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January 28, 2008 11:04 AM   Subscribe

Does anyone get over the resentment of having rich, privileged friends?

I am going to try to keep this brief, and realizing my brevity and the anonymous nature of my question, I hope it doesn't come off as immature or whiny. I'm trying to present the facts as succinctly as possible:

- I went to a private school, but nothing exclusive. I come from a stolidly upper middle class background. These are friends that I've had for quite some time, but they never flaunted their money. As a result I'm beginning to realize that a lot of things, I mean a lot, came easier to them through connections or money. Things like college, job choice (we are all 23, 24 now) and now, perhaps the breaking point, their parents are buying them big ticket items like houses, cars and furniture. Perhaps because they came from backgrounds where they kept such a low profile, this is all coming as somewhat of a shock. I am just now putting the pieces together as to why certain things might have happened for them and not for me given that we were all very equal in terms of merit and intelligence. I am finding they got into the better college because, more or less, they knew someone and they are now have better jobs because they knew someone. This is not paranoia or jealously, but fact.

- I'm scraping to pay my college loans and try to build up a down payment on the house. I have a tight budget, like normal people, and while we lived similarly in college, they're no longer living like they are in college and I am. I am finding myself becoming bitter realizing that a single vacation for them is the same cost as my entire student loan debt (they take expensive vacations, not that I have little student laon debt).

- I am beginning to find it embarrassing when we go out for people to compliment them on how much they've accomplished and all the good work they have done. Usually older people, or just naive people, are amazed that they have managed to say things like, "go to college and find time to do charity work in Africa," with no mention of the fact that they could afford to do it because they didn't have to work and the charity work was more of a backpacking trip. That's a crude example, but I believe I am making my point.

- They don't work in the traditional sense, but take consulting jobs and get great networking opportunities and generally work less and make more money doing more stimulating work. It just comes to them, due to parental connections.

There was some venting in there, but over the last 6 months as we have begun to sink into our post-college life it has become really apparent. Things I chalked up to luck or perhaps they were doing a better job than me, is much more clear. It is like I have a new set of friends, I almost wished they would be more conspicuous with their money and drop the I'm-a-working-man schtick. People seem to think they earn what they have in the same way you or I might earn our social positions. They do a very good job of hiding the fact it is based on inheritance and parental connections. Sometimes they make overtures that they know this, but most of the time give off a working-man schtick, that they worked hard and achieved an American Dream.

- These are childhood friends, and this is a close group. I'd like to stay close to them as much as possible, but I'm trying to branch out and find people more like me (please I know how bad that sounds, it hurts to type it, but I think it is pertinent to the question).

Does anyone have experience with this? Is it best to just soldier on and it will get better? They treat me wonderfully and there is no outward reason for this hostility other than some unresolved class issues on my part. It just seems that now the day-to-day grind of college is over, our experiences are vastly different. I'm trying to figure out how weather a recession and they are picking out a spring vacation.

The money itself doesn't seem to be that much of an issue with me, as I never really coveted luxury goods, and neither do they. It just seems that I always get a constant lesson on Marxism and how the privileged perpetuate a sort of charade. I don't even think this is an intentional act on their part, in fact I know its not. While they should obviously be proud of their accomplishments, they fail to mention that the fact that their uncle or aunt served on the board of the committee might have made all the difference in the world. Sort of along the lines of the old adage that it is harder to get into a top college then it is to do well at a top college.

On preview, I am cringing on a re-read, but I don't know how I can write this better. Someone must have been in the situation I am in, how did you deal with it? Accepting that there is an upper-class and they are so far removed from the rest of us that not even life-long friendship can overcome class consciousness? I am becoming increasingly dissatisfied with my own accomplishments, both personally and professionally. I realize that try as hard as I might, a lot of opportunities simply won't be available to me and I'm more or less in the same position I was born into.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (63 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
I feel for you and I hope you can come to terms with this. At the same time, I think in certain other more class-conscious cultures, your letter would be considered laughably naive. (assuming you're American)

The angst you're feeling is a result, IMO, of the American myth of a classless, merit-based society. You call yourself (and those of your station) "normal," but the reality is that your rich friends are normal, too. Their families have simply climbed to a point on the economic/social ladder where things are easier. What is kind of American, and I don't think naive, is the idea that you and your children can someday get there too.

As far as your relationship with your friends, I think its future is dependent mostly on your coming to terms with the reality of class and its advantages, and your dropping the notion that they are bad people ("abnormal"?) for enjoying those advantages. Certainly their posing as "working stiff" might be something you could profitably discuss with them, but you might want to consider that in certain situations they're as uncomfortable with their social standing as you are, and this is how they deal with it.

Good luck with this. I think as you get older you're get more comfortable with these kinds of divisions and hopefully in the intervening period you won't lose good friends.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 11:16 AM on January 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

On the job front at least why don't you "play the game" too? You (and I) will never have wealthy parents, but you ARE connected to your many well-connected friends. There is no shame at 23 or 24 to ask your friends/their parents/etc for career advice and even for help finding a great entry job. It doesn't have to sound like a push to hire, just ask them what their job entails, how to get there, who to contact. Most people seem to be flattered when you take the time ask about their lives and their successes. If you want to be like them, ask them how they got there.
posted by 2bucksplus at 11:16 AM on January 28, 2008 [7 favorites]

Someone must have been in the situation I am in, how did you deal with it?

Yes, I have. But I must say I dealt with it entirely differently.

You say you are all close friends, but did your close friends never volunteer to use their connections in your favor? Did you never say "Hey, I'm applying for such and such position!" and they volunteered "Oh hey, My aunt works there. You should give her a call."? Because thats what happened to me.

That is, my friends, both rich and poor, have all been a rising tide together. Helping each other out unless in some way that help is refused.

I came from a dirt-poor family and have life-long friends who are so wealthy that anyone would know who their families are if I mentioned their last names. This class consciousness you mention has never ever even come up. I think now its because I just never let it.
posted by vacapinta at 11:19 AM on January 28, 2008 [4 favorites]

I'd like to stay close to them as much as possible, but I'm trying to branch out and find people more like me (please I know how bad that sounds, it hurts to type it, but I think it is pertinent to the question).

It doesn't sound bad. It's completely normal. As you get new friends who are in the same situation you are, you'll probably spend less time with your old friends -- and then the little things about them that bug you so much won't be as important, because you won't be dealing with them every day.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:20 AM on January 28, 2008

I hear where you are coming from. Just one thought, though. The perceived value of something (and much of its subsequent enjoyment) usually derives itself, at least in part, from the investment required to procure the product. Having something given to you might still be enjoyable, but I would imagine that long term satisfaction is derived from something earned and cultivated, such as buying one's own house, instead of having it given to you. Again, it isn't to say that you can't enjoy vacations and such that are given to you; but the happiness paradox suggests that deep abiding satisfaction in life comes as a byproduct of not pursuing happiness directly; rather, it's a byproduct of hard work and virtue formation, and cannot simply be given or acquired through tangible items. So although I would also feel a twinge of jealousy I'm sure, don't feel it without knowing that an ideal world is not one in which everything is given to you on a golden platter. It actually takes something essential from a meaningful life.
posted by SpacemanStix at 11:22 AM on January 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

I am becoming increasingly dissatisfied with my own accomplishments, both personally and professionally.

Why? Because other people have more? There will always be someone with more. There are people with more than your friends, and there are people with more than those people. I live in NYC, and it seems that everywhere I look, there's someone with more money, throwing it away on something I could never afford (I even have some distant wealthy relatives; the details would make you want to tear your hair out). And this is annoying, to be sure. But I don't let it interfere with how I feel about my life (or at least, I try not!) I'm proud of the things I've done with the life I have. Would being 10 times richer make me happier? Maybe. Would I be 10 times happier? I don't think that's possible.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:22 AM on January 28, 2008 [5 favorites]

This may be a frustration position to be in, but it is a good position to be in. You now have connections too.
posted by 517 at 11:22 AM on January 28, 2008

Does anyone have experience with this?

Yes. The only antidote is gratitude for what you have. While it is natural to feel this way, craving is inexhaustible and never stops just because you catch up to other people. There is always someone with more, better, easier, handsomer jawline.

I realize that try as hard as I might, a lot of opportunities simply won't be available to me and I'm more or less in the same position I was born into.

This is the salient point here. From the sound of it, you've had a pretty good go at life so far. Probably better than 95% of the human population will ever see. You can either count yourself blessed at your extraordinary luck, or you can make yourself miserable by craving what others have.
posted by milarepa at 11:23 AM on January 28, 2008 [6 favorites]

posted by 517 at 11:24 AM on January 28, 2008

Someone must have been in the situation I am in, how did you deal with it? Accepting that there is an upper-class and they are so far removed from the rest of us that not even life-long friendship can overcome class consciousness?

I have those friends in some respects and I am that friend in other respects. It sounds like your friends are decent to you, but your awareness of your class differences is making you dissatisfied. The fact that you identify yourself as the "normal" person in your friendship seems to indicate to me that you see them as somehow abberant and you as the regular old person playing by the rules as you perceive them. It's a tough wake-up call to realize that a lot of the rules as they've been explained to you don't apply to a lot of people and you really can buy your way out of some of them.

But let's unpack what you're talking about with a few things you didn't mention

- your friends got into good schools, did they do well there?
- your friends have good jobs, are they doing well at them?
- do your friends lead what you would consider a "good life" [as in being a good person not as in living like rich people] are they kind, generous, helpful?
- do you think your friends are dishonest about their accomplishments, or just not fully disclosing?
- do you talk to your friends about these issues?

I found that for some of my friends who had an "aw shucks" perspective on their own material wealth, in fact pretended they didn't have it, I just had to get some distance from them because it felt too much like dishonestly to me. I didn't mind that they didn't have to work, I minded that they acted like they had a job, same as me, and they didn't really.

That said, a "job same as me" to someone else, doesn't look like a full-time working for the man job. I work hard and work a lot of hours, but it's a lot of things I mostly like to do. I was able to do this because I didn't have student loans. I was able to not have loans because my parents paid for me to go to college. My parents could pay for me to go to college because my Dad worked all the time, was a horrible father and has a drinking problem that has made him emotionally unavailable and destroyed his marriage to my Mom. I'm not saying this for some "oh woe is me" effect, just to indicate that there are up sides and down sides to every story and while you may just have friends who are flat out rich with happy families and no mitigating circumstances, it seems like you don't see them as fully human and that is likely a mistake. Some things are easier for people that have money -- material things certainly, uncertainty is much less of an issue, knowing people can be helpful -- but it doesn't mean your friends are without problems.

I am becoming increasingly dissatisfied with my own accomplishments, both personally and professionally. I realize that try as hard as I might, a lot of opportunities simply won't be available to me and I'm more or less in the same position I was born into.

I read two things into this

1. you sound a bit fatalistic and depressed and that situation likely has very little to do with your friends. In a vacuum, your accomplishments matter. Are you not happy with them on their own, or do you just dislike them relative to those of your better off friends'?
2. if your friends are well-connected then YOU are at least a little well-connected. It's certainly okay for you to not take advantage of this, feeling that it's "cheating" or whatever, but it does actually give you a more statused position vis a vis wealth than people who do not have friends like yours.

I'm not saying you should enter therapy or be totally thankful for the friends you have, but you have some choices to make about this. Some of your friends may not be people you want to go forward being friends with and this is normal post-colleg ebehavior no matter what the class situation is. You might also just be happier being around people who are more like you, into class-consciousness and political issues. I have done that on occasion and found one of the problems there (not casting aspersions on anyone here, this was just my impression of that scene) that many people in the anarcho-marxist movement had this built in inferiority complex that seemed to hinder them being productive. So, the class divisions were real, but the "shit, no one is going to listen to me because I'm no good at speaking in front of a group, it's the MAN keeping me down..." or whatever, is just internalized self-loathing. So you need to learn to like yourself and your lot (or go to Zambia or Palau where you are a zillionaire) and figure out what your adult niche is going to look like. It's totally doable, but you may have to take active steps and not just do wht you've always done. Good luck.
posted by jessamyn at 11:24 AM on January 28, 2008 [17 favorites]

Someone once told me that it's next-to-impossible to be good friends with someone of a very different income bracket. I disagree. It takes kindness and understanding on both sides and I think you realize that.

Putting aside you very understandable jealousy:
--Are your friends conscious of your limitations? When you go out to eat with them, do they either pick a reasonable place that you can afford or try to pick up the tab (e.g. "I picked this incredibly expensive place, let me treat")?
--Do your friends admire you and your ability to make it on your own? While they might be getting kudos for things that were given to them instead of earned, do they at least recognize that you are working your butt off to do perhaps less impressive things?

It is kind of unreasonable for you to expect them to acknowledge their advantages when someone pays them a simple compliment. As long as they aren't bragging about how they did it all themselves, I wouldn't hold it against them.

I've had really nice benefits from relationships with people who are somewhat better off than I am. They sometimes have nice summer homes, or throw nice parties, or buy me nice presents. I know that they know that I don't have the same resources, so I try to accept these gifts with grace, and offer what I can to the relationship (a home-cooked meal, a cheaper but thoughtful present).

I think there are a lot of analogous situations to this. My best friend from high school doesn't talk to me anymore; I heard from a mutual acquaintance that she just doesn't have friendships with people who are white and straight. Those are advantages as much as your friend's wealth and family connections.

It's good for you to have friends who are different. Try to stifle the jealousy unless you really feel they are out of line. Good luck! I have to say, working hard and earning your own way gives you a sense of pride that is it's own reward. It may not feel that way at 23, but at 33, you will be proud of having done it yourself.

That you are not proud of what you can accomplish and think that your own dreams can't be realized because of your class background is just kind of a shame. I think you just have to find a way of realizing how lucky you are (great education, for one) and taking advantage of what you do have going for you.
posted by tk at 11:25 AM on January 28, 2008

My boyfriend is someone who has more connections/money/education/time than I do. He makes 10.50 an hour doing tech support work and his mom pays his car insurance and cell phone bill. I work as many hours as I can get as a waitress at steak n shake, for a laughable amount of tips and 3.65 an hour.
In the beginning of our relationship I was jealous. However, after observing conversations with his mom, the electrical engineering homework he brings home, and the pressure he feels to be perfect and succeed at any cost, I feel like I am better off.
There is much to be said for the freedom to make mistakes and the freedom to be your own person, completely apart from whatever expectations "privileged" families usually place upon their offspring.
posted by d13t_p3ps1 at 11:25 AM on January 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Hi Anon, I am in a similar situation -- but about 15 years down the road. I am also very embarrassed but I have let friendships fall away because of similar issues -- not so much people who are privileged from birth, but friends who married software engineers or doctors. I think this is very shallow of myself, and am not proud of it, but I couldn't stand hearing about how they have housemaids come in to clean, even while they're not working, while I was killing myself at work and trying to take care of my kids.

But I am starting to get back in touch with some of those people, because I miss them! And it's not their fault, and they weren't throwing it in my face. It's just a really tough issue. I think you have to maintain perspective and think: Would I feel better about my situation if I weren't comparing it to those who are more fortunate? How about if I compared it to those who are less fortunate? Because there are plenty of those people, too. I try to remember that and it helps a bit with the jealousy, but it's definitely easier spending some time with people in a situation similar to yours.
posted by Hey, Cupcake! at 11:40 AM on January 28, 2008

Sorry, that was more about me than about you ... but please take heart in knowing we're with you in spirit. And I hope the things that have helped me snap out of it a little will help you.
posted by Hey, Cupcake! at 11:42 AM on January 28, 2008

Shocking, isn't it? Yeah, I was surprised too. And more than annoyed at my parents and other trusted advisors who didn't clue me in (if they even knew) before I went to college, where it would have been better to make a B-average and have extra time for networking and internships than it was to maintain an A-average and 3 part-time jobs (which barely dented the loans).

I'd like to echo the people above who urge you to note that, while it's true that they "[got] into the better college because, more or less, they knew someone and they are now have better jobs because they knew someone," now you know them and if it's financial security you're looking for, you should join them in their endeavors.

Not only that, but you can use those connections to help out your family and less-well-off friends. My family didn't know any lawyers when I was a kid, so they constantly got burned by contract issues and not having leases and all of those classic poor-people mistakes. But now I know lawyers! I can help my family mitigate these little problems. Now I know what trusts are, and even though rich people use them to avoid probate and paying too many taxes on their estate inheritances, poor people can use them too to avoid the state seizing their meager assets to pay for hospice care.

There are days when I feel much more comfortable with my friends who come from modest circumstances, the ones who don't say dumb things like, "Oh my god, I would never want credit card debt; what are those people thinking?!" But those poorer friends have different life perspectives and goals, too. Some of them are so timid about making financial mistakes that I find my rich friends more personally inspiring. Some of them are so jealous of rich people that they get into bad habits like buying designer clothes that they can't afford. But it is good to have a few people around whose timelines for cars and homes are more similar to your own, just to keep perspective. I'd also advise seeking out some people who are on a different track entirely -- artists/musicians or entrepreneurs or Ph.D. candidates... their success checklists are so one-of-a-kind that they may inspire you in new directions too.
posted by xo at 11:43 AM on January 28, 2008

I'm over it.

I think it's because, in my 30s (I'm not in my 40s), I got really clear in my head what I wanted to do with my life. I have some very specific goals, and comparing myself with other people doesn't help me meet them.

Some of my goals even involve money. But, again, this means I need to go out there and make money. It's a waste of time for me to think about other people's money.
posted by grumblebee at 11:45 AM on January 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

You just need to get over this. Compared to a lot of people you are extremely privileged, you went to a private school, and had the opportunity to go to college. Also, please don't tell me your parents never helped you out. Just because it wasn't to the degree of your friends, doesn't change anything. Life isn't fair, no one said it was ever going to be. You're in your early 20's, success will come to you, but it's absolutely ridiculous to think it will come this quickly. Please don't become bitter because someone has it better and easier than you. There will always be that person no matter what.

Your friends don't have a lot of polite ways to respond when people compliment them. Saying your family bought your house and got you your job is flaunting the position and wealth of your family. Name dropping that your aunt is on the board is tacky as hell.

Also, coming from one of these families often comes with a price. I have several friends like yours and a couple I'm guessing who are much, much richer. All of them have absolutely unbelievable pressure on them to succeed. Since they are given everything and since their parents have had tremendous success, there is no excuse for anything other than perfection. This goes not only for school and their jobs, but often for their relationships and their friends. It can be absolutely crushing.

Also, from an entirely selfish perspective having rich and well connected friends will likely benefit you hugely as life goes on, especially in your career. Whether it's the people you meet through them or their ability to get your resume to the top of the pile, when they all look identical otherwise. Hell even being invited to a really nice cocktail party with an open bar, gourmet appetizers and a gift bag, when you are flat broke can be awesome. I'm not suggesting you use your friends, but friends always help each other out and rich powerful friend can just produce a lot more results.

Honestly, I do feel your pain. In some ways I'm in the same boat. I've seen a lot of people get jobs I was more qualified for because they knew someone. But that's life and I've been helped out a lot by my family too, whether it was the month I couldn't make the rent or needed someone to move me. It's just life and throwing away friends because you resent their success (or the appearance of success) really isn't going to change anything.
posted by whoaali at 11:45 AM on January 28, 2008 [5 favorites]

I had something like this problem in college. I wen to a Top 20 school, and all of the kids I ran around with were trust-fund brats. That I'd never gone skiing was inconceivable to them, much less that I didn't have a full complement of boots etc. I *know* they laughed about my POS rusty old station wagon behind my back, as they drove their brand-new Beemers. After a years of being the token middle-class kid, I just stopped hanging out with them - their consulting jobs (which add *nothing* to any business but overhead) keep them out of town mostly, anyway. I found new friends, that I have more in common with - music, photography, working out - rather than having gone to the same school.
posted by notsnot at 11:47 AM on January 28, 2008

My best friend is kind of like you describe. I mean, he's not personally wealthy, but his parents are and have provided a lot more financially than mine did.
And I don't care one bit.
Because I'm damn proud of what I've done without the resources freely handed out to me. I think it's made me a better person than I'd be otherwise. This is not to say I'm better than someone who gets a free ride, but rather thinks worked out for the best on who I am. Making it in the world- paying for college, a car loan, insurance, getting a "real" job, etc etc etc, ain't easy.
When I was in college paying for almost everything on my own working 20+hours/week with loans, I was struck by how many students got a totally free ride from the rents. I didn't feel inferior to them. If anything, though I don't say this condescendingly, it's almost like I have an extra set of accomplishments doing it on my own. And it is something I can, and am proud of.

Most importantly, though, those whom I still consider friends and are rich have one thing in common- do not flaunt it. Unless I hear the stories I do as a good friend, I'd never know the better. I hang out with them all the time with people of lesser financial means and the issue of wealth, well, isn't one. It's not something I worry about because they don't make me. And those friends who did flaunt their wealth generally pissed me off and I no longer talk to them.
posted by jmd82 at 11:49 AM on January 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Hm. So you're within about the top 1% of the human race in terms of privilege and opportunity, and you're a little bummed how much easier the top 0.2% have it, is that about it? I ask only for clarification.

Also, what vacapinta said. Rather than get bummed out about how connected these friends of yours are, consider the fact that since they are your friends, you are also connected. Either do something with that or don't but for heaven's sake get over it.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:54 AM on January 28, 2008 [6 favorites]

Your friends don't have a lot of polite ways to respond when people compliment them. Saying your family bought your house and got you your job is flaunting the position and wealth of your family. Name dropping that your aunt is on the board is tacky as hell.

The questioner explicitly denied that, saying "they never flaunted their money", and "they fail to mention .. the fact that their uncle or aunt served on the board of the committee".
posted by Burger-Eating Invasion Monkey at 11:59 AM on January 28, 2008

Your friends don't have a lot of polite ways to respond when people compliment them. Saying your family bought your house and got you your job is flaunting the position and wealth of your family. Name dropping that your aunt is on the board is tacky as hell.

The questioner explicitly denied that, saying "they never flaunted their money", and "they fail to mention .. the fact that their uncle or aunt served on the board of the committee".

Exactly? I'm not sure if I understand. The questioner seemed to resent the fact that they didn't let people know that their achievements were really the result of family connections and not their own accomplishments when they were complimented. I was saying that responding to a compliment with "Well my aunt sits on the board and donates 100k every year so that helped" is really rude and I can't really think of another way of letting people know you are rich and connected without telling them you are rich and connected.
posted by whoaali at 12:03 PM on January 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

Ah right. When you said "Your friends don't have a lot of polite ways to respond when people compliment them", I thought you were saying his friends aren't polite, when in fact you were saying they can't say what they "should" say while still being polite.
posted by Burger-Eating Invasion Monkey at 12:07 PM on January 28, 2008

Totally agree with George_Spiggott. I wish I had rich friends, count your lucky stars! As it stands the richest friend I know is maybe upper middle class. I'd be right in the middle. Mr average.

I try to think globally and I'm filthy rich, loaded. An elite. King among Kings. This makes me a bit humbler. I bitch about not being able to afford an eepc on a whim but fuck it, you know?

I couldn't give a toss what others might think of my achievements. I'm proud of mine. I'm here and I'm doing alright. Better than average. Way better.

- I went to a private school
Lucky you. Most people in your country don't. Most people in the world are just happy enough getting a schooling.

I'm trying to branch out and find people more like me
Shit dude, stop feeling sorry for yourself... more like you? Mildly rich rather than filthy rich? Maybe befriend a bunch of poor people, then you'll always be secure in the knowledge you can do everything your friends can!

Just try keep perspective. Eventually you will hopefully work out that stable surroundings, good, real friends (and these people probably are, you are just insecure), family... that's what's important. Class is worth fuck all.

Sorry for the rant but I was chatting to a colleague at work about this same thing earlier. Was out with my fiancee looking for wedding rings at the weekend. We were sitting stressing about spending a couple of grand on our rings and there was this couple beside us spending about half a million on costume jewellery... horrible tacky bling. It was sickening. Not the fact they were filthy rich and we, in comparison, were poor as fuck. That didn't matter. What disgusted me was the lack of taste that this wealth brought. The jewellery was brute ugly!

I'd rather have taste and good manners (they acted as if the world around them was so insignificant) over money any day.
posted by twistedonion at 12:16 PM on January 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

I can think of two friends of mine in particular who came from incredibly wealthy families (to give you some idea, the dad of one of these friends had a stock sale reported in the paper which caused my dad to remark that the profit from that one sale was more than he had earned in his entire lifetime. And my dad earned a good, upper middle class living as a white collar executive).

Like in your experience, the class differences were barely noticeable until after college when it became clear these friends lived in an entirely different world than I did (within a few years of college they were living in beautiful homes in expensive areas while I was still living with a roommate in an economical apartment, they would travel overseas on what seemed like a whim while even a very basic vacation for me had to be saved for and carefully planned months and months in advance, had jobs belying their experience waiting for them shortly after graduation which I'm guessing didn't come from just doing really well on the interview).

So I can offer you a similar experience, but not a magical cure. This is one of those things you have to either choose to get over or not. One of these two friends I'm still friendly with and the other I've lost touch with, but that has more to do with geographic issues rather than differences in economic class. I have to admit I do find relatability problems with my friends who are significantly better off than I am. It's hard to commiserate over things like having to delay taking your wife out to dinner until the next pay period or explaining why I live out in the boondocks (housing prices are cheaper) instead of in the heart of a metropolis since I doubt such issues have ever arisen with either of these friends. On preview, I agree with xo that while neither of my exceptionally wealthy friends have ever looked down on me, I do find comfort in friends who are in the same general socio-economic class as me as it allows for a kind of commiseration that can only come from being in similar circumstances.

However, I've found no reason to begrudge my friends who came from privileged backgrounds. If I had been born with the same advantages as them I'm sure I would have made the most of those opportunities just as they have. It seems silly to expect them to denounce their wealth and choose to pull themselves up by their bootstraps unnecessarily. And while there are certain economic issues that are a daily reality to me that these guys will likely never experience, it's also not as if their daily lives are filled with caviar eating, private jet flying or exclusive country club attendance. They're also, like me, trying to be good fathers and husbands, do work their proud of and be happy. It seems like a kind of reverse snobbery to write off my friends for no other reason than their not having been through the exact same struggles I have.
posted by The Gooch at 12:36 PM on January 28, 2008

Their lives may seem better, or easier, than yours, but no one's life is perfect. Remember that. Health, financial, and relationship troubles can strike anyone at any time.

Don't waste your time feeling envious and try to maintain a positive outlook for all that you do have and all that you have accomplished.
posted by emd3737 at 12:44 PM on January 28, 2008

Being a good person doesn't mean you will get the life you deserve. Hard work and kindness will get you a long way, as long as you are realistic about your goals. Rich people don't enjoy a life of zero problems. If they did, we wouldn't have charities like the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.

Rich people cheat on each other; they get cancer and die; they have poor relationships with family and self-doubt, just like poor people do. They also go through bad business deals and divorces which can bankrupt them late in life; wealth is hardly a guarantee, even for someone like Donald Trump.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, money is not the end-all of the universe. Value doesn't have a dollar amount when you're talking about self-esteem and personal accomplishments.

Stop competing against them and start competing with yourself to be the best person you can be; enjoy what privileges you get from your "more connected" friendships without being ungrateful for their companionship and offerings, if there are any.

As a woman, I know what it is to constantly compare myself to others (body image). However, that's not something that's healthy and you cannot change where you come from. I urge you to look at you constantly comparing your circumstances to your friends' in the same light; it's unhealthy. I'm also deeply in debt, but that doesn't stop me from waking up each day, thanking the universe for my health and friendships and being in love, or stop me from walking out that door every morning intent on charming everyone I meet and contributing something meaningful to the world that day. It just keeps me from doing risky things, which are a bad idea anyway.

Having less than them means you have less to lose and more to accomplish. So go do it!
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 12:44 PM on January 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

I totally know where you're coming from.

The two biggest aids to my self-esteem have been a) making sure that I enjoy what I do, especially outside of work, and b) working with folks who are less prosperous than I am.

I grew up really poor in a really poor neighborhood, but had advantages like two parents and a cultural appreciation for arts and learning. I felt the acute friction of class advantage on both sides throughout my adolescence, especially going to a magnet school primarily populated by the rich, so I've gone out of my way to try to help out kids from my neighborhood by showing them that they have broader options, and by trying to show them that they can still have a fairly rich life while being materially poor.

And yeah, it still galls me a bit that some of my friends and friends of friends have easier opportunities—on some level, it broke up me and my previous girlfriend—but most of the folks I know still struggle and still ask me for help and offer their help etc. The ones that don't, or are oblivious, I don't feel bad about cutting out of my life, because they're not good friends.
posted by klangklangston at 12:51 PM on January 28, 2008

Well. I went to a private school. My father made a comfortable living, but we were not rich by American standards. Many of my classmates were rich. Really rich.

This never bothered me.

Perhaps that's because I'm obtuse. But also, I've come to realize that the most privileged kids that I've known have grown up to be the biggest train-wrecks. These are people that have never had to really provide for themselves, and so they can't. That's not true for all of them, of course, but coming from a wealthy family doesn't solve all your problems, it just gives you a different set of problems.
posted by adamrice at 12:52 PM on January 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

What my mother says about her wealthy sister:
"We have the same problems, but her problems have more zeros behind them."

That being said, people change. If you're changing, maybe who you are friends with should, too. I had some really great friends in High School who I barely talk to anymore, just because our lives have gone in completely different directions, and we no longer are part of the same sort of social group. They aren't bad. I'm not bad. We just don't have much in common anymore. In a few more years, I'll probably have some college friends who I can say the same thing about.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 12:56 PM on January 28, 2008

It's not having what you want, it's wanting what you've got, according to Sheryl Crow. The reason the line works is that it is insightful.

Look at it this way: You've got a pretty good life too. Appreciate it for what it is. Know that, if you had the priviledge your friends enjoy, you'd probably react to it the way they do. If they didn't have all the shiny things, they'd have to work for it like you do. The fact that they have, and you don't, doesn't make them any better or worse than you.

If I might share something that might be comparable: Due to causes beyond my control, I got laid off several times in the early- and mid-90s. Through a cirucuitous route, I've ended up working where I worked when I got laid off the first time. The people who've been here the whole time are further along the career path than I am. Sometimes I'll feel sorry for myself and the whole thing can become a downward spiral if I'm not careful. Instead, I try to keep score of my job satisfaction by its own measure (*not* in comparison to the careers of my peers). Do I enjoy the day-to-day work? Yes. Do I make enough money to satisfy my financial commitments? Yes.

That seems to work for me. My career has stabilized and I find that just putting on the blinders seems to be the best path to both success and contentment.
posted by Doohickie at 1:01 PM on January 28, 2008

A more calculating person in your position might have seen the advantage of a field of study, such as corporate law or 'wealth management' or venture capital, which could have made your friendships the admission ticket to the club, and it's not like this is unexpected or wrong-- the logic of admitting people like you to these otherwise exclusive schools you were able to attend is partly to give scions of wealth the chance to hire very competent people whose abilities and most importantly whose characters they know well enough to entrust to the difficult task of keeping them and their families wealthy.

But you haven't taken that route and I respect you for it-- and I'd be very surprised if your friends didn't, too, although these are generally matters that cannot be made explicit without great embarrassment to all concerned. I believe your friends are very much aware of the relative difficulty and precariousness of your life, and may feel they can't go out of the way to do anything about it without offending your pride (and you have a lot of that, by the way, and of a prickly variety), subordinating you, and damaging the friendship. Also, they are young yet, as you are, and are probably at least about ten years away from making significant decisions about family money anyway.

I'd say bide your time, reflect on the privilege of your existence relative to the rest of humanity over all time rather than your friends (as George_Spiggot so wisely suggests) and take comfort from the fact that if something bad happens to you or your family (many a slip and all that) you have the sort of friends who can step forward to help with no risk to themselves, and almost certainly would.

Also, read the novels of Louis Auchincloss if you haven't already. Few sharper or more astringent observers of wealth have ever been willing to put it all down on paper, and he may give you a better idea of just what good people your friends are compared to what they so easily might have become.
posted by jamjam at 1:08 PM on January 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

I disagree with the class hypothesis. My parents both worked for the government in {way underpaid} jobs so exciting I won't be saying more than that. My friends in college were constantly amazed at some of my experiences, and it wasn't to do with money but placement. Some of them were quite rich and couldn't dream of things I did in my childhood.

It doesn't come down to some question of "class" or "status". EVERYONE, and I mean EVERYONE, makes use of what they've got. There certainly is a nice contingent of those on the superwealthy side, but there are other contingents as well that have nothing to do with wealth. In relationships crossing those boundaries, what it comes down to is what you have in common with them. In college they did a lot of the same things as you. Now they don't. They could just as easily be working for the government and not able to discuss their jobs at all and you'd feel the same sense of disconnect. It'd have nothing to do with wealth.

Six months out of college a lot of things are starting to hit hard. I didn't figure it out till two years out when I met my fiancee, who has a lot more in common with me than my college friends, some of whom I did resent for the opportunities they had. I also came to understand why people stopped listening to some of my stories. After awhile it's just too much.

You just don't run in the same circles as them anymore. Wealth is a factor, but not maliciously.
posted by jwells at 1:10 PM on January 28, 2008

I have a few friends who chose other majors in college and ended up making more money than me as an end result. Sure, I slaved away in school for 9 years earning my bachelors and a PhD, but for at least half that time this guy I know was working as an engineer with his family's company. As he's single, his money goes even farther. It kind of annoys me at times that he or other friends are doing better than me, or that so-and-so went to college for free on mom and dad's check, or that 20-somethings I pass in the street might be discussing their stock portfolios while I'm wondering if I'll ever have enough extra money to start saving something for retirement before I'm 40.

On the other hand, I have a PhD. How cool is that? I work a job that I like, that doesn't involve a lot of physically demanding junk, where I get to think and experiment and direct my own line of work towards goals I set for myself. I have a wife who loves me, I live in a cool city, I'm in pretty good shape and for the most part I got here on my own, with a minimal amount of help. Nobody opened doors for me; I opened them myself. People who have helped me have done so because they knew me, not because they know my dad or uncle or great-aunt. That's something that you will know for sure about yourself, a little rock of security that no trust fund kid will ever be able to cling to in moments of insecurity. Sure, Nick Cage changed his name so that he could pretend he made it on his own, but you think for one second people in the industry forgot he was a Coppola?

You ask your wealthier friends for connections, they might tell you to go talk to Uncle Bigwig, but Uncle isn't going to vouch for you sight unseen. He'll probably want to meet you, or at least grill your buddy for info before dropping your name at the next board meeting. Help, yes, but help based on your reputation, and not your heritage. Don't be afraid to ask. Be happy that you make yur life what it is on your own.

Besides, fuck it. It's only money. You can be pretty damn happy with not a lot. You can have a shitload of cash and be miserable. An awful lot of that is your outlook on life. Try not worrying about it so much, and see what happens.
posted by caution live frogs at 1:11 PM on January 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

I have a friend who is 40, whose dad bought her a house, and a car, and who knows what else. What's the point in envying her? I have a great car, and a lovely house of my own that I happily pay the mortgage on, and I earned every little cent that I have. Sure, I feel annoyed sometimes that I'll be paying off the damned student loans until I'm in my dotage. But I'll also never have to wonder if I could have really made it on my own, without help.

I think knowing that you have achieved what you have achieved because of your own hard work is pretty great.

Also, what everyone else said about being in the top 1% of the world. While I am proud of where I am, I also remember that I was privileged enough to go to great schools and get a good enough education, and the family support (albeit not financial or in the form of 'connections') to go to a great college. (Not to mention the upbringing to be literate at a young age, and love books, enough to do well on standardized tests, etc., etc...)

When I lived in LA when I was 21, I waitressed with an incredibly smart, together high school girl from South Central. She should have been going to college, but nobody had ever even told her about financial aid, and how she'd probably get lots of grants, and so she never even realized it was within the realm of possibility for her.

You've got a lot to be thankful for.
posted by miss tea at 1:30 PM on January 28, 2008

Find comfort in the fact that you are your own man/woman and that you've gotten yourself to where you are today. It's hard to be jealous if you're proud of what you've achieved on your own.
posted by trbrts at 1:46 PM on January 28, 2008

I've been on both ends of this, and I can honestly say it sucked waaay more to be the one whose less-privileged friends resented her. Due to some rather dramatic life circumstances, I am now the one who has less, but am actually much happier. Being on both ends of the spectrum has given me a lot of perspective. There will always be people who have more than you, and there will always be people who have less. This is true not only for money and connections but for everything else in life as well. You don't know where on the spectrum you will fall tomorrow, and the delicious part is that you don't know where you'll actually be happiest.

As far as not having been born into privilege, there's fuckall you can do about that now, so unless you want to eat yourself alive envying those who were, I suggest you start cultivating your philosophical side.
posted by Enroute at 1:55 PM on January 28, 2008

You should watch the movie "Metropolitan" by Whit Stillman which deals with some of these issues.
posted by Jahaza at 2:01 PM on January 28, 2008

You probably have friends who hate you because you lead a comfortable middle class life. Something to think about.

If you don't have friends like that, well, that's also something to think about.
posted by chunking express at 2:17 PM on January 28, 2008 [4 favorites]

Some people will always hate rich people.

Often, people look at rich people and think they didn't work for it, or don't deserve it. Sometimes they're right.

You talk about "working-man schtick", but to them it might not be shtick. If you've grown up, the child of a two-comma salaried father, then you probably don't think of your starting gig as success, even if it might be a ludicrous success by most standards. You can't afford a boat, a plane, a chopper, a big house or a sports car, so clearly you aren't a success yet, even if you're pulling down $150k/year at 25. That's likely how they're thinking.

I'd love to have an honest conversation over a beer with this, but I have a feeling that any insight I might be able to offer is going to get lost in this post.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 2:27 PM on January 28, 2008 [3 favorites]

Oh, and I wish this post wasn't anonymous. I was going to e-mail the poster, but I can't.

Poster, maybe you want to e-mail me, maybe not. But you're welcome to do so. I might be able to shed more light.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 2:28 PM on January 28, 2008

If you base your own happiness on the comparison of yourself to other people you will never be happy.

You really just have to get over it.

If your friends are good people and good friends, count yourself lucky for knowing them and having their friendship.

Friendships should be based on mutual admiration and respect, if you don't have those things then seek new friends. Using somebody's social status as reason to end a friendship is a pretty selfish thing to do.

Good friends are hard to come by no matter what cars they drive.
posted by Mr. Ugh at 2:47 PM on January 28, 2008

Does anyone have experience with this?

/me raises hand, has a friend who's father is a billionaire; he has a trust fund and a $5 million house and "works" as a freelance writer and complains that he has to "hustle" to get once-a-month writing gigs and "works hard" on them in between his adventure vacations (and sometimes his adventure vacations turn into fodder for the writing pieces).

Is it best to just soldier on and it will get better?

Well, it's not going to get better, per se. I'm not going to make millions, and his money isn't going away, and he's not going to suddenly change his behavior and outlook. He told me years ago that he decided to stop feeling guilty about the money and just live his life and raise his kids and be a good person. He gives to charity, throws great parties for friends, but he's not going to work at a soup kitchen or anything and he's not going to shower me with expensive gifts just because we went to high school together.

While they should obviously be proud of their accomplishments, they fail to mention that the fact that their uncle or aunt served on the board of the committee might have made all the difference in the world.

That's the thing. These people might be outright deluded about how the world works ("Why don't the homeless just live in their summer homes?"), or they have, like my friend, just stopped feeling guilty about it, either consciously or unconsciously.

Bottom line: It's not going to change. Only you can change your own outlook. Or come up with charitable opportunities where you can encourage them to give more of their wealth to the less fortunate.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:48 PM on January 28, 2008

As I'm always to happy to talk about, I was the youngest of seven kids, second to graduate high school after five sibs in a row dropped out. Dad had a grade 9 education, mom was a high school grad but bounced around relatives after her mom died and her dad disowned her, at 13. They had too many kids on an assembler's salary (never more than $18,000 a year so we qualified for free lunches, retired in '81). My parents had no money and no plans for any of us. Zero support for anything school related, and "school" was an inner city shithole with metal detectors and cops in the hallways. In the face of this, I was national merit, aced my SATs and went to fucking Reed College, found based on all of my own research and discovery, 2000 miles away from home, drowning in the company of kids who, regardless of class, grew up with INSANE cultural capital.

Many of these kids were wealthy; many more were advantaged in other more important ways, with families brimming with PhDs and loads of supportive relatives. I had none of that.

So you, OP, are a lot more structurally lucky than I was, but since you ask, no, at the time I never felt any resentment at all. I did when it came time to pay my student loans back (which was a bitch with formerly-weak loonies), and it took me a long time to get over my class resentment that I felt for my partner, who came from a wealthy family. The thing is, I've received some of that privilege now, as my partner's dad gave us the downpayment on our house. So at last I benefit from some unearned privilege, about $100,000 worth. Didn't work for it, didn't ask for it.

And you know what? It feels shitty. I am the only truly self-made person I've ever met. I can be intolerably arrogant about this, because my achievements are MINE. Nobody has ever handed me a thing in my goddamn life. And that doesn't just feel GOOD- it makes those silver spoon carriers feel worthless. And I like that. Fuck me and my narcissism, but I do.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 3:15 PM on January 28, 2008

During 11th grade it dawned on me to go to college. I honestly hadn't considered it, my parents hadn't prepared me for it and my older brother went to trade school like my dad so the process was kind of new to everyone involved. I had an English teacher who took interest in me that year as this academic rough diamond who slipped through the cracks, hanging out until then with the blue collar burner kids, listening to thrash metal and mostly getting drunk. As a last ditch effort to bolster my pretty thin academic record this teacher recommended to my parents that I go to this summer school program Harvard has for high school kids. I thought that was the most insane idea I ever heard but my parents thought it would be a kick to have a kid at Harvard. Harvard! Imagine what all the guys at the shop will say when dad tells them. So they drained their savings account and threw me in the minivan.

I showed up at Harvard with this crazy long 80s thrash metal mullet hair, a mustache, my beat up high tops and wearing a tattered Possessed t-shirt. I had never, ever met a rich person in my life at that point. For me the experience was like landing on Mars; for the prep school kids around me it was like having a Martian living in the dorm with them. We were equally perplexed by each other, a little suspicious at first and by the end of the summer a number of my classmates admitted to initially being scared to death of me.

I found rich kids amusing at first because they were so bizarre. They already knew what their favorite bars were in Manhattan and they asked me things like, “where do you usually summer?” which I honestly found myself unable to answer. How does one summer? Since when is summer a verb? I had never heard it used that way.

I had a fantastic exchange with a girl on the steps of Widener library one night because she thought I looked cold and offered me her sweater. I told her I wasn’t cold, but she insisted that I borrow the sweater anyway because it cost $500. I told her, 1) it’s a girl’s sweater 2) it’s pink and 3) I don’t care how much it costs because I’m honestly NOT COLD. That’s was when she informed me that she WAS A KENNEDY and that I would WEAR THE KENNEDY SWEATER whether I liked it or not because IT COST $500. I told her she could stick THE KENNEDY SWEATER in THE KENNEDY ASS, which she apparently found somewhat offensive and stormed off.

Anyway, later in college I struggled mightily with class issues because privileged kids would ask me what my dad does for a living and when I told them they would make this sad face and say things like, “how can one do that day in and day out for their entire lives and not want to kill themselves.” During summer break those kids went to Europe, interned at their dads’ companies, or sat around smoking weed and doing jack shit. I went home and pulled maxipads out of clogged toilets with a plumber who spent all day talking about Three Stooges reruns. Those were my connections. That was the depth of my dad’s network.

Eventually I learned to own my history. It dawned on me somewhere along the way that maybe I was more interesting than the rich kids were because I wasn’t destined to be where I had arrived for all my life. I couldn’t change the fact those kids had everything handed to them on a plate. But also didn’t envy their absent parent complexes and the secret guilt they carried because their parents back in Connecticut kept a house full of black servants. In fact, I found that precisely because I hadn’t grown up rich I had a lot of things rich kids were jealous of. Hard luck stories, a background full of sketchy but colorful acquaintances, and an improbable life arc that landed me in the seat next to theirs on the Life Bus. I’m sure your upbringing has something in it that you’re proud of, that makes you unique and interesting, that sets you apart from the rich kids.

Forget about what their stories are, what’s YOUR story?
posted by The Straightener at 3:23 PM on January 28, 2008 [24 favorites]

The money itself doesn't seem to be that much of an issue with me

Not really. If you didn't care about money, you wouldn't mind your friends earning it so easily. I'd advise you to check your definition of "friend" and see how they match it. If, as you say, they treat me wonderfully and there is no outward reason for this hostility other than some unresolved class issues on my part and you feel close to them, you shouldn't let money come between you.
posted by ersatz at 5:04 PM on January 28, 2008

I find that I have a difficult time hanging out with people who were raised in a lower class background than me. They assume that because I'm 'rich', everything in my life was easy and everything has always been handed to me. Anything I save up for and buy, they assume Daddy got for me. Anything I've accomplished, it's because I never had 'real responsibilities'. 'Poor' people have no sympathy for people who they perceive as 'rich' because they find it impossible to believe that even people from wealthier backgrounds have problems and responsibilities and unfulfilled desires.

I can pretty much guarantee you your rich friends want to do all sorts of things they can't do because it would be embarrassing to their families. I'd bet they run up huge credit card bills in an effort to keep up with one another. There's a reason that there's so many fairy tales about the Princess escaping the castle. You are a prisoner to a certain set of expectations, you are limited in who you can hang out with and what you can do, and nobody values any of your achievements. Literally nothing you do will ever be good enough. It is an existential crisis that lasts your entire lifetime and it goes unmatched in terms of difficulty to deal with. Why do you think so many of us are in therapy?

I felt the goose-bumps forming within seconds of reading your initial question. I am so tired of the non-stop judgment and jealousy that comes from the lower classes. You didn't choose your parents, we didn't choose ours. The majority of class prejudice is the product of the non-stop scrutiny and criticism from the have-nots towards the haves and not the other way around. Give your friends a break- the problem here is with your own perception of your own life.
posted by tumbleweedjack at 5:17 PM on January 28, 2008 [7 favorites]

In the novel Quicksilver, by Neal Stephenson the character Daniel Waterhouse was raised by his father Drake about as far from nobility as anyone could be as well as to hate them for their privilege. Due to connections made from school and his desire to become a notable natural philosopher Daniel begins to keep company with said nobility. This is what was written on the subject of privilege:

"Too, he could no longer muster quite the same malice towards these people. Drake had raised his sons to hate the nobility by wasting no opportunity to point out their privileges, and the way they profited from those privileges without really being aware of them. This sort of discourse had wrought extraordinary, no only in Drake's sons but in every Dissident meeting-house in the land, and led Cromwell and much else; but Cromwell had made Puritans powerful, and as Daniel was now seeing, that power--as if it were a living thing with a mind of its own--was trying to pass itself onto him, which would mean that Daniel was a child of privilege too."

My guess is that there are some ways you've experienced privilege that have nothing to do with your own hard work. Try thinking about the ways you have a leg up on other people and perhaps you will realize that the difference between you and your friends is only degree and not kind.
posted by Green With You at 5:32 PM on January 28, 2008

George_Spiggott wrote....
So you're within about the top 1% of the human race in terms of privilege and opportunity, and you're a little bummed how much easier the top 0.2% have it, is that about it?

That's so much nicer than the way I was going to put it.

Anonymous: You are a rich privileged person. If I had to guess I'd say that you're allowing yourself to be all angsty about your friends because it allows *you* to play the I'm-a-working-man schtickt and feel okay about it.

When you come to grips with your own position of privilege, you'll be a lot more sanguine about other people's.
posted by tkolar at 5:52 PM on January 28, 2008

"I felt the goose-bumps forming within seconds of reading your initial question. I am so tired of the non-stop judgment and jealousy that comes from the lower classes. You didn't choose your parents, we didn't choose ours. The majority of class prejudice is the product of the non-stop scrutiny and criticism from the have-nots towards the haves and not the other way around. Give your friends a break- the problem here is with your own perception of your own life."

To reply briefly to this—If the judgment and jealousy from the lower classes is such a terrible burden, you can always join them. I'm sure you can find some poor benighted soul who would be happy to swap places with you in an instant, thus letting them assume this crippling load you bear.
posted by klangklangston at 6:36 PM on January 28, 2008 [5 favorites]

Its ludicrious to think youre not a materialist. Hell, youre worse than a garden variety materliaist, youre a wanna-be rich materialist. Once you accept that and become ashamed of yourself then developing grattitude isnt too far off. In the meantime youre going to be a pretty angry and miserable person.

Whats all that money going to do for you anyway? I mean if youre not a materialist like you say and you're not into the 'flash' what exactly are you pining for? Security? Just like seeing 7 figures in your bank account?

What are you going to buy with that money anyway? A fancy looking car? That'll be just another false front. Youre be playing 'rich guy' and everyone will see through it. What are you doing with a nice car anyway? What do you know about cars? Ive forgotten more about cars then most people will ever learn, especially the well-off foreign car drivers. Its hilarious to see you guys behind the wheel of these things. Its like a 90 year old guy with a 20 year old girlfriend. I dont know what they do but I know what he's incapable of doing. Any expression of wealth is a divisive classist statement. Everyone hates these people, but we're too polite to lose our shit over it.

And whats all the money going to do? Do you honestly think youre going to be some kind of mastermind genius? Or some generous benfactor? You? Why you? The history of lottery winners show us very well what people do with windfall money. I mean, why you? Youre just another dude pining for riches.

How will this money truly help you? Do you really think you'll be able to side-step life's suffering with this? Do you really think its going to make all this difference? Youre 24, then means your body has officialy been aging for a couple of years now. Soon you'll wake up with back pains. Soon mommy and daddy will starting completly losing their health and you'll attending your first parents funeral. Soon you'll be married and that will not be how you envisioned it. A friend or close relative will die suddenly. More than one person you know will die in some kind of automobile accident. No new experience will compare to your childhood. No new friend will be like your stoner college roommate. No new kiss will be like whats-her-face from freshman year. Not even Warren Buffett can fight this, but he can buy a nice car, he can make you feel bad for not being him, all the while he's slowly shambling to his grave; just like you are.

I highly suggest you learn some perspective, humilty, and gratitude. Get your mind off money, houses, condos, jaguars, etc. Youre not a kid anymore. You'll need to start making some real adult decisions soon and this is the first one. A lifetime of jealousy and resentment or are you going to attempt to start seeing the forest for the trees?
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:08 PM on January 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Status Anxiety by Alain de Botton... buy it. There is also a two part PBS series... watch it.

In a nutshell: "he questions why so many of us are so unsatisfied with our place in the world when most of us have it so much better than our predecessors. He talks about where our worries about status came from and what we might be able to do about it." via this blog

Don't blame yourself, you have been raised to feel this way... but you can think your way out of this if you want.
posted by pwally at 8:10 PM on January 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

For what it's worth I think MetaFilter is a terrible place to ask this question. Why, you ask?

Reading this thread I've found:

a) Several people who directly claimed that they are superior, specifically because they had less money than other people. This is a ludicrous claim made by self-aggrandizing idiots. I mean, perhaps they honestly believe that they would magically turn into shitty, shallow, lazy people if there was more money in their bank accounts, but my experience is that there are great, terrible and mediocre people at all levels of wealth. It doesn't seem to have any effect, so far as I an tell.

b) Numerous claims that wealthy people aren't interesting, because they're all exactly the same. Anybody with any exposure to a wide variety of people should quickly realize this is pure classist bullshit. Some people are boring, some aren't. Again, I've seen no evidence that this correlates at all to class.

c) A ton of people implying that the children of intelligent, hard-working, wealthy parents get rich because of "connections", and that they didn't earn it. That's inarguably true in a minority of cases, but the idea that it's always (or even most times) the case is absurd and insulting.

MetaFilter is absolutely rife with classism targeted against the wealthy, so you might find more people supporting your position than you would if you talked with other people.

If your problem is that your friends don't talk about having to work hard to get ahead, please remember that there are two dynamics at work there. First of all, the children of hard-working wealthy folks are used to seeing their parents work 80-100 hour weeks. As such, they might work 100 hours a week without mentioning it, simply because they grew up with that being "normal". Secondly, nobody wants to bore everybody with tales of their work, so they might prefer to talk about the vacations they take to recover from 400 hour months than to mention those months directly... just referring to them as 'that consulting gig'.

But I re-iterate, MetaFilter is a terrible place to ask this question, unless you're really good at weeding out the enormous amount of classist bullshit that pervades this thread.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 8:39 PM on January 28, 2008 [7 favorites]

TAPG: That was a great documentary. Thanks for sharing!
posted by special-k at 9:17 PM on January 28, 2008

Friends With Money is a pretty good "Hollywood" fictional movie that deals with these issues (although in a more peripheral manner than you might guess from the title).

Also, it might be worthwhile to note that not coveting your neighbor's property is one of God's Ten Commandments. As something to ponder in terms of how it made the big ten....
posted by extrabox at 9:22 PM on January 28, 2008

I would advise you to hang in there and tough it out. You're smarting right now from some sudden painful realizations about the unfairness of life, but you'll get over it in time and still be glad to have your friends.
posted by cali at 9:28 PM on January 28, 2008

This thread is so immensely popular that I'm certain that my words will be drowned in this flurry of opinions, but I'll post them nevertheless because I've been on both ends of your situation.

I'm a Canadian university student. I have not experienced post-university life, but I have had some experiences that I think applies pretty well to the issue at hand. Moreover, I think our similarity in age will allow me to present some views that are more akin to what you may identify with, rather than simply the wisdom of time.

I'm going to share several conclusions I have made about life over the years, in chronological order.

I was born to a lower-middle class intellectual family in pre-1990s China (aka shithole). I was raised by a single parent. To give you an idea of the kind of conditions we lived in, my mom had a monthly food budget of $2 when she was in university in the early 80s. Even after she became a university professor, her monthly salary was only $60. Granted, purchasing power was higher, but it was still absolute squalor.

Years and years later, my mom leads a typical middle class life in Canada (house, car, etc), and I'm attending a prestigious university in the field of my choice (architecture). My experiences have led me to believe that I can do ANYTHING I set my mind on, regardless of my perceived chance of success. This is a belief that many of my friends do not share, and their mindsets have led them to not only lead lives of general depression almost identical to your own, but have also, incredibly, caused them to accuse me of the same things you accuse of your friends:

My university program is a co-op program. We spend our first year in school, get a summer off, and then alternate school and work terms until graduation. In that one and only free summer, I took advantage of family connections to find a summer job in my field. Month later, when the time came to find our first "real" internship job, I received offers from numerous large architecture firms, because of my prior work experience. The majority of my classmates, however, had no prior experience in the field, and experienced a lot of stress during this time. When everyone found out about the large number of offers I had, and after I explained that this was because of my prior experience, I was accused of, on more than one occasion, by the same person, that my life was easier because of my connections. This person expressed several things she was bitter about:

1. Her lack of connections had forced her to take a non architecture related summer job during her "free summer".
2. Due to this, she only had one job offer, as opposed to my 7.
3. I have everything handed to me on a silver platter (yeah, ok).

In reality, however, she had only worked for one month the previous summer, as opposed to my 4. She did nothing during her other three months. She could have spent one of those three months sending resumes to 100 different architecture firms. She was bound to get atleast one offer. Connections are not the only way to find jobs! In addition, the job she ended up finding, was no worse than mine. What does it matter if she only got one offer, as long as she has a great job? What is there to complain about?

Here's the moral: The grass is always greener on the other side, but in the end, you just have to get off your lazy ass and quit bitching.

Go back in time:
I went to a public high school in a predominantly upper class neighbourhood. I come from a lower middle class family, and my friends were a mixture of upper and middle class kids. Prior to attending this high school, I attended a public middle school in a low income, predominantly immigrant neighbourhood. This has exposed me to a large number of people with a variety of upbringings, and I have, over time, learnt to place them into several general categories. Obviously, there are individuals who fall in between categories. The ones I list below are simply stereotypes that serve to illustrate my point. I will sound like a jerk describing these people, but forgive me, because I'm trying to make a point. The categories are:

1. Kids of poor parents who are poor because they're lazy. The kids grow up to be lazy just like their parents. They skip school, their parents don't care, eventually they end up involved in crime and drugs, or end up working at fast food joints for the rest of their lives.
2. Kids of poor parents who are poor because of uncontrollable reasons (immigrants from poor countries, for example). The parents really drive their kids, and these kids work really hard. They generally end up doing quite well. I'll be in this category, hopefully.
3. Kids of rich parents who don't know how to raise kids. These parents are generally people who became rich at a young age. These kids grow up as snobs and once their parents stop supporting them, they're unable to cope and end up losers.
4. Kids of rich parents who know how to raise kids. These kids grow up in functional families, with parents who help them become capable adults. These kids have both the ability and background to do really well in life, and in most cases, they do.

An additional point: there's an age old saying in my culture that wealth only lasts for three generations. The first generation starts poor, and becomes wealthy through hard work. Their kids, having learnt the lesson of their parents, also do well. THEIR kids, however, are born into wealth, and quickly squander the money away.

The point is, your success has very little to do with your family background, and everything to do with your upbringing, and ultimately, who you are. Believe if or not, not every successful person became successful because his or her parents were successful. If that were true, the world would only have poor people and nobody would be successful. Your success and wealth in life has everything to do with the amount of work you put into it yourself. The world OWES YOU NOTHING.

So in conclusion: Stop envying and bitching about your friends and get on with your damn life already. If you deserve it, you're be able to give your kids the life your friends have.

Only if you deserve it.
posted by BeaverTerror at 10:52 PM on January 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


This bears repeating. A lot of people don't understand this simple fact.
posted by chunking express at 6:25 AM on January 29, 2008

There will always be people who are are easily reaching goals for which you are sweating blood. Your peace lies not with them, but only with your own perspective.

There are, without question, hundreds upon hundreds of things that you can do easily that others can't. Taken on a global perspective, you have the ability to easily produce water and food to place in your mouth; you have the ability to walk onto the street with relatively little fear of being hurt; you have the ability to sleep in relative comfort; you have enough spare cash to be able to put money away towards eventually owning your own home. Narrowing things down to upper middle class, there are things that you pay no mind to because they come so easily to you, but things that others who struggle with it every day deeply envy. People in debt, people alone, people uneducated; we could go on for a while. There will always be people above you, but there will always be people below you. Peace results from appreciating that you are well up that ladder by virtue of where you are. Even the rich envy the superrich.

How can you find peace? Quite simply, by telling yourself to not take for granted the material objects that you have, the relationships you have, the skills you have, and the simple necessities of life which you easily have.
posted by WCityMike at 9:54 AM on January 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

By the way, I practice what I preach. I had bedbugs about two and a half years ago; since then, I have often found myself simply appreciating a parasite-free bed; the ability to sleep without fear of being attacked by an insect. This is an example where something I had taken for granted all of my life changed abruptly for a brief period, and made me grateful for something I had previously taken for a given.

During that time, I was dealing with a lot of anxiety about the situation, especially given the difficulty of exterminating them. One thing that helped me keep perspective on the situation was that it was occurring at the precise same time Katrina was occurring. It was difficult to bemoan my fate when I was reading about a husband desperately trying to hold onto his wife's hand and eventually losing his grip. Perspective and gratitude once again.

And just this weekend, actually, I dealt with a case of food poisoning. It was abrupt and fierce; I'll not go into details, but its symptoms are fairly well-documented. The fact that it hits you very hard at first puts you during that time into a very different, much disabled state of being — you are sick, sick, sick. But then, once the causative food has been completely evacuated from your system and you rehydrate yourself, you return to relative normalcy quite quickly — so the contrast between nasty-sick and normal is made very clear to you. During that short period of time before you become accustomed to normalcy as the "normal" state of being, it feels quite sweet. Gratitude and perspective a third time.

There are things that people take for granted that I have consistently failed with. I won't itemize them here because I don't want to play the victim, and because I know that there are still things that I take for granted that others have consistently failed with. But for those things that I have struggled for for decades now with little success, I really wish I could shake people by the shoulders and say, "Don't you fucking realize how precious ____________________ is? You take it for granted, like it'd be there. It's not. It's wonderful, it's amazing, it's something to sit back and go, 'Shit, how lucky am I to have this?'"

And I know that somewhere, someone is thinking the precise same thing about something I have and take for granted.
posted by WCityMike at 10:11 AM on January 29, 2008 [2 favorites]

Hi, it's BeaverTerror again.

I've been reading some of the other replies and I've noticed a general pattern that I strongly disagree with.

A lot of people here, and no doubt a lot of people in real life, are telling you to be content with what you have, and to appreciate the things you take for granted, instead of reaching for the things you don't.

It's great to appreciate the things you have. but there's also nothing worse than becoming content in the fact that you're doing better than the guy next to you.

Contentness is the reason oppressive regimes are able to stay in power for decades. Contentness is the reason why monarchs and rulers have supported religion for thousands of years. If you're satisfied with what you have right now, then that's all you'll have for the rest of your life.

Be unsatisfied and work towards satisfaction, instead of being unsatisfied and merely sitting there and bitching about it.
posted by BeaverTerror at 8:43 PM on January 29, 2008

BeaverTerror: Be unsatisfied and work towards satisfaction, instead of being unsatisfied and merely sitting there and bitching about it.

I think you are confusing counsel to appreciate and counsel to be content. They are alike but very much not identical.
posted by WCityMike at 4:47 PM on January 30, 2008

This is not about good and evil. This is about the system.

The class system imposes certain rights and responsibilities on each class, and culturally, certain moral values get caught up with certain classes. The whole system is horrific, limiting humanity's choices and making it extremely difficult to avoid disasters such as global warming and war.

We should all be fighting to end this system, rich and poor alike.

But that's just what I believe. It's immensely liberating to be able to have a set of values that encourage me to view people in relation to "the problem" and "the solution". Of course, most of us are a mixture of both.

I am extremely skeptical of the advice towards forbearance and acceptance in this thread. Your anger is coming from somewhere real. Do something with it! Whether you interpret it through the light of class analysis or some other worthy idea (perhaps from your religious faith?) it will be easier to relate to these people.

As I have gotten older I find that I compartmentalise my relationships with friends. I share different conversation and experiences with different circles of friends. This could also be a good solution.
posted by By The Grace of God at 4:51 PM on February 1, 2008

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