Wednesday, 8 January 2014
Nature vs nurture
I have a friend who grew up in a house without books. I find it hard to imagine – there were lots of books in my childhood home. There was a lot of art too; pottery, sculptures and paintings, and we watched BBC2 and were taken to exhibitions and music events, and my mum used to love holding her cheese-and-wine do's. All very middle class; although my mum's roots weren't, but she had aspirations and she also married someone who was. So really it's no wonder that I like books, art, music, culture. And cheese and wine. I grew up with the stuff.
Back to my friend with no books in the house. His father was an agricultural worker, his mother a housewife, they didn't have much money and, from what I can gather, their lives were pretty much mapped out by the tradition of their gender, class and era. He, however, in spite of struggling academically at school, displayed great interest in art, literature and history. He was never encouraged by his parents, but his creativity and ambitions were deep-founded and weren't going to be suppressed. He even taught himself how to "speak posh".
We've often talked about it... nature versus nurture. Nurture doesn't appear to have existed in his case, so it would seem that nature gave him those gifts, although not directly via his parents. Mr SDS has a similar story; whilst his mum and dad were laughing at On The Buses before going down the pub, he preferred to watch Monty Python whilst smoking a Sobranie Black Russian. His favourite subjects at school were English and Art but nobody else in his family had ever knowingly shown any interest in either and he disappointed his dad by hating football. He was telling me the other day how he'd never had yoghurt as a kid because it was considered too exotic. (I, on the other hand, regularly indulged in a strawberry flavoured Ski but had never sampled the delightful combination of baked beans with chips until I met him...so it works both ways.)
I'm curious to know where it all comes from. Maybe an artistic/literary/academic or whatever gene can skip a generation or two, or three? Maybe ancestors displayed the same tendencies or interests but were never able to indulge them? Only the wealthiest and most privileged could attend cultural events, eat unusual food, get a good education, dabble in the arts. Maybe some of the farm labourers and serving girls from whom I was descended on my mum's side might have had similar tastes to me, but were never given the opportunity to explore such subjects? It would have been so hard for them to realise - and probably even harder to admit to against a background of austerity and necessity.
Oh well, I don't know. And as there are no future generations to come from me and Mr SDS, I may as well stop worrying about it; this line of music-loving, book-reading, yoghurt-eating, classless wine-guzzlers ends here.
(With thanks to el hombre invisible whose blog Include Me Out unwittingly inspired!)