Tuesday, December 14, 2004


I don't understand money. It's something I really struggle with and have no concept of.

First, poor. I have no real understanding of what it means to be poor. When I was little, we didn't have much money. We didn't eat out, my mom made a lot of our clothes (now more expensive than buying clothes produced cheaply in China), and we didn't have pocket spending money. But there was always a hot meal on the table and there were always Christmas presents under the tree. My parents taught me that money was not important. I still don't know how much money they make or what their savings are - if any. When I went off to college with a great scholarship, I foolishly spent all of my saved babysitting money on foolish things, like pizza. At the end of the year, I was broke and my meager work study earnings weren't enough to cover the dorm phone bill. My meal plan allowed me 1 meal a day, but I'm an eater and that was not enough. During finals I developed a terrible, horrible stress-induced affliction (which I eventually discovered was a yeast infection) and I had no money and no idea what to do about it. Eventually I called my mother for money, something I'd never done before or since (why not? my sisters have). She sent a check. In the mail. For $10 because I was too ashamed to ask for more, like the $16 I knew the treatment actually cost. Why why why?

Second, rich. I've dated rich. I've heard the loud family battles and watched people try to control each other with money. I've ridden in the limos and vacationed on the white sand beaches. I've had my entire wardrobe taken away after a fight because it was all purchased for me by someone else. I've always wanted to be in a place where I didn't have to worry about money ever again. That's a fictional place. The rich worry about money all the time too, though their worries are rather different.

I'm not poor. I'm not rich. I'm just normal, like most people I know. But that's a lie too. How can I - I who can barely make ends meet each month - how can I be in the top 10%? Impossible. Possible. Credit cards and debt. Flexible spending accounts. Individual control over retirement accounts. The system is set up to help most Americans fail. The rich can't be rich unless the poor are poor, and the rich don't understand how different their lives are from the lives of the people serving them dinner, raking their yards, and scanning their steaks at the grocery check-out. You know the ones I mean, not the kids working their way through school, the adults living on these wages and raising families on these wages.

I don't understand money and I wish it were something I never had to think about ever again.

1 comment:

Psycho Kitty said...

While I was married, I had a truly strong dislike of money and all things materialistic (long Jungian story there) but we've reached a truce. I don't worship it, I don't feel any particular need to have more of it in order to get things that I don't already have, but I don't loathe it, either--if more of it comes my way, great. I'll be able to do some good with it. And maybe buy some cute shoes.