Class System

‘They say’, said Una, ‘that if two couples go out together you can tell their social status by the way they pair off. If they’re working class the two girls walk together, if they’re middle class husband and wife walk together, and if they’re upper class each husband walks with the other one’s wife.’

Ruth Rendell, Make Death Love Me

Absolutely 100% true, and very well-observed.

7 thoughts on “Class System

  1. Why do upper classes do that? To show how not jealous they are? (Clearly I’m not a member or I wouldn’t have that question, but I don’t go out with other couples often enough to feel certain about my own behavior.)


    1. I’m curious too. I’m solidly in the “don’t spend too much time talking to other people’s husbands” class, where if we invite a couple over, or go somewhere with another family, I make an effort to talk mainly to the wife… which can be somewhat awkward if she is shy, or not feeling well. I mean, you don’t want to look like you’re trying to flirt with somebody else’s man, and the whole point of having people over, or going out with other people, is that you’ve been seeing nobody but each other and the kids all week, and it’s nice to get to talk to other grownups in a non-work setting once in a while.

      So everything but the working-class configuration here is puzzling.


    2. It’s a mindset where people subconsciously, without ever articulating it even to themselves, always try to enrich their personalities, grow, improve, advance. Even in little things. In the described setting, what is likely to result in most growth? Engaging with a person of a different sensibility. You already know what women of your social class think because you are one of them. You know what your husband thinks. So where’s growth? Only in talking to someone who’s got a different perspective because he’s the opposite sex.


      1. OK, that kind of makes sense I guess? In my case I’m sort of androgynous, mystified by women of every class (So. Many. Unstated. Rules!), and find it way easier to talk to men, generally… but this gets me in trouble when the men in question are married (even though I’m happily married, very monogamous, and definitely not young or hot), so I’ve learned to avoid that situation.


  2. Amanda – Ruth Rendell is British.
    Once the heir and spare are produced, the upper class are expected to shag around – see our current King and Queen as examples…


  3. “if they’re upper class”

    I approached this from the British class system where the middle class is loathed by both those below and above them (and they don’t much like themselves either).
    working class – class and sex loyalty plus high levels of sexual jealousy = women and men pair up (to give partners a bit of a break from each other)
    upper class – class loyalty without much sexual jealousy = parters switch (in public in sight of each other, a break and maybe a bit of novelty)
    middle class – no group/class loyalty and some sexual jealousy = couples stay together (most boring of the options)


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