There are times when I wake up in the middle of the night, heart pounding and anger flared from a random memory that decided to make itself known again to my subconscious. One such memory was of an encounter with a person, who obviously peaked emotionally in high school, trying to put me in my place because I dared to invade her social circle with my lower class, almost food stamp qualifying background. It was a moment I hadn’t thought about in eons, because it was that long ago, but still a moment when I realized that there are some pretty awful people in this world masquerading as fine, upstanding citizens.
I won’t detail what was said because that would give too much attention to a woman who obviously can’t function without attention, good or bad, but let’s just say that it was the equivalent of a small child sticking out their tongue and doing the “Na-Na, Na, Na-Na, Na” thing. In the moment I was taken aback but not totally surprised because she never gave me the impression that she ever accepted me as an equal but rather, viewed me as an object of disdain and mockery for not being a former cheerleader, sorority sister or over-achieving Super Mom whose life revolved around her children’s accomplishments. I was part of the, “Oh, you’re a working mom” sect and she was fortunate enough to be married to a doctor, which was wonderful but not necessary to point out all the time. “My husband, who is a doctor….” became a suspiciously purposeful reminder of what I was not now nor would I ever be which was rich, popular and accepted. It hurt a little but I somehow managed to survive and move forward in life obviously.
I remember that a few of her mottos were, “public school is for poor people, not us” or “we are involved in ballet, gymnastics, soccer, and tennis simultaneously,” and she never shared anything about herself, anything that would make me empathize with or feel connected to her. All she gave out were news flashes about how wonderful her kids were followed by passive-aggressive comments on my parenting choices. Thanks, but I never asked you…is what I should have said but I’d usually just turn away in embarrassment or move back into my spot closest to the door, at the ready to bolt. I was the outsider in the bunch so who was I to stand up and tell her off?
Why did it bother me so much? The verdict from the popular crowd was that I was socially awkward and jealous because I grew up poor and didn’t learn how to interact with upper class people and lacked the manners and charm to ever fit in hence the need to be constantly put in my place. But, what was my place? If they knew they never told me directly but judging by the nasty looks, rude remarks and blatant brush offs it must be a pretty awful place. Good Lord! How was I ever allowed to walk the same streets as these amazing social beacons and high yield stock option recipients?
In thinking back, I know now that they aren’t all powerful and experience odoriferous flatulence and fecal evacuation just like anyone else roaming this planet and that it, in fact, does not smell like roses. Looky there! I made farting and shitting sound pretty classy now didn’t I? Everyone does it, even the ultra-fortunate but somehow, being human and acting human (faulty, emotional, kind-hearted, polite and humble) is something to be shunned like a Louis Vuitton knock-off. Nope, not good enough for us, this human thing is well, too proletariat. We are Gods!
At least that is what I used to think these one-dimensional harpies thought about all, gasp, poor people but then I realized that not everyone was like that and I was judging all upper class people based on my interactions with a few, to put it honestly and bluntly, assholes. Money can’t change an asshole into a humanitarian, the asshole traits are still there under the surface waiting to spring forth with the most minimal provocation. But, good people surely don’t lose that inherent trait to be kind to others or to offer a supportive word or gentle hug when it’s needed most just because they find themselves on the abundant receiving end of financial good fortune right? I have met a few over the past few decades so I know more are out there, they have to be!
Make yourselves known because only you can prevent rampant asshole fires…that sounds awful, let me rephrase. Only you, the kind and polite money attracting people of the world can turn the tide in this poor=lazy, unmotivated and therefore unworthy atmosphere. I’m not saying, “Hand over your cash” either so DO NOT be posting any liberal vs conservative blather in the comments section. This is about how I feel not how you feel on the matter because this is MY memory, not yours.
What I am saying is, the more kind and thoughtful interactions people of differing financial backgrounds have the more acceptance those not so financially well-off may feel and acceptance is worth more than gold. Acceptance helps motivation ignite. Acceptance makes hope possible. It’s so simple yet also so hard for some people to provide. Why? Talk is free. Smiling is free. A respectful handshake and hug are free too just as direct eye contact is. You have no idea how demoralizing it is to have someone look through you or around you but never directly at you.
As for myself, I may not be considered financially rich now but I do okay and feel very grateful for all that I have and the wonderful people I have surrounding me. And while this may have started out as a painful memory of how a horrible woman tried to make me feel bad because of who I am and where I came from its ended up being a story of redemption…for me. I forgive her for being such a snotty, sarcastic and dismissive person and accept that she must not be a very happy individual. Or, maybe she’s just dandy with how she acts and sees no reason to change. Either way, it’s done, I forgive and no longer have that moment weighing me down.
Sometimes dreams pull you back to the lessons you haven’t completed yet I guess. Lesson #5,006,201,369 down only 5,006,201,368 to go!
© 2018 L.A. Askew
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