“If I could live with my parents and save money to buy a house, I would do it too.”
No shit, babe.
That was my girlfriend’s attempt at easing my mind last night. I was lost in thought reflecting on a conversation I had that afternoon with my college buddy, Susan. Susan met me for lunch during work. We grabbed salads from a deli and found some seats around Rockefeller Center. Soon, she was hurling complaints about a couple of financial matters which were complicating her life.
She spoke about her father’s business struggling with litigation – a very serious issue. But, she didn’t relate the hardships he was facing in these legal cases. Instead, she commented on how he wasn’t giving her money to go shopping anymore. If he wrote her a check for $500, it was to pay off a bill, not to buy a new Gucci purse. Drat!
She considered moving into an apartment in the city to be closer to work but her preference was living in a big house. She couldn’t see herself in the tight quarters most New York City apartments have to offer. Also, she’d rather be a homeowner than an apartment renter. She couldn’t stand the idea of paying rent every month for a place that still wouldn’t be her’s after all.
She worried about lending her boyfriend her car because her insurance wouldn’t cover the cost of damage if he were to get into an accident.
It was then that I realized if I were to magically switch lives with my friend, I don’t think she’d survive. It’s not a matter of intelligence – she’s very smart. But, she’s too privileged. Raised in such a financially bountiful environment, I question her ability to persevere in the circumstances which formulate my lifestyle.
I don’t get paid as much as she does. My family isn’t comprised of homeowners. I’m not even a car owner. I’m not even a permit owner. Imagine if she had to work with the ends I make.
She would live in a two-bedroom apartment in the South Bronx, the poorest urban county in the country. She would have to ride public transportation everywhere she went. She would have to go to the laundromat to wash her clothes. She would have to watch how she looked at people and for how long for safety’s sake. She would have to shoulder head of a household responsibilities on a freelancer’s income. There’s no 401(k) retirement plan with that income. There’s no savings account to store money. There’s no money left once bills are paid and the refrigerator restored with its rightful contents.
Quite a contrast in standard of living, right?
But, I’m happy for my friend. Intense jealousy aside, I realize that she’s blessed to come from a family that has provided extensively for its members. It just bothers me to hear her complain about such trivial issues. I can’t relate. I only shop for myself every other month after strenuous financial calculation. I’m too busy worrying about rent, college loans, Con Edison, the IRS, food, my stepdaughter’s tuition, etc.
Susan’s planning a trip to Cancun later this year. She invited me. Needless to say, I don’t have the financial freedom to pull a vacation off. I don’t get vacation time from work. Taking a break from work means sacrificing pay – all of it. That’s two round-trip tickets to Mexico out of my already very thin pocket. My friend could ask her parents for help. I wouldn’t even think to ask mine. I wouldn’t dare burden them even if they could afford to send me on vacation.
I don’t come from wealthy parents. All my life I’ve seen my parents exercise frugality more than anything else. Things usually needed to be on sale for us to buy them. If something was too much money, it just wasn’t bought. Rent was a bitch. My father would come into my room and turn off the clock and TV once I was asleep to save money on the Con Edison bill. The cable was a bitch. For us to watch a Pay-Per-View, something epic needed to be televised. If it was a boxing match, I heard: “No. You can see it next weekend on HBO for free.” I still carry that one with me till this day. I never buy a boxing fight on Pay-Per-View no matter how bad I want to see it. There’s either the Internet, somebody else’s house, a bar, or HBO that next Saturday. Fuck that. I need that $60.
I dropped out of college to lessen the burden on my parents’ finances and began working to support myself. Here I am now, years later, working and supporting not only myself, but my girlfriend and her daughter. As proud of myself as I am for accepting such responsibility, hearing someone complain about upper-class problems just infuriates me. It’s almost insulting. I would trade so much for her set of complaints. The one’s I have now are deflating.
Ms. I’m Still Under My Parent’s Health Insurance.
Not me. Medicaid, baby.
Susan isn’t aware of how stress free her life truly is.
I manage an Optimum Triple Play account, a Con Edison account, two T-Mobile phone plans, two Blink Fitness membership packages, and keep food on the table for three people and two cats. My salary is under $30,000 a year. I’m like a one-man circus act. Each one of my friends still live with their parents. Their only true concern is providing for themselves. Their parents fully support the household. My situation is different. So, when times are tighter than normal, I make the necessary sacrifices to stay afloat. That means saying “no” to a lot of things such as outings and gifts. It might mean eating leftovers for dinner and lunch. It might mean no haircut for a month. It might mean wearing the same clothes for a couple of days. But, as long as we’re going to sleep warm in our beds, stomachs fairly satisfied, we’re happy. We’ll get over the hump eventually.
“Tough times don’t last. Tough people do.”
I’m comfortable even though more than half of my income goes to bills and food expenses. There’s no net to catch me if I fall back into unemployment – a place I know all to well. I was unemployed for over a year before I started working the job I have. Even though she works temporary assignments every week, my girlfriend hasn’t found anything stable for about three years now. That’s practically the extent of our relationship. If it wasn’t for her credit cards our family would’ve been homeless while I was out of work. Soon as I started working I paid back those credit cards like the fucking financial champion that I am. I don’t remember how long I had to wait before I finally bought myself something. But, I knew I never deserved anything more than at that moment.
Susan should be jealous of me. She’ll never know what that feels like.