Deborah Hill Cone

Deborah Hill Cone is a Herald columnist

Deborah Hill Cone: It's best to avoid labelling middle class snobs

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The problem is you can see other people's blindspots clear as day but not your own, Says Hill Cone.  Photo / Greg Bowker
The problem is you can see other people's blindspots clear as day but not your own, Says Hill Cone. Photo / Greg Bowker

There are some little-known advantages to being a single mother.

No one expects you to have completed your home handyman projects - my front fence has been half-painted for three years - or to take your children on skiing holidays.

No one invites you to dinner parties full of couples, thus protecting you from the endless feedback loop of house prices, school zones, house prices, school zones.

You are also thoughtfully left out of other upwardly mobile activities like comparing expensive brushed aluminium German kitchen appliances.

I used to feel nauseous with sadness when I went to the park and saw Getty Images-type nuclear families playing with their 2.4 children and smiling like a dog food commercial. But now I appreciate there are secret perks to anything.

Here is another one about being a solo parent: despite being revoltingly middle-class, you can pretend you aren't. I was reminded how much I loathe upwardly mobile people last week when I was shopping at Countdown in West Auckland.

It was so busy I thought there might be a riot. I was bribing my children with Chupa Chups as we waited in line for the checkout when a new checkout opened next to us and the Well-Dressed Woman in front of us (sample trolley item: pesto), who had almost got to the point of unpacking her groceries on the conveyor belt, ducked over to push in the front of the queue at the new checkout.

She pushed in front of a Bogan-looking Dude (sample trolley item: Home Brand white bread) who was exuding a potent aroma of poverty, rage and downtrodden fury even at this point in proceedings.

He was not impressed at Well-Dressed Woman pushing in and loudly said so, then demonstrated his ire by knocking over the stand of Chupa Chups to make his point. You'd like to think in a situation like this one's UN peacekeeping skills would magically surface, but all I managed to do was feebly get my children to pick up the Chupa Chups.

At this point Well-Dressed Woman muttered something, which I didn't hear, but Bogan-looking Dude did and replied: "What's being a doctor got to do with it?"

The pushy woman then declared to all the spectators, "It makes a difference because I save lives."

I wish I could have thought of a witty riposte but all I could do was mutter, "How arrogant!" and stomp off muttering about professional, middle-class people and their overblown sense of entitlement.

I huffily recounted this incident on Facebook, and only stopped to think when someone questioned what I meant by "middle-class".

The problem is you can see other people's blindspots clear as day but not your own. I now realise I am guilty of a very dangerous habit: devaluing the outsider, only the outsiders I can't stand are Yuppies.

Devaluing the outsider is probably the most common cult-like behaviour in everyday society - the media is the worst - where we are guilty of regarding our opponents as if they were a homogenous group with only negative traits.

Why this matters? It is a necessary first step to devalue the outsider before you can harm others or do violence. My own labels which characterise upwardly mobile people as "other" feel so self-righteous and comfortable - isn't it satisfying to join me in condemning the obnoxious doctor? - but are possibly just as destructive as middle-class pesto-eaters who think Bogans should go to the back of the queue.

It is easy to see this in others, but not so easy to identify one's own cult-like behaviour. Me, I like to scoff at people who suffer from White Villa Syndrome (I go all Diwali and want to throw paint at them).

Is it possible that my sanctimonious sneering at Yuppie is in the same category as snobs who sneer at Bogans? Best to try not to label people at all. I've now chosen to believe the Well-Dressed pesto-eating doctor just had a really bad day and once she had pushed in it became very hard for her to back down.

Anyway, she was probably stressed because she had to get back to her white villa to prepare for a dinner party and have a fascinating conversation about house prices and school zones.

- NZ Herald

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