During this Christmas and New Year break, I watched Mildred Pierce - a recent US import starring Kate Winslet. This tale reminded me of The Great Gatsby - both stories have a similar tale to tell of social snobbery, class exclusion and trying to be something you are not, and not possessing the courage to ever feel good enough.
Mildred tells the story of an enterprising middle class lady during the Great Depression when faced with a cheating, bankrupt husband, two children to feed ,augmented the family coffers by baking cakes and waitressing, then opening a very successful restaurant. She took up with a 'wealthy' playboy who turned out not to be nothing more than a well spoken waster, looking down his nose at her while she funded the polo playing and the mansion with the proceeds of the restaurant. To compound matters Mildred reared a horrible, snobby, ingrate of a daughter who was ashamed of her mothers hard work, ran off with the playboy and contributed to Mildred losing all her hard earned cash. The crux of it is that Mildred never felt good enough.
For reasons even I fail to comprehend, I, like Mildred fell in with a rather posh crowd years ago. In the giddy excitement and gratefulness of being 'accepted' into this gang, I, to coin the phrase 'lost the use of myself'. I finally thought after all the years of being an outsider that I was now in!
All sense of achievement and pride went out the window as I failed to notice, like Mildred, I was actually being looked upon, by guys with red noses who are usually something in property, or wannabe nightclub owners and their tiny blonde girlfriends who claim to 'do' something in PR or fashion. I, like Mildred was the one buying the drinks! Not once did I give myself credit for actually putting myself through university, working hard and spending my own money, instead I was adulating these cretins who were freeloading and ripping through fortunes they had no input in making. What is it about all of us, perfectly well educated, doing well in this world without connections, privilege and a sense of entitlement that makes us go giddy when faced with a posh accent from a person who probably hasn't two brain cells to rub together.
I found it took effort to turn yourself into something you are not. I once had a friend who 'landed' a catch and she changed overnight. Such was the strain of keeping up appearances she ended up with no friends, on anti depressants with a husband she realised she didn't like and a self she didn't recognise. In the words of Dr Seuss 'Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind'.
I finally came to my senses one day when speaking to one of these princelings on the phone, being all pretentious (me) trying to impress (me again), when the rude sod yawned, yes yawned, mid sentence mid pitch. I thought to myself has my insecurity and complexes and all I've worked hard to achieve come to this, me trying to impress some ill bred moron with no manners . So I stopped there and then and you know what not one of them noticed or cared. I was reminded of a line in The Great Gatsby ' They were careless people..they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money of their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together and let other people clean up the mess they had made'. I crawled back to my friends- the ones I grew up with, who stuck by me through thick and thin, good and bad times, who thankfully laughed, forgave me, bought me a drink and have continue to do so despite that transgression.
The moral of this story is simple, no matter how hard you try, like Mildred, you will rarely be fully accepted if you ever attempt the hazardous climb up the supposed social ladder. Its fraught with perils and pitfalls. As the immortal philosopher Chanakya said 'Never make friends with people who are above or below you in status. Such friendships will never give you happiness'.
You will definitely not be accepted for what you definitely are. Part of you , like my ex friend has to be sacrificed and that's usually the best part and definitely no basis for a friendship. Never lose sight of who you are, do your best, succeed at what you do and avoid like the plague anyone that remotely triggers an aitch, an accent change, yawns halfway through in a phonecall - oh and who claims to own half of a shire!