The White Trash World We Live In
Charlotte Hays' book comes out this week, but I read an early release on Kindle, and it was delightful! Her hilarious comparisons of Old White Trash vs. New White Trash are very entertaining for a Southern-raised lady like me! She traces the spread of White Trash into the mainstream of American culture as the old forms of etiquette gave way to the "anything goes" lifestyles of today. The ultimate wedding gift when I got married, for instance, was silver serving ware; now those tarnished treasures can be bought for cheap prices in thrift stores, because nobody wants to spend the time polishing silver bowls, creamers, or pitchers and, for today's generation, the idea of actually serving tea from a silver tea service or setting a table with multiple choices of eating utensils is laughable.
Indeed, I laughed my way through much of the book, except when I was awed by the truthful and penetrating insights that fill every chapter. For instance, a major theme of the book is: "Society crumbles when it takes cues from the underclass." Hays points out all the negative trends that are now mainstream that started among the lower classes. Baggy pants on young men are a version of prison garb - an upward trend moving from the ghetto to the Ivy League. Unwed pregnancy, poor grooming, not working - these were characteristics of trashy people, the old White Trash.
The bottom line, for Hays, is that White Trash is the new normal. She is astounded that the television reality show, Honey Boo Boo, attracted more viewers than the GOP convention in 2012. And, its not just television that has disintegrated; today's table manners, dress, self-restraint, and spending attitudes are all based on values and customs of the lower classes, rather than the "stuffy" elites. Hays has special scorn for tattoos and for self-expression that has degenerated into a stripper mentality and daytime television with steamy scenes and foul language that will curl your hair.
Hays reiterates a common White Trash motto: "Hit don't make no difference" which encapsulates an attitude of complacency rather than aspiration. Nothing is worth the discipline it takes to master a skill or reach a goal. Instead of white gloves and a hat for church on Sunday, "hit don't make no difference," just wear jeans or sweat pants.
Hays clearly shows that "class" is not a matter of money; being White Trash is purely behavioral and can be spotted in the wealthy as often as among the poor, and it's obvious that trashiness has spread throughout American culture.
Charlotte Hays' book, "When Did White Trash Become the New Normal? A Southern Lady Asks the Impertinent Question," (Regnery Publishing), will be out this week.