class rage speaks
Ruminations on the personal experience of being poor and my journey toward being fully myself in spite of classism's silencing and setbacks. Here's to feeling a little less alone.
When I was young, I didn’t quite know yet all of what it meant to be poor, of course, but I was aware that my life was different from that of many of my peers. Over time, I developed the idea that some of the things I couldn’t have were just things that were “for rich people” and thus intrinsically inaccessible for me.
Here are a few things that I always thought were “for rich people”, why, and what happened once I got a little older and saw more of the world.
- Butter. This is actually the one that inspired this post. In my house, we always had a big tub of margarine, and only bought real butter for special-occasion baking. Somehow, I got the idea that we were just too poor to use real butter. When I started cooking for myself, I was amazed to find that butter wasn’t so expensive, and I always felt really fancy when I used it. It only occurred to me recently that many wealthier people also stay away from butter- to avoid the saturated fat.
- Cable TV. We didn’t have it, and when I was little, it seemed like everyone else did. The funny things is that when I went to college, I met a lot of people who had grown up without cable not because they couldn’t afford it, but because their parents wanted to limit their media exposure. Saying that my parents are too poor to have cable is still awkward, but just saying that I grew up without it isn’t all that unusual.
- Umbrellas. I know it sounds strange, but it’s true of me, at least. My parents would never buy us kids umbrellas for a few reasons; the cost for all six of us was one, but another was the dreaded possibility of six kids with easily broken umbrellas jabbing each other in the eyes. I literally did not own my own umbrella until college, and some part of me always thought of them as a luxury.
- Frilly, patterned, or otherwise non-basic clothing. This is one that I still carry with me. Since I couldn’t afford to buy clothes often, or to buy expensive clothes, I always bought basic things in solid colors or black, reasoning that then I would be able to wear them for more occasions, and that simple clothes would show their unavoidable cheapness less. Even now, I associate all clothes that are more elaborate or less versatile with a definite edge of luxury.
- Family vacations. Unsurprisingly, I’ve never been on one- just the cost of hotel accommodations for all eight of us for a few nights would be far more than my parents could afford. Now that two of us are living very far from where we grew up, the family has started taking occasional camping trips to visit, but those are a rare treat. The stereotypical image of a family vacation- taking a week or two off to go somewhere nice and expensive and just relax for a while- is completely alien to me, and sounds like such a “rich people” thing to be able to do, even though I know that middle-class people have vacations too.
What about you? What did or do you think of as being exclusively “for rich people”?