A Gans finding that particularly resonated with me was that the people in his study regulated their behavior by what he called "involuntary conformity of the type expressed in the phrase 'what will the neighbors think.'" In my case, my mother extended the term "neighbor" to my mail carrier in Georgetown, as in "What will the mailman think?" -- her verbatim question -- when I decided to keep my name after my marriage in 1973. Another of Gans's revelatory analyses was that the West Enders' child-rearing practices were "adult-centered" as opposed to the middle class's "child-centered" ones. I.e., for better or worse, life did not revolve around the children in those working-class households, just as they had not revolved around me in mine. E.g., I watched my mother play tennis instead of the other way around.
I wish I had read Gans sooner. My parents' paramount interest in their social life and status among their peers would have made much more sense. So, too, would have my grandparents' extreme "routine-seeking" -- e.g., cooking and eating the same food on the same day each week. That a non-Italian-American wrote this book doesn't matter a hoot to me. Besides, I believe an "outsider" was better suited to the task of being its author. As the saying goes, he had no dog in the fight. All he wanted was to discover and disclose the truth. That's a valid model for anyone of any stripe.
To be continued.