First of all, I want to agree with Lorna that where you live in Los Angeles just helps to make all of this social stratification that much clearer. The West side in particular. We wander around to our little Farmer's Markets and cute little cafes and then gardeners and house cleaners and nannies ride the bus over to help peoples' lives live more smoothly. Before living where we live now, we were in a small guest house of a large mansion (basically the pool house) and it was shocking to live in that neighborhood (Willow from Buffy was our neighbor!) and see how the neighborhood would change when the home owners went to work. Suddenly the neighborhood was invaded by pickup trucks and Latino gardeners, pool boys and nannies would descend to make sure that people could serenely not worry about these more concrete parts of their life. So yeah, where I live, it's hard to not see the divisions. In Montana, we were all poor. Except the few "rich kids" who moved there from California. But they were the minority, not the expected.
So, as Hilljo so astutely pointed out, this really is about privilege. And, being aware of your privilege. And believe me, I am. I know that we are where we are today as a result of a mixture of working hard, being lucky, and being who we are. I mean, yes, we both grow up as some country kids in Montana, but both of us grew up with one parent each who graduated college, being told we could do things with our life, and not having to experience prejudice for how we look. So yeah, just by being born we had privilege. And now? Now we're swimming in it. And our kids? Well, they'll probably attend some bilingual private education school and travel abroad. We are going to have to knock them off their privileged little high chairs. But Hilljo's point about re-labeling my guilt about this position as "awareness" is freaking brilliant. My husband and I are always having arguments about my guilt. He thinks I should accept that we worked our asses off and that we earned it. When I talk about my guilt having what I have, I think it makes him feel bad, as if I don't appreciate all that we've created together. But relabeling it as awareness helps me to realize that that is all I am doing - trying not to forget. Not to forget where we came from. Not to forget where people still are. Not to forget the differences that exist. And all this is all the more important when you realize we have to teach theses lessons to our children.
The timing of this post is ironic, because in Amanda's comment she talked about the different ways in which people travel. Which, in the US (maybe not so much abroad?) even to travel is a privilege. But she described young people staying in beautiful places.....beautiful places that are unnecessary to really experience the place they are visiting. First of all, I wholly agree. When we travel, we usually stay in hostels, or a small local hotel. We don't expect comfortable beds, a swimming pool, amenities......and I like it this way. I'd rather spend our money on the trip than the place we lay our heads at night. But this upcoming trip to Mexico, we're doing it differently. For the first time. We're staying in a luxury boutique hotel that has ALL of the amenities and more. I rationalized it away by saying, "Oh, it's a Valentine's Day trip" and "But we're only going for three nights, so we can splurge" and "We got free airline tickets so we can spend the difference on our rooms!" But really, I think it scared me a little. Are we changing? Are we no longer those kids who backpack around to hostels??
I guess it all comes down to balance. As Gypsy Mama said, it's about awareness. If you are aware and conscious, you don't need to become a buddhist monk and change your entire lifestyle. But, Hilljo made more one more point that I want to comment on. I do do something with my life that makes me feel more conscious, aware, and less-guilty about my position in life. I work with underprivileged kids who've been abused and traumatized. Most of my clients are immigrant families who do not speak English, and are still trying to find a place in this crazy city. I do a lot of advocacy, outreach, and support. I give my time and my energy in my job. And yes, it is a job, and I do get paid, but I definitely take a pay cut working for the county that I wouldn't have to take if I worked for a different clientele. So, yeah, I guess that is my way of finding balance.
In sum, thanks for bearing with me* on a second post about this subject in some
Thanks to all of you who commented so thoughtfully. It helps :)
*When I wrote this, I wasn't sure if it was "bear with me" or "bare with me" and so I googled it. What I got was "The common expression is "Bear with me." "Bare with me" would be asking someone to undress with you. Ha.