When I was a law student and baby lawyer, scrounging to afford three (store brand) fish sticks a day for dinner, more senior lawyers were often kind to me by paying for meals or a beer when they invited me out to dinner. I made no bones about being poor. It’s no shame to be poor, as Reb Tevye explained. But it’s no honor, either.
In time, it was my turn to take others out to dinner, to buy the drinks, and I did so remembering the kindness others showed me. In serial twits, a young woman explained a very different view, one that reflected a significant shift in perspective.
Something I wish more people would realise is how alienating it is to be poor/broke when you have financially stable/comfortable friends.
— Moist Towelette (@MamaGhoulette) January 6, 2018
To call it “alienating” was an odd choice of words. Were people so dense, so self-absorbed, that they didn’t realize their “friends” might be unable to financially keep up with them? And the next few twits offered some thoughts that might be seen as too obvious to be necessary, and yet they were.
If someone refused to continue a relationship because of her inability to pay for the ride, they weren’t really a friend, but that doesn’t help much. Yet, the storm went in an unexpected direction.
It sucks to be poor. If someone knows you don’t have $10 to spare and, nonetheless, deliberately puts you in a position that humiliates you, they’re not a decent person and certainly not your friend. However, if the problem is that you’ve lied to them, lied about it, because you don’t want others to know you’re too poor to go to a party or dinner, then it’s not their fault. You’re the liar. They’ve done nothing to you.
Someone else’s wedding should be all about you? You’re poor, so they should decline wedding presents to make you comfortable?
That person who orders the most expensive thing on the menu, then wants to split the bill so the person who orders only the app, because she that’s all she can afford, has to pay for it? Or has to call bullshit? That’s wrong too.
What this reflected is the clash of self-centered people. There are people blind to the fact that their friends can’t afford to do the things they can. There are the people who feel the pain of poverty, but expect the world to eat fish sticks because that’s all they can afford. There are the people relishing their expensive tastes, and putting others in the awkward position of having to decline participation, and the people who feel entitled to lie about their inability to pay for it.
This is what comes of a world of entitled narcissists, where each player views the world as centering around their needs and feelings. The problem isn’t that some people are doing better than others. Nor is the problem that some are doing worse. The problem is that both believe they get to control other people’s worlds to suit their needs.
Much as I can sympathize with @MamaGhoulish, remembering well what it was like when I didn’t have a pot to piss in, I was never so bold as to expect others to deny themselves whatever they could afford because I couldn’t. My poverty was my problem, not theirs. And if someone invited me to an affair that I couldn’t afford to attend, my response was, “sorry, but I can’t afford it.”
Then again, I never lost a friend for being poor.
Now that I can afford to buy dinner for others, I’m happy to do so. It’s meant as a pay-it-forward thing, but this suggests that the message is lost. And indeed, looking back on some of the people for whom I bought dinner, this may well be the case. When someone bought them dinner, it wasn’t because of sensitivity, generosity or kindness, but because they were entitled to it. And when dessert was done, so were they.
A generation of entitled narcissists won’t work. You’re no more entitled to dictate how others should live their lives than they are entitled to do the same to you. It may feel unfair, but it’s not. It’s just life. Lying to others to conceal your embarrassment about it, and then blaming others for not being more accommodating of your situation, is untenable.
It sucks to be poor, and sometimes it can’t be helped. But if you can’t manage to be honest with your friends, and you can’t manage to realize that your friends may not be capable of paying, then it’s a recipe for failure. Nobody owes you dinner. Not everybody can afford to go to your destination wedding in Aruba. That this never dawned on you is the product of your self-centered view of the world. That’s no way to go through life.
It’s no shame to be poor. It is a shame to be a narcissist, and anyone can be one, rich or poor.