Photo: mine – 6.14.18 Amherst, Mass
I grew up in an upper middle class suburb in New England, but we were not an upper middle class family. Our house looked like all the other homes in the neighborhood from the outside. We lived in a modest neighborhood. My step-father was a blue-collar worker. For the majority of my childhood my mom was a stay-at-home parent and my step-dad’s income was the sole source of income supporting our family.
Times were tough. To get by, my mom shopped at church thrift stores for clothing at times. She knew how to sew (she was an outstanding seamstress) and she made many shirts by hand for my sister and I out of patterns she bought at the local fabric store. It was only in the last two decades that I realized was a labor of Love this truly was. At that time however, I cringed at this because I wanted all the same clothes that all my friends were wearing. There was always a sense of shame around this. Fear that my friends would find out about me wearing “used” clothing. Fear they would laugh at my mom’s homemade things.
Times were tough. There was other periods where we didn’t have a great variety of food to eat. One summer I remember there was a sale on hot dogs and Mom bought score of them. We ate hot dogs and beans for what seemed to be like a good 2 weeks. To this day I find it difficult to eat a hot dog.
My sociopath step-brother “Wicked”, used to get high on pot and then sneak his friends in the house and eat all the lunch meats my mom had just bought for the week for my dads lunches as well as like 2 loaves of bread and a couple bags of chips and a gallon of milk. So out of necessity, my mom put a bicycle lock on the refrigerator.
Times were tougher. My two step-brothers both had ADHD and the doctors at that time told my parents not to have any sugary foods in the house. ADHD was poorly understood and was thought to be exacerbated by sugar. So my parents wouldn’t allow my step-sister or I have any cookies, ice-cream or anything with sugar. It just wasn’t allowed in our house. I began to crave it and seek to get it outside of the home any chance I could. While visiting friends houses, relatives, even stealing from stores sometimes. I truly believe this set the stage for the eating disorder I developed later.
I got used to seeing my friends getting the clothes they wanted, the food and snacks they wanted. I got used to deprivation. As used to it as one can get used to it. I think that when one of my friends came over and saw the bike lock on my fridge and asked why I didn’t even know what to say. I was mortified.
As life moved forward my mom found work, things got a bit better but not a whole lot. I got a job at fourteen both to earn money and also to escape my fucked up house. I ended up spending the bain of my earnings on marijuana which Wicked secretly distributed out of our home, and alcohol which he purchased for me. Both helped me forget how screwed up my life was.
Times got even tougher.
At some point I was introduced to several wealthy people. Some young men and women in college. Every one of them made me feel less than. Every one of them made me feel insignificant. Every one of them made me feel like I was so much more worthless than they were. Simply because of the way I was dressed, the type of vehicle I drove, the apparent lack of jewelry I wore. I didn’t have the status symbols they did.
There were the haves and the have nots. And I was a have-not.
It left such an indelible and foul taste in my mouth that I developed a prejudice against wealthy people. Such that later in life, if I found out a man I was dating, had any sort of money, he never got a second date with me.
Intellect and reason tells me that surely there are wealthy people who are kind and benevolent; but I have such trust issues with their “sort.” Just can’t get past it. I would just rather stay on this side of the tracks.
When I look at a homeless person, I see a person. Maybe a person who is struggling. Maybe they are addicted, maybe mentally ill. I do not see a person who is beneath me. I see a person who can teach me something. Maybe I can talk with them awhile. I feel more comfortable with these people than a wealthy person. Now that says something.
I have never been able to reconcile why those snobby fools felt as though they were better. Were they brainwashed from a young age to think so? Indoctrinated into believing that only people from within their social class / power elite are worthy human beings? Are they raised without any moral compass or Christian values?
Why do some people with so much money denigrate others? Where does their attitude of arrogance this come from?
Don’t they realize at the end of the day no matter how much one has in the bank that 1) we all put our pants on one leg at a time, 2) everyone’s poop smells gross, and 3) when we die, we can’t take a penny with us.
I once met a man on an epilepsy website. We had met on a chat support forum. He was a Sargent on the LAPD. He had to turn in his weapon and take a desk job from having had a tonic-Clinic seizure and was on medical leave until they could figure out the cause. I told him my story. How I was diagnosed with Temporal Lobe Epilepsy and was out on medical leave. That I had been struggling financially. I told him that nearly my entire life I have lived just above the federal poverty line despite receiving my college degree with honors. So that coming from a tough childhood helped me toughen up for the hard times I was now facing.
He told me he had a very comfortable life. He had a house, wife, 2 kids, a vacation house and as he put it “all the toys a guy could want.” He said that despite all these things he was not happy.
He said,” To be honest, I was never happier than when my wife and I were first married and living in a tiny apartment with shag rugs. We had nothing, but we had each other. “Now,” he continued , “I sit here online I think about having affairs, my marriage feels empty, I drink every day til I pass out , some days I want to blow my brains out.” He said , “Don’t let anyone tell you different, money isn’t everything hon.”
If you had to choose only side of the track to stay on, which side would you choose to stay on and why?