Originally Posted by Earthmover
I don't quite understand this antagonism and mild anger bubbling underneath. Classy is a word. It's roots are in the word "Class." So yes, there is some element of class to being classy. That said, if you read what I am saying carefully, I was stating clearly that I was making generalizations and using imperfect heuristics to get at an imperfect definition.
The latter type of person is not classy [again, my personal definition]. I don't know where you get the presumption that I believe this to the very core of my heart, but you are wrong. Since people are not mindreaders we have to use what we can observe to come to conclusions about people. Sure, it's very possible that without knowing a person's home life, I may think a "polished" (another loaded word) person to be classy, but that judgment always comes with the caveat that if he acts like a cad, I can rescind and change my characterization of the person. I'm pretty sure think cheating on wife and neglect of kids is not nice.
That said, classy does imply some amount of polish to a person. I can't see why a person who does physical labor can't be classy [in fact, the first example you used describe my parents in our tougher days to a T, and they are definitely "classy"]. But it doesn't mean that a person can be classy while being ill-mannered (even if out of ignorance rather than boorishness), and to me personally, without showing some curiosity about the world they live in. There are no class boundaries that prevent a person from reading good books or newspapers (yes, it's harder, sometimes really hard if your situation in life made it impossible for you to learn to read in the first place) or to put it in most basic form, observing human life as it comes. As Emily Post once said, "Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use."
The reason I placed a premium on reading good books is that it says volumes (zing!) about a person's natural curiosity of their world (and other worlds). Books give insight into how people think, shows you what was proper historically, and offer other tidbits of knowledge that help make a polished person. Anti-intellectualism is a strong cultural phenomenon in America, and in its extreme, the anti-intellectualism reaches as far as people not caring to observe the people around them, and if people don't care about others... I doubt they'll be a classy person. That said, I know how imperfect this rubric is; I just think it's as good a shortcut as any.
In case you were curious, I do not find you classy, based on your internet persona. Perhaps you shouldn't take giant leaps to conclusions. I do not think myself classy either, if it comforts you any.
Ah, I think you misunderstood my post and took it the wrong way - a danger with internet message boards. My point was only that the concept of "classy" is so ambiguous and the criteria in the original post, whether American women or European are "more classy" that it is impossible to have any kind of intelligent discussion on the subject. As other posters have pointed out, everybody seems to assign different criteria to what classy is, when perhaps there are no criteria. Perhaps you are right when you say "I know it when I see it." A person can be "classy" or not for a million different reasons. And to generalize that to a continent's entire female population is just absurd.
All I was trying to point out is that your criteria - reading to wit - is just as arbitary as anybody else's criteria and I was doing that by taking your criteria to a logical conclusion, albeit one that was very far from what you had originally said.
The bottom line is that you can't define class by reading, by money, by intellect, by beauty, by promiscuity, or by any objective criteria. I've lived in a few slums in my life and even there people would say about somebody, "that guy's no good, he's got no class."
I don't really consider myself classy either, but I do consider myself lucky. I consider myself lucky that that I didn't have any of the things holding me back throughout my life that end up making some people in the world, in the eyes of many on this forum, as lacking "class." I think that people overlook the fact that had their circumstances been different that they might be the ones digging the ditches, burying the dead bodies, changing the garbage, or serving time in prison. And when people start jumping on their high horses and judging those they consider "without class" I feel some kind of duty from down inside to come to their defense. If that makes me "not classy" or "not a gentleman" (I've been called both), then so be it.