Sunday 18 March 2018

Stuck in the middle with you: How to tell if you have made it into Leo Varadkar's 70pc club

Middle-class hit: Avoca
Middle-class hit: Avoca
Aer Lingus
Dermot Bannon
Farrow and Ball paint
Katie Byrne

Katie Byrne

Middle-class status has never been easy to define. Some determine it by income, especially if it happens to be over €50,000 a year; others by expenditure - with particular emphasis on yearly holidays and golf-club memberships.

For Leo Varadkar, however, middle-class is more a state of mind than it is a socio-economic subset. When the Taoiseach appeared on the penultimate Vincent Browne show last week, he claimed 70pc of Irish people, some of them minimum-wage earners, think of themselves as middle-class.

"I don't think it's about your income in any given year. It's about how you see yourself and your aspirations," he added.

His comments were widely criticised yet he raised a valid point: who said you have to be able to afford your bourgeoisie sensibilities? Sure, there's a vast gulf between the salaries of low-income and middle-income earners, but not necessarily in their predilections.

This is equal opportunities Ireland, after all. Service stations serve pulled-pork ciabatta, the dole is no barrier to Aeropress coffee and you can update your bathroom for €100 in IKEA.

Perhaps I'm wrong, but I think what Varadkar actually meant to say is that thousands of people queued up for the ALDI pizza oven (€139.99). Twice.

We may not be able to afford all the trappings of a middle-class lifestyle, but we can certainly aspire to it. Here's how to know if you've made it into the not-so-hallowed hallways of the 70pc club.

* You can tell the Happy Pear twins apart (and you buy their hummus weekly). l In your early thirties, you wanted to reinvent yourself; in your late thirties, you decided it would be easier to renovate your kitchen. l In moments of 'what is it all about?' existential despair, you simply remind yourself that you own a Nespresso machine and a Nutribullet. l You like to pay a little bit extra for Aer Lingus (and you like to share this fact with people). Otherwise you pretend not to hear the clapping when a Ryanair flight lands. l Health insurance is only a partial indicator of middle-class status. You've officially arrived in the middle league the day you call your insurer to find out if they cover acupuncture. l You buy gluten-free foods because it sounds like they could be good for you. l You hired a personal trainer in the lead-up to your wedding and you tell anyone who'll listen that they "can't out-train a bad diet". l You take great pride in being able to pronounce amuse-bouche and Viognier. l You know your set of wheels says a lot about you: That's why you invested in the Bugaboo when you had your first child.

* You firmly believe that a Max Benjamin candle is the ideal gift for any occasion. l As a self-proclaimed "foodie", you know kimchi, umami and poké are not obscure Japanese cartoon characters. l Likewise, you know that Slipper Satin and Elephant's Breath are not horses running in the 3:10 at Galway. l You have seriously considered colonic irrigation - although you prefer to call it 'colonic hydrotherapy'. l Avoca is more than a shop to you - it's a way of life. And you are disproportionately excited about Fallon & Byrne opening in Rathmines. l You secretly judge people who don't own a MacBook.

Dermot Bannon

* You have one or two children (a third child is a luxury good) whose names are Oscar, Finn, Poppy or Daisy. l You once dreamt about Dermot Bannon (above). l You own a cafetière, a wine carafe, a pestle and mortar (who cares if you don't use it) and at least one coffee table book. l You dream of leaving the rat race behind, travelling the world and monetising your adventure through a blog. l You have at least enquired about staying in a luxury yurt at Electric Picnic. l You have been a member of a Book Club. Bonus points if you read A Little Life. l You have run a marathon for charity. l You practice gratitude, especially for taxi apps and super-fast Wifi. l Your perfect Sunday involves a trip to a farmers' market. l By hell or high water, you will visit the Vermeer exhibition in the National Gallery. l You think of the late Superquinn as a sort of golden age of supermarkets.

* You browse Net a Porter but buy on ASOS. l You know someone who knows someone who knows Ryan Tubridy.

Irish Independent

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