Growing up, I always felt different. I remember sitting in my mother’s Toyota Avalon and staring longingly into the window of a nearby Lexus. My seat-warming device did little to stem the tide of anxiety rising inside of me.
My family never went on vacations to Saint-Tropez. Instead, we went to places like “Hawaii.” One time, on a plane, I tried to use the bathroom near my bulkhead seat, but the stewardess stopped me.
“This is for first-class passengers only,” she said.
It took everything I had not to scream and beat my fists on the door, “No! No! No! I’ll have your job, you miserable wench!” Instead, I took a long walk to the back of the plane to wait for the lavatory in coach. When I emerged, a different stewardess offered me a bottle of Dasani.
Can you imagine what something like this does to a child, attempting to transcend her socioeconomic class, all while dealing with the pain of being born a rich person trapped in an almost-rich person’s body—and then being asked to drink toilet water?
I tried to mask my pain by quietly, secretly shopping the sale rack at Barneys. I never told a soul. There was never any cashmere left, and by the end I wound up nearly chafed to death by Italian merino. But the kids at school never knew where I really shopped for my clothes; I learned to accessorize well in order to hide my own paltry, simple wardrobe.
During the whole ordeal, I became addicted to generic Valium—I could never afford the name-brand stuff in quantity.
To cheer me up, my husband bought us tickets to attend the U.S. Open. We drove there in our own car – no valet, no driver. And no, we didn’t sit courtside. But I did get a pretty good look at the ball boy. And their pretzel twists were a simple pleasure I learned to enjoy immensely.
I guess the feeling of being rich was all I ever really needed. I realized that what I lacked in wealth could eventually be made up for with wealth. But I’ll never forget where I came from – but I’ll never go back.