Friday, February 10, 2012

"Rich and Thin" -- ha!

If you're as old as I am (ancient!) you might remember the way college students in the early 80s liked to stick cute little white boards on their dorm room doors. These had amusing (or inspiring) pictures and often some pithy or funny text involved. You could tell your little world a lot about yourself with your white board.

Well, when I was a sophomore I had a board on my door, and I thought this thing was the bee's knees. It featured a rotund pink piggy with a shiny diamond ring in her snout. The text read: "You can't be too rich or too thin."


Now, it's possible this was an ironic statement, given it was a FAT PIG who was wearing the diamond ring (a very cute fat pig). But I did not take it with an ounce of irony. No siree Bob. I EMBRACED that sentiment. I believed in it as if it were the first principle of the program of success I'd subscribed to. And you know what? A LOT of people did and do agree with me on that.

I want to be a millionaire by the time I'm thirty.
No thanks -- I don't like food, anyway. I'll take a cig if you have one, though.

As many of us know, life has a way of punishing you for the stupid things you think when you're young. Perhaps you will be pleased to hear I am neither Rich, nor particularly Thin.

It's funny how one's outlook can change over time. I once thought of myself as "upper middle class." I came from an educated family. In our humble town we stood out -- the "haves" in a sea of "have-nots." I enjoyed a fair amount of stuff. And I had the privilege to devote about twelve years of my life to higher (and then higher) education. To read Dickens and weep for poor David Copperfield and Little Nell. And that was a great thing -- I recommend reading Dickens and weeping for the vulnerable, the poor. But don't get into that rarified life where you can't feel for the guy who's cleaning the bathrooms at the airport because his life is so unlike yours.

Okay, Readers, I'm not really talking to you. More to myself. But these days I'm preaching to the choir. I still read Dickens and cry -- that is one of my greatest pleasures -- but now I feel more solidarity with the bathroom cleaner than the golf club set. By a long shot.

Having to count your every penny, and continually tighten your household belt makes all the difference, let me tell you. As does becoming aware of what it feels like to be vulnerable -- whether because you are poor, or disabled, or battered, or just a lost soul.

Having Benjy has taken me to this new place. I was already on my way, but having to confront a child's dysregulation and despair, struggling to keep him alive and safe, has made wealth and body weight a lot less important. Sure, we could use more money. We think about it, talk about it way too much, because we never have quite enough. But I'd rather be who I am now than who I was in 1983, that's for sure.

In other words, these days I like the pig a lot more than I like the diamond.

No comments:

Post a Comment