Wednesday, September 4, 2013

On bottoms, butts, fannies, and classist toddler bullsh*t

"I have a big bottom"

For some reason it always makes me cringe when my daughter says "butt." She didn't always use that word. I certainly didn't teach it to her.

It is ironic because it made me laugh when my two-year old briefly thought "oh sh*t" meant "I accidentally dropped something." Same thing when my three-year old thought "that f*cking dog" was another name for poor, cute, little Junebug.

I sometimes say bad words. I'm not proud of it, but I don't lose sleep over it. (Curse words are super easy to extinguish, btw. Just don't react to them at all and stop saying them, you big potty mouth.) But "butt" is different. I do lose sleep over it. The word children use for "rear end,” has always felt like a proxy for class. Poor children say "butt." Rich kids say, "fanny," or something. And I’m just shooting for middle class here, okay? Just please say "bottom," Hannah. I'm just not ready for people to judge you for your parents' net worth yet. (I guess that is the privilege of being judged for your class instead of your race, you can try to avoid and postpone it.) 

When she says "butt," it hurts my heart. It reminds me of sitting cross legged during sorority rush at Duke while some Tri-Delt or Pi Phi or whatever she was asked me where my family went on vacation. And I stared at her like this, 
while my family vacations flashed before my eyes. It was like she was speaking another language. Family vacations? Not since my second grade teacher on my the first day of school has anyone expressed an interest in that topic. I was so naive. It took a while to realize she didn't want to know what my family did together for fun. She wanted to know how much we were worth*. Do we summer in the Hamptons? Have a second home in Vail? In other words, was I rich enough to be friends with her? (spoiler alert, I wasn't)


Am I being crazy, or is this word choice the preschool version of where does your family summer? Because I’m pretty sure this is one way society is going to judge my children and their ability to sit at the “rich kids' table.” Okay, I own it. I'm a little crazy. But I maintain this is still a litmus test for toddler SES/class.


*This became even more clear when the next question was "So what does your dad do?" Luckily I was randomly paired with Al Franken's daughter (though I only met her briefly, she seemed super down to earth and friendly). Her answer seemed to distract the rushee from the next question which was most likely, can I please see your parents most recent tax and mortgage documents? 


1 comment:

  1. You might try singing yourself to sleep with Garth Brooks "Low Places". Trying not to be classist (not a word) (but maybe just a bit classist, inevitably), my experience is that the less affluent are more fun. That being said there is much to be learned from association with all "classes" ... wish that word was never coined.