An embarassment of riches.

When we were cleaning out our closets this weekend in preparation for the home sale, I uncovered an old job offer letter. It was for my first full-time gig after college (an associate news producer for a cable news channel). My hourly wage — $7.65 an hour. I don’t know what shocks me more, the fact that a professional position in my field would pay me the same wage I could’ve earned at Burger King, or that we were able to make ends meet.

Life was so uncomfortable back then. There was no soft place to fall. There were only student loans, a stinky window air conditioner and ramen noodles. I remember standing behind food stamp recipients at the grocery store, being all confused because they could get things like steak, Doritos and Swiss Cake Rolls when all I could afford was a loaf of bread, eggs and some packets of Kool-Aid. That infamous crack — we had definitely fallen into it.

Finding this artifact as we’re preparing to build our dream house was bittersweet. God, we’ve come so far in 10 years. I think about all the people who earn this kind of money now, working full-time, raising families. Trying to afford not Nikes, but just plain old shoes. Hoping they can pay for hot lunch tickets. Wondering if Cub Scout dues will be in the budget this year.

I’m so thankful — man am I thankful — that we earn a comfortable living. But I think of how I busted my ass for that $7.65 an hour. It pisses me off that so many work so hard for so fucking little. But what can I do, sitting here in suburbia, drinking my Crystal Light and pecking away at one of our three computers. Voting Democrat and tipping well hardly seems sufficient. But I suppose it’s a start.

10 thoughts on “An embarassment of riches.”

  1. I used to read you everyday, you were funny and made me laugh. Now I’m just tired of your empathy for the “less fortunates” while you buy your son nothing but OshKosh and Nike.
    Three computers in a house with two adults?! I suppose you already purchased a top of the line for untitled son.

  2. Ally – ouch!

    I think I need to clarify a few things. The three-computer thing is due to the fact that untitledhusband and I are in computer-related fields (one of the computers is paid for by work, the other two are used for freelance, which we both work on simultaneously).

    We are not rich. We are simply middle class, which to us is, as the title says, an embarassment of riches. You see, both of us grew up quite poor. Government cheese, socks for Christmas, the whole nine yards.

    We have scractched and clawed our way up to middle classdom. So in comparison, we feel like millionaires. It also makes us feel guilty sometimes, because we know how hard our parents worked, and how little they were compensated. We are both so thankful that the struggle isn’t as hard as it was when we were kids.

    As for untitledson, the majority of his clothes are purchased at Target. We love us some Circo in this household. And it should be noted that our empathy for those less fortunate goes beyond lip service. I am a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters and our town’s outreach group. We donate quite a bit to Goodwill and the United Way each year. All this does not make me a saint, but it helps me give a little back.

    I want you to know that we are not horrible, selfish, rich fucks. This blog is a representation of my life, my observations and my emotions, which are sometimes conflicted, given where I am going and where I have been. I hope you can appreciate my candor. I make a point to never censor myself, and I certainly don’t expect everyone to like what I have say.

  3. I have to say that I have lived life on both sides of this scenario. While I will take the life I am in, I totally know what you mean when you say “An embarassment of riches”. I feel guilty when I think of my sisters who are raising their child(ren) on minimum wage or slightly more and getting “too much” money to qualify for much in the way of assistance. I understand what you are saying. A big “Whatever!” to Ally. You have earned your way. It isn’t like it was handed to you.

  4. These are such wiggly and weird subjects. Money is power in this world and getting a handle on how to wield that power – or how to work with a lack thereof – is hard!

    I grew up in a good, stable situation where we always had food and a roof over our heads, but where it was made clear (always!) that money didn’t grow on trees. Humility was enforced and re-inforced.

    We were not to think that we were better than anyone else We were not to show off. We were generally not to talk about money if we could avoid it.

    If we got something nice, we made sure to tell everyone who complimented us on it how we got it on sale or as a bargain or how we worked overtime to pay for it.

    It was okay to tell someone how little you made at a job but not if you made a lot.

    There was just a taboo about getting too big for your britches, shining too brightly, going too far.

    That taboo still affects me – I can’t get away from it. And I notice you can’t either. (And apparently Ally doesn’t want you to).

    When I lived in a big house with a pool in a nice suburb, I was miserable, feeling like a big phony show-off.

    I made my BF miserable because he came from poverty and bought the house and was proud of it, and here I was, cringing at his beautiful prize. I refused to buy things for it, decorate it, improve it in any way, because I felt so materialistic and wrong.

    It was your post the other day that made me realize how mean and awful I was being, when I thought I was being all spiritual and non-materialistic. I was thinking stuff like “How can I spend money on drapes when there are children starving?” when in reality if left to my own devices, I would have bought a plane ticket with the drapes money and let the children starve.

    I am of the opinion now that it is all about being okay with what you have, not about what you have. THAT is the real challenge, the real work. To wake and look around and give thanks for what you have, and then go give your best to the world.

  5. You know those people in the world that CAN NOT STAND when other people are successful? Not only successful, but you pulled yourself out of the ghetto. Too many people “use the system” and declare bankruptcy b/c they simply do not have what it takes to make in the world. These are the type of people that kill saints.

    Untitled, it sounds like you aren’t too ruffled and you are ok with your “blog personality”. This is a good thing. Keep speaking your truth without censoring yourself.

    This subject is one of my hot buttons, so rather than write a full blog entry on your comments, I’ll pick it up over on the Piglet.

    Keep moving forward and ENJOY your HARD-EARNED rewards, and tell the haters to SUCK IT!

  6. And another fucking thing. WHY do haters, trolls, etc ALWAYS post anonymously or in some way to not be tracked back by your fan base and suffciently hassled? Because they are PUSSIES, that’s why.

    Ahem. All done now.

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