They Think We’re Rich!


January 15, 2013 by lucieromarin

Some time ago, a married friend told me that she’d been given a friend’s old fridge, and remarked, “We’ve hardly had to buy anything since we got married; people keep giving us stuff.” Well, even I am not petty enough to begrudge a single-income family a second-hand fridge, but it did get me wondering why my single friends were never offered spare white goods or furniture.

The answer was given to me at a church committee meeting. The group was planning a fundraiser; it was suggested that ticket prices be set higher for single people than for married people. A married woman nodded, saying, “Single people have money to spare, don’t they? I mean, they don’t have mortgages…”

At that moment, I discovered that it is possible for the human mind to explode and implode at the same time. The implications of her statement caused successive interior detonations every time I saw her for at least six months afterwards. There are people in our parishes who do not know that it is possible to be too poor to afford a mortgage. When they look at the single people in their communities, they assume that they are on mortgage-friendly incomes and are just not spending it on anything. That’s why they think we’re selfish.

Some time after this, a friend mentioned to me the cost of her daughter’s school fees. Without thinking, I exclaimed, “Good Lord – that’s more than I earn in a year!” She was gobsmacked, saying, “But how can anyone live off that?” whereupon I understood why my Christmas gifts to her and her children had not met with a response in kind. She had assumed the gifts came from my school-fee-free largesse and were the due owed by my state of life to hers. That is, she had no idea what they really cost – and, I suppose, how could she have known, if I didn’t tell her?

Well, I’ve just finished reading Slavery, Inc, so I’m not about to suggest that the most pressing concern in the world right now is one where we tell our neighbours that we’re poor. Besides, it also occurred to me that there’s a compliment embedded in the misjudgment: if we’re being mistaken for high-income-earners, (or even moderate-income-earners) we must be wearing our relative poverty with some class! How much worse would it be to have the experience related to me by one married woman: when she and her husband were looking at a house, the real estate agent said to her, “We get lots of people like you – you know, rich people who dress poor.”

What could anyone say to that?

3 thoughts on “They Think We’re Rich!

  1. Charlie's sister says:

    “We get lots of people like you – you know, rich people who dress poor.”

    Wow, a real estate agent who didn’t have a should-I-say-this filter between his thoughts and his speech? I bet he didn’t last long in his profession!

  2. Maria says:

    An old Czech story…(yes, I have to refer to my roots with this post…I may sound like Mrs P in “to the Manor Born”…but you’ll just have to take it) …told children that Sister Poverty spares no one. Be it in money matters, time, or in company…we are all touched by poverty in some form or another. Not having money, is just a one sided look at poverty…Blessed Teresa of Calcutta made it a point to say that the most poor of this world are those whom no one loves. So really..if you have not love..then and only then are you truly poor.
    I agree, not having money does make life somewhat difficult…but my offspring the other day commented: “Mum, I don’t like money, because when I have it, I’m scared to lose it and yet I want to spend it as well. I’m confused”.
    My grandmother, who was forced to eat a cat during the depression of 1929 (she was 6 at the time) said once: as long as your clothes are mended and clean, as long as you have something to eat, a roof over your head then you are not poor. (This was because I was whinging about not having a walkman in my teenage years and complaining that I was poor, from a Housing Commission estate, my mum made my clothes and I had nothing!!!!…such a spoilt child I was…lucky for me, a school friend of mine lent me one…at least I was rich in friends!

    • lucieromarin says:

      This is all true! But the point of the story was not that some people don’t have money; the point was the startling discovery that some people don’t realise that it is possible to be too poor to have a mortgage. They genuinely believed that someone single could only be rich.

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