Class conscious

At my secondary modern school in York, my religious education teacher once described me as "something of a ladykiller". It would have to be the RE teacher who said it, and not the games teacher, who really was a ladykiller, and who had briefly played first-team cricket for Yorkshire. If he had said it, I would really have believed it.

None the less, I did have my quota of pretend girlfriends, all more or less of my own class - that is, upper working/lower middle. However, one girlfriend was slightly more than that. When I visited her house, I remember being startled to see on the coffee table not the usual Yorkshire Evening Press, but the Yorkshire Post, which had things like book reviews.

This particular girl was actually a very beautiful blonde with the look of a 14-year-old Faye Dunaway, but class was to be the cause of the end of our relationship after about one hour and 15 minutes. At the conclusion of our first and only date, I was standing in her driveway, trying to think of some way of kissing her, when an early-middle-aged woman came walking towards us.

"My mother," said Faye Dunaway. I looked again at the woman.

"But she's got ginger hair," I said, not in any tone of condemnation, but merely in surprise.

"Auburn," Faye sternly intoned, and that was more or less it.

Later . . . well, a blue-blooded English girl once finished off a plate of pasta that I couldn't manage in Brown's restaurant in Oxford, an act that I thought might constitute some sort of come-on. But for most of my time at university and thereafter, the women who took any interest in me usually seemed - not that I'm complaining - to be foreign or Jewish or both, and the reason for this was class.

These women didn't fit into the English class nexus, and neither did I, having by now partially shaken off my old social identity without finding a new one. My wife - who is Canadian and Jewish - is certainly posher than me but, being Jewish, she can never be absolutely posh.

Thank God.

This article first appeared in the 27 November 2000 issue of the New Statesman, The rise of stealthy wealth