to disrupt the atmosphere. The most effective way to do this is to stand up and hover.
How to pull a well-ie
Some key phrases to maximize your martyr status when pulling a ‘well-ie’: ‘Got to soldier on’, ‘it’s only a bit of a cold’, ‘there’s just no time to be ill these days, is there?’
Over pronouncing foreign-language words
The point, of course, is to show that you’re a cosmopolitan, and not an insular British person.
The Art of Being Middle Class
The curious attraction of other people’s shower gel
On exiting the bathroom, it’s very MC to comment on the lovely handwash, shower gel, or whatever it is you’ve used.
The reclining seat
As the agonized MC traveler, you must of course say nothing. Consider it an important mind and body endurance challenge. You’ll be a better middle-classer for it.
What to do when people start talking over you
Offer to swap seats with one of them.
Where to sit in a car when travelling with other people
If there are two middle class couples, they will separate i.e. Wife A sits with Husband B and Wife B with Husband A.