My mom always used to say I had champagne taste on a beer budget. Lately it's been more like trying to satisfy my taste for French champagne with milk money. People usually assume I'm wealthy-- that my affinity for dressing well and carrying myself like a lady (most of the time, I hope) denotes a certain amount of money in my family's bank account. The sales ladies at Nordstrom always remember me. One afternoon when I was in my late teens I was musing about this fact out loud to my mother in our kitchen as she made dinner. "It's probably because they think you're rich," she snorted.
What most people don't know is that when I was a baby my dad worked as a pizza delivery man to support my mom and I. When I was six I was too scared to tell my parents I had outgrown my shoes because I thought we might not have enough money to get me new ones. On my ninth birthday, all my presents came from Goodwill. Right now, nine and a half out of ten things in my closet were bought at a deep discount, and gas and grocery money usually starts getting tight several days before my bank account is replenished. That's just the way it is.
I've been without a job for a long time now, an internal war being raged between my fearful, Practical, Common Sense side that says, "Who are you kidding?! Get a JOB!", and my gut-hungry, aching soul that says, "If I have to do one more hostess/ coffee shop/ office job I'm never going to stop crying myself to sleep at night." Just recently I came to the point where a compromise had to be made and have now settled for a job selling luxury cookware at a chain store in Beverly Hills. I'm not sure how I feel about it. On the one hand, I know that I always like being in the store whenever I visit, so working there (hopefully) won't be torture, but on the other hand I feel so dissatisfied and quite frankly, gypped.
All I want is a job that will pay my bills and leave me feeling satisfied at the end of the day. That's it. It doesn't have to pay a lot, and it doesn't need to be easy... I don't even need a lot of recognition. I just want to feel good about myself and the world when I turn the key to my apartment every night.
A few weeks ago a very wealthy man told me I was beautiful and gave me his business card. Later, as I walked up the steps of my aging apartment building and climbed the stairs to my old and beautiful abode, my thoughts wandered to what it might be like to be a "kept" woman. I wondered what this man in his shiny car and expensive suede loafers would think if he saw the chipping paint on my door frame, or noticed the frayed seam on the hem of my Target dress. Would he change his mind about me? Or would he deem me as worthy of more and buy me purses and bracelets and evening gowns, and maybe move me into one of the lavish condos in the building next to mine? Would he send cars to pick me up and take me on trips to expensive dinners in Vienna and Prague and Paris? Would he do that for me because he thinks I deserve it?
Right now I'm sitting here typing on my three year-old laptop in a 12 dollar tank top and my underwear. I'm surrounded by things I love: resting on the beautiful love seat my dad and I picked out at the consignment store for a hundred dollars, my first real pair of "expensive jeans" that do supernatural things for my butt slung over the back; I have pictures of my mom and friends and family hung simply on the wall, and my chipping pink discount dishes are all stacked in my kitchen cupboards. And I know who I am.
I may want nicer things someday, and am not ashamed to say that I can't wait for the day my gas budget is no longer a pressing issue, but here in this place, I am satisfied. I'm not pretending to be content with some office job, paying my own rent while my soul goes bankrupt, or feigning interest in an older man with the means to make all my material dreams come true, only to later realize I've lost what really matters. I'm in a beautiful apartment that I love, with clothes that keep my desires for beautiful, designer garments sated, and my forty dollar purse looks a lot more expensive than it is, thank you very much. I have friends I can't get enough of, and a family most people only dream about.
As for the job part, well... I'm still working on that. But somehow I think it'll work itself out in the end.
By the way, did I ever mention my name means Wealthy? It does. And I think now and forever, it fits.