I remember my stepdad bringing home our first ever hi-fi. It was 1990, before the recession properly started. It wasn’t the 1980s anymore. I remember how old fashioned our record player suddenly looked – almost like a gramophone, suddenly – and I remember it cost us exactly one hundred pounds, and I remember how much one HUNDRED pounds was in 1990. It was a sum that was unbearably high, limitless, an amount of money which never ever ended – basically, in today’s currency one hundred pounds was worth exactly €10k. And I remember the sound of the CDs – tinny but perfect – and my mum asking my stepdad If we’d buy our entire record collection anew and how everyone said a CD could never break, ever, like ever, ever, ever EVER (this turned out to be a lie, by the way) and how amazing it all was.
A few years later, and I was at uni. I’d never realized I was working class till I started uni. I mean, I’d noticed we didn’t have hardly any money but I never thought we were poor. (Were we? Really? My parents owned a house and a car and we went on some kind of holiday once a year? We just never had any money for anything EVER) and the kids at school had always laughed at me for talking posh. Well, I arrived at uni and became working class – I had working classness thrust upon me – it was a bit of a surprise, to be honest. And the poorest kid I met at uni was a white boy called Lee. From Bradford, and proper Bradford, not the surrounding countryside. Lee was the first person I ever heard being called a “chav”. This was, I think, because he wore tracksuit bottoms.
“Why do posh people like records more than CDs?” He asked me one night, in our communal halls kitchen. I stared at him in surprise.
“Only DJs do?” I said. “It’s so they can do That Thing?”
I demonstrated said Thing with my hands, it looks pretty easy if you ask me.
“No,” he said. “All the arty Sloanes prefer records to CDs.”
“Maybe they want to become DJs?” I said. “And they need to practise? The Thing.”
“They prefer the sound,” he said bitterly. “They don’t care that it costs less. They buy records because they think it sounds better. God, I hate their guts. I saved up for fucking ages for my CD player. I fucking hate them. I hate them so much.”
Berlin Expats think they’re cool as fuck, but really isn’t everyone just an arty Sloane WHO HASN’T SUFFERED ENOUGH? I don’t mean to undo all my law of attraction money mindset forgiveness affirmations in one fell swoop (which, by the way, when I went to uni I spelt “foul swoop” because in Essex fell and foul are homophones, so I guess I was a bit working class), BUT HAVEN’T THESE PEOPLE JUST NOT SUFFERED ENOUGH DON’T THEY NEED TO SUFFER MORE WHERE IS THE SUFFERING? It’s easy to put on a moth-ridden fur coat and seven different plastic sunglasses on your head and collect pictures of Honecker and have holes in your jeans and eat cake off these dinky little Weimar republic plates and drink tea from a cracked Chinese teapot WHEN YOU ACTUALLY HAVEN’T SUFFERED ENOUGH. People who have actually suffered put on shiny tracksuit pants and go to Ikea. They don’t have the time or the energy to invest in flea markets. They don’t like wearing clothes that smell of dead people who got tortured to suicide by the actual Stasi. They’re scared of getting fleas.
I was once wearing, not a flea market skirt, but from Humana, and I had lost my now-teenager, then toddler’s buggy, and was carrying him home on my hip. A white boy came up to me in Strausberger Platz – this would’ve been 2007, I guess, that “Strecke” between Frankfurter Allee and Alexander Platz was a bit grimmer in those days – and spat in my face. “Schlampe!” he said. I wiped his spit off of my face, went home, and threw the skirt in the bin. ( I have to admit, I used to throw clothes in the bin, but I don’t anymore. I threw my entire wedding dress in the Restmüll one night, I thought it was empowering.) I thought the white boy had thought I was a Roma and I thought throwing the skirt away was my best bet at, you know, surviving this video game we call life.
A terrible thought occurs to me: what if it’s not about suffering? What if it’s about style? What if I just have no style? What if other people can tell the difference between scruffy shabby Weimar Republic chic and scruffy shabby HARTZ-IV disgustingness and I just can’t? Oh God! The thought depresses me so much! IT’S NOT THAT I HAVE SUFFERED MORE IT’S THAT OTHER PEOPLE HAVE STYLE AND I DON’T! I am literally so depressed now I think I’ll have to go to Primark for some retail therapy – and cheer myself right up.