When you grow up poor, you know that you’re different but you don’t always know why. It took until probably middle school before I realized that the actual difference between myself and the middle-class snobs who made fun of my shoes every year was that they had more money than me. And they also had some anger issues.
But until then, I was young and didn’t know what the deal was– I just knew that some people had some things that I didn’t have. And I wanted them. To me, those things were what made them normal, and the lack of those things is what made me different.
Now that I have my own family, Mitch has started to notice a few little quirks in some of the things I do that are unexpected, and I started to realize that its because of my little collection of THINGS THAT MAKE ADRIENNE AN OUTCAST and how I don’t want them to turn into Maren’s things, too.
“Status symbols,” Mitch finally concluded. “You have a really weird definition of status symbols.”
And I do– because, I think, I have a really weird definition of success. Some people think of nice cars, nice phones, a vacation home, etc, as being status symbols, but I don’t. I’ve known too many people who have all of those things and are up to their ears in debt to believe that those things mean success. It’s not really that I want my family to be rich (although I do, who doesn’t?) it’s more that I want my family to be functional and happy. And these are all the things that I’ve collected over the years that mean: I AM HAPPY, I AM WELL-ADJUSTED, I AM SUCCESSFUL, I AM SATISFIED….
1) Colored or patterned socks– because, here’s the thing– when you’re poor, you just by all the same sock. That way, when the dryer monster appears and takes a few of your socks to the Bermuda triangle, where all socks go to die, it doesn’t really matter. But if you buy colored socks, or patterned socks, its just like feeding the monster that 6 bucks you just spent.
2) Family portraits, in frames, throughout the house: There is one family portrait of us growing up– one of those that they take at the church for the directory. We’re so little that Renee still has her little baby face, Vinnie has a buzz cut, and I’m wearing a blue dress with a horse on it. A horse. That’s the only picture that we have of the entire family until probably 8 years later, when my older sister got married. But I remember going over to other people’s houses and seeing the house just filled with pictures. They had pictures in the bathroom. They had dozens of pictures on the stairwells. They had pictures on bedside tables.
3) Clothes and Kid-Stuff that doesn’t have cartoon characters on it: This one is harder to explain. But I guess that I always felt like the girls who didn’t wear Elmo, and the boys who didn’t have Spiderman plastered over every square inch of their bodies, didn’t feel the need to advertise: “LOOK IT LOOK IT LOOK IT– I AM THE SAME AS YOU, WE LIKE THE SAME STUFF, YOU CAN TELL BECAUSE I HAVE DISNEY STUFF EVERYWHERE.” When they came to school with a plain lunch bag, clothes that just looked nice and fit nice but didn’t contain any hints as to what shows they watched or breakfast cereal they ate, it made me think: Dude. That guy is cool.
Of course, as a parent, it’s a losing battle. We pack Maren’s food every day, I refuse to dress her in anything with a Disney princess on it, and my house is like a Maren and Mitch photo emporium. I take great pride in the fact that I send my husband off to work wearing a variety of socks, including khaki colored socks, which I didn’t even know existed until I married him. So, probably, Maren will beg me to just buy her one thing. Just. One. Thing. That has an effing Beauty and the Beast picture on it. Seriously, mom. JUST ONE THING.
Probably, she’ll ask me, “Mom, why don’t we just buy white socks? Because then I wouldn’t have to search through my drawer for something to match my outfit, I could just wear white socks.”
At some point, she’ll demand: “MOM OH MY GOD, this moment does NOT need to be memorexed. PUT THE CAMERA DOWN.”
And I’ll say something teary, like, “Well I just want to give you all the things I never had.” And she’ll throw up her hands and say, “COLORED SOCKS? SERIOUSLY?”