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The Periodic Table of the Middle Class
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    Entries in Suburban Buddha (38)

    Thursday
    Jul282011

    How Paxman wrecks marriages: more details

    Following Newsnight's coverage of our blog about middle-class marriages being in trouble, we thought it might be useful for us to expand the point about why staying up to watch Paxman indicates – or  causes – problems for middle class marriages. As we see it, there are three main problem areas:

    1. Paxman provides a sort of carthasis for middle-class frustration and angst. His attacks on mendacity and pretence are attacks to which middle class viewers would like to subject their bosses, colleages and even family members. Watching him offers a sort of release, a kind of vicarious triumph or even debate-pornography; middle-class sado-masochism. It is like a cerebral version of the therapy that involves stripping off and running around  a forest. This is all very well, but it indicates that the viewer is finding release and succour from daily stress via a 3rd party, and a dry, violently rational one at that; he or she should surely be taking that succour from loving physical contact with their partner.
    2. Newsnight is not a programme that deals heavily in emotion. (The MCH handbook is of the opinion that Paxo was not at his best conducting the vajazzling debate, for example, even though we hugely enjoyed it). Indeed its very appeal is in its crisp, clever determination to establish truth and facts. The middle-class life tends to drain its subjects of feeling, and this can have a knock on effect on relationships, as the blog explains. Newsnight can compound that.
    3. Having said all that, watching it together can be even worse, since for tired, frustrated couples with suppressed anger (and diverging political views), it can be a catalyst for arguments; the kind of argument that is ostensibly about tax rates, but is really about the washing left in the machine that morning.

    Our advice is, watch Newsnight by all means, but remember BALANCE. A brisk walk earlier in the evening and, yes, cuddles afterwards, will make all the difference. Welcome Paxman INTO your marriage, do not use him as an escape FROM it.

    Flickr: Unicorn Theatre

    Thursday
    Jun092011

    Who is The Man Who Dances Too Much At Gigs? Part 2

    Flickr: little bird feet

    On Tuesday (see blog below) I began trying to work out the different kinds of men who dance too much at gigs, frequently in front of you when you’re trying to watch. I explained that I’ve got it down to eight tribes, and outlined four of them, here are the rest of the clumsy crew.

    5. The Man Who Never Went To Gigs During His Youth. This man was just too busy at the rowing/debating society, or just too scared to go when he was younger, but then his trendy mate from work got him a ticket for a Kings of Leon stadium gig and, as he’ll tell you at great length, it was AMAZING! A life changing experience in fact! He’s hooked! Live music is fantastic! Now he’s making up for lost time; he can’t wait to ‘do a festival’, but in the meantime is following me around to dance in front of me more or less everywhere I go.

    6. The Man Who Had Never Experienced Live Music Until His Company Got Corporate Tickets For The V Festival. One of the worst; he doesn’t admit that he didn’t see a real electric guitar until he was 32, but now he claims to be an expert and can tell you anything you want to know about The Killers. 

    7. The Man Who Can’t Accept That He’s Not 25 Anymore. Of course there is nothing wrong with going to gigs at any age, so long as you don’t try to be something you’re not. But there might be something a bit wrong with obsessively trying to get your mates to form a band when they’d rather have an allotment, and playing Guitar Hero when your wife is out.

    8. The Man Who Simply Can’t Dance (more commonly known as White Man’s Overbite). Perhaps the most common type. I suppose one shouldn’t be too unpleasant about this chap, since he’s not hurting anyone so long as he doesn’t stand on their toes. I’ve been trying to work out if middle class men are more likely to be bad dancers than working class ones (upper class man cannot dance at all – there was a reason they didn’t broadcast the royal wedding reception) but am still not sure.

    Tuesday
    Jun072011

    Who is The Man Who Dances Too Much At Gigs?

    Flickr: legendarymonkey

    One (very) unforeseen consequence of the illegal downloading of music has been the boom in gig-attendance among the middle class and middle aged. As artists can no longer rely on record sales to keep them going in retirement, they have to play live more; and gigs and festivals have become more plentiful, those who previously found them offputting or hard to get to now regularly “check out” their heroes live.

    As a long-term gig-goer, I have noticed that this new influx has brought with it a new type; The Man Who Dances Too Much At Gigs. You know the one – he’s at every gig there is, and occasionally he might even appear as part of The Couple Who Dance Too Much At Gigs. Regardless of the music’s type or tempo he’ll be jigging about, completely out of time to the music with a look-at-me-I’m-having-a-better-time-than-you grin on his face, and probably blocking your view.

    I’ve been trying to figure out who he is outside the musical arena, but it dawned on me yesteday that in fact several different types become Men Who Dance Too Much At Gigs once they pass through the turnstiles.

    I think there are eight types. For reasons of space we’ll do four today and the rest tomorrow.

    1. The Man Who Sleeps With A Copy Of High Fidelity Under His Pillow. This man is desperate to show you that just because he’s in his late 40s/an accountant/goes to garden centres on Bank Holidays, he’s still really into music. He’s got very varied tastes, (loved Dizzee Rascal’s early stuff), he’s got all the definitive albums, including DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing which he’ll leave lying around for you to see. He won’t tell you that he’s used it to rest his glass of cabernet sauvignon on more times than he’s actually played it.

    2. The Man Who Doesn’t Get Out Enough. Overworked and stressed by his family commitments, this fella drinks too much/takes too much coke any time he gets the chance. He always peaks too soon, which is fine except that he never quite knows when he’s had enough. Hence the dancing.

    3. The Man Who Leads A Pretty Boring Life But Insists On Telling You How Boring You Are When You Refuse To Join In. By join in, I mean join in with whatever “wacky” games or activities he finds amusing. These may be drinking games, ‘ice breaking’ games at the works do, themed dressing up on nights out. All are awful.

    4. The Pissed Uncle At The Wedding Who Insists On Telling You How Boring You Are For Not Dancing To Shania Twain At The Reception. Like (3) but possibly more working class. Boasts about his “weird” sense of humour, which is not weird in the slightest, unless you perceive something unusual in novelty baseball caps with beer holders and drinking tubes.

    To be continued

    Monday
    Apr112011

    Hail the Scandiman; has anyone else noticed the calm, appealing Nordic men taking over global business?

    Credit: Fame
    I work in a job where I meet a lot of department heads and managers at big global corporations, and without wishing to be prejudiced, I do think you can spot certain stereotypes. There’s the trendy younger British blokes on the marketing side; the incredibly hard-working and single-minded engineers from the Indian sub-continent; the smiley and yet uber-competitive German sales guy, and many more. 
     
    One I’ve noticed a lot recently, particularly in the senior ranks, is Scandi-man. Scandiman is from Scandinavia (actually he can be from Germany and Holland as well, but quintessentially it’s Sweden) and is incredibly relaxed, confident and chatty in a masculine way. Fluent in English (and possibly Spanish, maybe even Farsi), he has a slightly transatlantic accent that underlies the upbeat tone he applies to everything (“Hey, how aur yoo, friend? Glad to hear it!”) except obviously bad news, for which he drops into a distinctly different, confidence-inspiring register (“So guys, I have some pretty, uh… sad news today…”).  
     
    There are many other blue-chip business-guys (you can’t call him a businessman, it doesn’t seem right) qualities he has, including a business degree from a prestigious American university, sportiness, trim physique (he is often very, very tall) and Really Nice Wife with Three Fabulous Kids. However, this isn’t annoying because he will also have a vice that he openly admits to; he caves in to the need for a fag after two pints, or he gets drunk and leads a naked conga at company parties. It’s this fallibility and lack of neurosis that gives him the edge over the Americans with whom he often competes for top jobs, and is thus probably the most important quality fuelling his takeover of the new world of global business.
     
    Scandiman (typical names: Magnus, Marcus, Jonas, Jon) reads Monocle and good crime fiction, and wears Prada or Hugo Boss suits (leisurewear picked up in New York is possible; he loves Banana Republic). Over a beer will tell you great stories about doing business in Miami, China or former Soviet states. And while you sense he might have had some hair-raising adventures, he’ll tone them down with a positive look to the future (“Yah, that stuff was pretty tough at times, but you know it’s under control, and I think it’s looking great now”), and then ask about you. This is all very well-mannered of course, but that’s the point – Scandiman’s manners are not only good, but also nicely balanced between formal and casual, striking that right-for-now quality that the British had a long time ago, and the Americans had until recently. 
     
    I know it may also sound as if I have a repressed gay crush on him, but I wouldn’t go that far. I just feel that I know the coming man when I see him; believe me, if you want to get ahead in business, your best move now is to move to Malmo and get naturalised. "Gatsby"
    Tuesday
    Jan252011

    Ha ha ha but never LMFAO: the middle-class rules of email 

    The other day I heard a brief discussion of e-mail etiquette on Radio 4’s Today programme. It focused on how to begin and end messages (Dear and Yours Sincerely being felt to be too formal, but there being no accepted alternative as yet), which was fine but, in my opinion, rather limited in scope. To me, the middle classes now have several ways of distinguishing their writing in e-mails, Facebook updates, forums and text messages, though they are often as much a matter of what is NOT done as what is. For example
     
    1 Cutting vowels is ok, txtspk is not
    When it comes to abbreviating words, there is a subtle, unspoken rule that you will not use txtspk such as “2” for “to” “n” for “and” or “lol” for laughing out loud. However, “cd/wd” for “could/would” is ok, as are acronyms IF the expression is quite wordy: “IMO” for “in my opinion” passes, and you can just about get away with “tbh” for “to be honest” on a forum.
     
    2 First name once, then nothing
    When beginning an email,  “Dear” is fuddy-duddy unless an unusual occasion demands formality, but just going straight into the message is rude. The middle class emailer has two choices, then; either to use the first name of the addressee on a line of its own, or to use “Hi” and then the first name. The former is used by people hoping to appear forthright. Whatever the choice, no greeting at all is used once the exchange is underway.
     
    3 Facebook updates; longer is better
    The middle classes tend to shy away from very brief statements about their health or mood (no “feelin gr8 2day” for them, for example), but are happy to make them if it concerns geographical location; a simple “New York” is fine, especially if accompanied with a photograph.
     
    4 Mornings/afternoons
    “This am/this pm” are ok for the middles: “this aft” is not.
     
    5 Signing off
    As the guests on Today confirmed, this is currently an utter free-for-all. We have blogged before about the problems of adding an “X” after one’s name, but “Best wishes” can for some people be almost as annoying because, in their view, it seems over formal and mimsy for e-mail. “Best”, to the, er, best of our knowledge, is a modern affectation somehow spawned by email in the last 15 years. “Kind regards” sounds weird. The preferable option may well be to add nothing at all at the end; after all, the recipient knows it’s from you, don’t they?