I'm Not Mad About Your Trust Fund

And aren't you lucky to have it?
Publish date:
August 17, 2012
money, rich people, trust funds, resentments

My cash fan is mostly ones.

Man, you know everbody really hates? Rich people.

I sort of get it. When I first moved to New York, a place with a vastly different economy than my native Oklahoma, I was hit with a one-two punch of shocking events: First my roommate offered me a beer right in front of my mom, ya'll, and then she purchased a 90-dollar rug for our room. CASUALLY.

Like, "Oh, isn't this tile gross? We should get a rug in here!" (From Urban Outfitters. For 90 dollars.) I was fucking floored. (Rug pun.)

That was my first awareness that when it came to money, I was playing in a whole new ball game. New York money is serious. We don't even have New York money in Oklahoma. You could be the richest person in Oklahoma and be living in a box in New York City.

Social class isn't determined by money alone. It's also determined by resources and opportunities. I was privileged to be able to attend an expensive private university, through whatever hobbled-together combination of scholarships and student loans. But being surrounded by people whose parents could actually afford the $40,000-a-year tuition quickly sent me into financial culture shock.

The girls I went to school with had credit cards that their parents paid and said things like "Oh my god, I spent 150 dollars at the liquor store again." I was living on a 50-dollar-a-week allowance and the pittance I earned from my work study program. Sometime around the fifth or sixth time I didn't have money for shampoo or tampons, I started to hate people with money.

Just the sight of a shopping bag set off that nasty internal voice that sometimes pops up and surpises you with its sheer vitriol. (I still sometimes hear it when I see thin women enjoying fattening food.) Everywhere I looked I saw things I wanted, things I couldn't afford, things I was sure I would never be able to afford.

So I get the fuck-you impulse, the simmering resentment that can bubble up in the presence of the have-have-and-have-some-mores. But you know what, rich people? I don't hate you anymore.

Partly that's because I have enough of everything these days, including money.

I remind myself of this when I yearn to feel the still-aching emptiness below my breastbone with STUFF, when I feel so driven to consume I'd max out a credit card if I still had one. It's a desparate feeling that reminds me of the time I made a friend drive me to ATM after ATM until I found one that would let me withdraw cash against my credit card so I could buy more cocaine. You have everything you need today, I breathe.

And as happens so often when I am satisfied with myself, I cease to resent others.

Ever since Gala-gate, I've been thinking about how some people hurl trust fund accusations in the same way you might accuse someone of being immoral or unkind. I said people, but women especially are vulnerable to being undermined this way. To be a successful (especially beautiful) woman is immediately suspicious, to seek attention for one's achievements a sure way to invite speculation into your bank account. (If you don't have a trust fund, you probably have a rich husband who is paying your way.)

Not only is it ugly, this assumption that a woman who lives well must be living off someone else, but it's irrelevant.

Because so what if said woman does have a trust fund? Is that a crime? No one should have to apologize for the life they were born into, although they should acknowledge their privilege. And whether you feel someone's success is "earned" or not, the good news is that there's plenty of succes to go around.

I do understand the disdain for entitlement -- ungrateful looks especially ugly on those who have been handed the keys to a slightly easier life, as does a lack of a social conscience. I believe in giving back to those less fortunate, whether you're a millionare or not. But it's character that's the issue there, not money itself. Rich, entitled assholes are first and foremost assholes.

And if you're still tempted to snark on someone for being a "trust fund baby," just go ahead and imagine a scenario in which your parents call to offer you a large sum of money. I, for one, would gladly accept it." (Mom, if you're reading this, feel free to make this call at any time.)