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Saturday, August 4, 2007

What Color is your Collar?



When did I become so class conscious? How did I grow into that obnoxious girl that categorizes people based on where they live, what they wear, and how they talk? Their dialects, education, and possessions determine their location on my social stratification model. I am not materialistic by any means – I just believe that social class reflects on a person’s general disposition in life; occupation, education, qualifications, income, grooming, manners, cultural refinement, taboos, and language and diction. I fully realize that over the years, I have evolved from a common middle class girl into a distinguished lower upper class lady.

In 1949 William Lloyd Warner set an early example of a stratum class model; Upper-upper class is what we call “old money” and those are people who have been born into and raised with wealth. Lower-upper class is equivalent to “new money”, and those are people who, like me, have become rich within their own lifetimes and due to their own work. The upper-middle class is, like my family, professionals with a college education. But other members of my family belong to the lower-middle class, who are low paid white collars, but not manual laborers. Today, I believe it is only fair to mingle with or marry from my current social class.

Ok … let me start from the start. It hit me for the first time when I met Lisa in her office back in June 2001. She was leaving Egypt and I was her successor. I still remember how my eyes wandered around and literally fell in love with everything Lisa had in her office; the glass bowl and gold fish, the scented candles, the tall vase and bamboo shoots, the lace curtains, the Christmas cards on the shelves, the pink and orange pens on her desk, and his picture - a picture of a dark Egyptian man on Lisa’s desk.

“Ismail, my husband.” Lisa said and I did not know what to say. He obviously looked like an impoverished under-educated working-class Egyptian. As though Lisa could read my mind, she openly admitted that he was poor, that his English was even poorer, and that his family was among the poorest, and that she knew that I would never consider talking to him, let alone getting married to him. I was shocked and perplexed. I struggled for the right words and nothing came out.

Later on that day, Lisa told me that her mother thought she was out of her mind when she decided to get married to Ismail - a black Arab waiter who could not speak English. But she had never met a man who made her feel so special and so precious. She did not need him to talk to her in English, when everything she needed to know was written in his eyes. I told her that they were different – socially and culturally different. She replied with confidence that we were all different and that if I was looking for a man who is a clone of me, then I would look for an eternity – in vain.

I told her that she was smart, pretty, successful, well educated, well traveled, and well positioned in her career. She could have had any man she wanted. Lisa’s smile grew wider as she told me that she did get the man that she wanted. She told me that people from the same country might share the same cultural outlines but when looking deeper one would find various sub-cultures, norms, values, and beliefs. Lisa told me that she loved his family; they had a small house, yet they insisted that she spent a few days with them. They had little food, yet they shared it with her. They did not speak her language, yet they made her feel welcomed and important with what went beyond words.

“Girls in this part of the world measure men on the scales of wealth, education, and social status. Those scales are often deceiving. They only permit you to look at the outside of a person and deny you any access to his real potential; you see his house not his heart, his car not his mind, his language not his words. The Egyptian society is like a foster home for the seven deadly sins including greed, gluttony, lust, and sloth. Why do you insist on turning human beings into dogs who have to wear collars and labels to identify them? A white collar for well educated executives and professionals, a blue collar for workers and laborers, a pink collar for female jobs like nurses, nannies, and secretaries, and a golden collar for those who dropped out of school and college to pursue a vocational career.” Lisa’s words still resonate in my head and I still have no answer.

22 comments:

IRC President said...

You just exclude the:
personal experience
personal conscious
personal emotions
personal personal personal


There are many factors which are person oriented, and it will be hard to be categorized under the class-oriented scope. (I am just reading the Marxist theory of history lol) I believe that a rich educated person can be as vain as a poor drug addict, another person who is a poor farmer can be as intellectual as Socrates.

Seeing the person as a class and enough for me is something really...may I say...degrading. You degrade the human from his human nature to the material you are denying==> Wealth.

Basim Sultan said...

Are you really happy of what you became ? If you are not, do you really want to change ir ? Humans are humans, we are all the same, blood and flesh, let's assume you were born with no ability to learn and gain more knowledge so you move from the social class you used to belong to, would you have liked people to jugde you the same way you are judging people now ? this is so sick .. i can't imagine how money could change people from the inside

Fido Dido said...

well it's fact that majority of our society only care about wealth and u find much girls think like what u have thought marwa but where personality and ambitious of the person my family belong to white collar level and they give me chance to be "new money" but it require work and i think if any girl think that man who look for future is deserve to be husband i think we will not find this think in our society.any way i love your articles marwa keep going :)

Mo'men said...

Great post Marwa, it struck an issue that fellow bloggers seem to miss when they comment on a post/idea/revelation…etc

I can’t seem to find the right vocabulary to express my point, but I’ll use this analogy instead: when a very good friend of mine got a new car I was excited for him but yet a feeling of envy that cannot be ignored made me wonder why I wasn’t 100% happy for him, the answer was .. I’m human

In my posts and comments I never paint myself a self- righteous, moral, adviser person, but rather I paint a mosaic of my thoughts and feelings I have on the subject in hand. Bottom line, I fully understand how and why you seem to categorize people the way you do, I myself categorize them in terms of Stupidity : Smartness ratio.

basim sultan said...

Yes, I agree with you mo'men, this is human nature and what is going with marwa, you, me or any body else is completely human thing, but yet we still have control over it and we can at least try to limit it, instead of judging people on which social class they belong, to we can judge them only as individual humans, otherwise we have no right when someone judge all Arabs and Muslims as bin ladens!! Because we ourselves have made them same mistake with each other...

د /إياد حرفوش said...

I guess Lisa have known life much deeper ya Marwa, somehow this article - sorry to say- broke an imaginery image of your mind and charecter I had built over months. My mental image was much more out of the box young lady. Maybe it is a defective area of web world, you develop your own idea about people and like it. My advise is to break your own taboos and start realize the real waves of happiness. I am not saying he must belong to any collar color. You just need to go with your windy heart and see where it will take you.

د /إياد حرفوش said...

This recalled a funny thing to my mind, a friend once gave me a gift card for a male body-care service in a fancy place. I answered her that I am not the right person for this gift. In my class men only shave their beard and cut their hair short and that is it. Even if my income now qualifies for a lower upper, i will prefer to keep my attitude as a middle class man to death. Simply I am proud of it. Regards to your thoughts afterall

Fido Dido said...

Dear Dr. Ayad i donna agree with you because i think our web character comes form our real one i think that all what we have more is freedom to to be as we are with out any kind of forgery and i will ask u question marwa and please answer it do you really want to change your thought or you found it suitable to world we live in. wait your answer marwa ;)

Marwa Rakha said...

Hello IRC

Marx's theories failed .. I wish they did not ... IRC, I am not excluding any personal anything .. I am just saying that a preson's social class usually affects his whole disposition ... and this is my whole dilemma ... I see the person and the good in the person, and I see the person and the social class of the person .. then I am lost ...

Let's say you met a girl and she eats ina certain way, cooks in a certain way, talks in a certain way .. and it is all because of her class ..... you will either feel that she is super bee2a or bee2a or ok or classy or provacative:)

Wealth? I never mentioned wealth in my post ... read my reply to Bassem:)

You just exclude the:
personal experience
personal conscious
personal emotions
personal personal personal


There are many factors which are person oriented, and it will be hard to be categorized under the class-oriented scope. (I am just reading the Marxist theory of history lol) I believe that a rich educated person can be as vain as a poor drug addict, another person who is a poor farmer can be as intellectual as Socrates.

Seeing the person as a class and enough for me is something really...may I say...degrading. You degrade the human from his human nature to the material you are denying==> Wealth.

Marwa Rakha said...

Hey Basim, First time to see you on my blog ... hope it is not the last:)

I will totally overlook the fact that you attacked my person .. I will go directly to the point.

Now .. money ... let me tell you a few facts:

1) Having money does not equal class (remember fadda el ma3addawy)

2) Having a good job and education may reflect class but it does not have to be so.

3) Leave Egypt aside because we have shitloads of tangled lines, in Europe ... you could have a very classy person whose family is really A class and his schooling is superb .. but that person is poor and is living with room mates because he cannot afford to live in luxury .. why? because that person is independent and is earning his own money ... the money that anyone his age would make by working in mcdonald's.

My move from one social class to another had nothing to do with the money I make:) It is about the changes that I adopted to my whole life ... attitude and demeanor.

Marwa Rakha said...

Hello Fido Dido .. welcome to my world:)

I talked about wealth in my reply to bassem and I hope it is clear now that in my head social class and money do not necessarily come hand in hand.

The white collar family does not give you money .. they teach you how to talk, how to dress, how to behave, how to act and react, how to present yourself, how to pronounce words, what words to use to describe whatever situations ..etc.

Think of yourself and the maid .. good couple? Think of yourself and the plumber .. good couple?

Money wise they could earn more that you do ... but class wise .. can you actually have kids with any of them or their "class"?

As you see in my post, I ended it with me not knowing the answer:)

Marwa Rakha said...

Thank you so much Mo'men:)

I fully understand "human" and "human weakness":)

I think I am like you in the fact that I, too, never paint myself as a self- righteous, moral, adviser person:)

Yes .. we all categorize people .. the name of the category changes but we categorize them:)

Marwa Rakha said...

Hi again Basim,

Let me try to explain this differently ...

Leave marriage and personal relationships aside ... Let's assume that you become best friends with "bent saltah baba" ... and you go out regularly .. she is not "tafha" she is just from one of Egypt's aristocratic well established families ... Being around her, will make you feel inferior ... her exposure, travels, education, languages, stories, friends, manners, and everything about her will make you feel different .. different in a suffocating way.

Now let's assume that you developed a friendship with el mikaniky ... he is graduated from the faculty of commerce and he works as a mikaniky .... you spend a week with him at his house ... the same suffocating feeling will come back ... his habits, his friends, and even his tone of voice will drive you crazy.

In my argument I did not mention money ... the two do not have to go hand in hand.

Marwa Rakha said...

Hi again Eyad ... I am sorry to have disappointed you ... I will not defend my self of my broken image ..

I never claimed perfection ... On the pages of my blogs I have confessed my weaknesses over and over ... I have confessed my fears and my demons .. I pointed my fingers at my deformities, scars, and imperfections ... You have been reading my work for a very long time .. you know .. you know it all:)

I am going with my flow .. following my heart no matter in whose arms it takes me ... my mind has to think, analyze, and warn me.

Marwa Rakha said...

Hello again Fido Dido ... why do you sound so familiar? Why do I feel that I know you? I sense familair vibes in your lines .. I can even see bits and pieces of your face ... not enough to make a full picture ... it will come to me .. I know you .. I am sure.

Answer? I still do not know ... I am in a situation now that requires me to find an answer .. I am standing still and going with the flow ..

With him, I feel clearly our differences ... big differences ... I still like him .. how much or how far .. I still do not know.

Is that an answer?

د /إياد حرفوش said...

Dear Marwa,
Maybe I did not see any scars or deformities in what you said in your blog. Because courage to say and to disclose your persona is something rare by itself. As well I found all what you said as a very normal reactions of human being. But we do not all say it. Being an ex shrink, confessions never annoy me. Forgive a Nasserist who imagined you like princess Enjy and was exposed suddenly to the image of an Arestocrate. Thanks for acceptance of criticism

Basim Sultan said...

Dear Marwa,
It seems to be that I've chosen the wrong words to express my ideas that you thought I'm attacking your person; I didn't mean this and if this is what you understood please accept my apologies (F). Well yes you are right, money and social class are not going hand in hand, and I understand that suffocating feeling when you spend a week either with an aristocratic girl or with a mekaneky, the point is, when you start categorizing people that way you become an "obnoxious" person, just as you described it, my self I do this and every body is doing it, simply because we are humans and we aint no saints, but I try to limit it, because I don't think it's right. Let me ask something, what happens after you categorize a certain group of people as X category? don't you start dealing with them in a certain way based on a pre-made thoughts about them, which I think is not the right way of dealing with any body, that's what I meant to say. Ummmm, u know what? I feel like there is something I have no answer to it too, just like the way you ended your post, but I dunno what it is :) I just hope this misunderstanding has been solved.

Basim Sultan said...

Oh yeah, as eyad said, Thanks for acceptance of criticism in such a civilised way

Fido Dido said...

well well well maraweka or marwa ya weka ;)choose one of them u like so i can call u with .. i feel some thing between your words marwa u have internal war and i think this may be right word WAR between what u have raise up for and what u have learn and try to make difference with it in our society. but let me tell you that why not i donna marry a maid why we egyptain people always have this look and rude feeling about how are less than us if this maid is american or any forign girl i think waiter is like maid if i marry her do u think that the same look for her is exist will i think not so why we connect between the level of thinking and class and we always say that how are less level is not qualified to us.i just think in it like when AL Ahly play with any other team in egypain league we always say Al Ahly will win not because of his good training or his efforts but because the other team is not qualified to play with ahly :)3ala fekra ana Ahlaweeeeeeeee :) so this is matter try to think in it like my example and tell me what you thing and by the way i know why i love to read your articles i think that is because your brilliant way in answering the question ;) i love your answer to my first question and let me tell you that when we love we become blind and till we become blind we will say as you write (I feel clearly our differences ... big differences) you are still not in love ;)

Marwa Rakha said...

Of course I am not in love:) ... never again ..:)

Fido Dido said...

we have confession here :) marwa will not be in love again we need help to make her fall in love can any one help :)hope u find what u look for maraweka

Fantasia said...

I agree that in Egypt we often confuse money with social class. It's always about how much you have and how well you're dressed and groomed, the mobile you hold, the car you own, the location of your home, things like that. But if we go back to the original definition of social class, I see nothing wrong in putting it into consideration when choosing a partner. For such a person to marry a waiter! Well.. she might be the happiest one on earth now, but allow me to say that she's so short-sighted and emotionally immature. Money isn't everything, and a clone isn't the answer definitely, but what about a common ground? Language isn't a big deal if he has the ability to learn it, but what if he doesn't?
I believe that education, not the formal education, but knowledge and understanding of the world, is a borderline.