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Scrolling through the collection of photos on the tumblr “Rich Kids of Instagram,” shared on Facebook yesterday by The Other 98%, was a bad way to start my day. The tagline for the tumblr page reads: “They have more money than you and this is what they do.” I don’t know exactly how the tumblr works. I don’t know how the lives of super rich kids work either, and, for the most part, I don’t care. But I scrolled through the pics anyway. A peek into a forbidden foreign culture? Or train-wreck magnet syndrome?
At first, the pics opened up a surprising deluge of emotion, a mix of bitter anger and pity and sorrow, and, in the end, I was hating myself. Self-fucking-hating. The self-hate wasn’t self-pity like “I am such a loser for not having the shit those jerks have. If only ... ” The self-hate – rather than hate for the Rich Kids – is simple really.
For a poor girl who feels she has busted her ass, determined to find a “better” place one day, self-hate can be cyclic and persistent. I can be my own biggest obstacle when it comes to reaching legitimate happiness. Most of us poor girls have been trained to be kind, self-sacrificing, not to take more than our fair share, to say thank you. When assholes don’t at least meet you somewhere near the middle – AND when they gloat about it, accuse you of being jealous because you weren’t quick enough to stop them – you get pissed. If you've faced a seemingly unfair amount of broken promises and hardships or if you've grown up around or fully aware of people who have, you can get teeth-grinding punch-throwing pissed. When you get pissed, you hate yourself for giving in, for playing the game, for coming across as selfish, for stooping, for shedding your grace.
I was angry with the kids for being so … stupidly rich. Gluttonous. Disgusting. And it looks as if they’re flaunting the piss out of it. I opened the Twitter profile of one rich kid linked to the site and found the defining line under his name on his profile to read: “Don’t be mad. I hear UPS is hiring.” Maybe the Rich Kids get tired of the guilt “forced” on them when they have to look upon the rest of the deprived world (one of the many problems with being well-educated, right?), and so they spit in its face. But what the fuck do I know? Maybe they regularly perform amazing, global-changing acts of kindness, and I’m jumping the gun. Maybe they’re just too young, too busy, having too much freaky fun to consider anything on an intellectual level. They’re just kids. Teenagers are notoriously oblivious and self-centered.
And, just like me, they couldn’t help where they were born. Who they are is a result of learned behavior, the result of a complex system. I know this. If I was super rich, what might I buy my own children? I recognized the sweeping generalizations behind my anger. I had fallen back to ignorant stereotypes. I had answered shallow with shallow, and I hated myself for it.
I decided I could be more empathetic. Try to consider the intense pressure and lack of honesty these kids surely deal with on a daily basis. I imagined the fear that must reside knowing that who you are lies primarily in your “things,” and with an unfortunate turn of circumstance – the wrong words spoken at a cocktail party? a stupid act of investment? a thief? a revolution? – you could lose it all. I imagined them fighting with their parents, parents who are self-centered and material. I imagined them feeling the pressures and stresses that come along with the need to impress small-minded peers with impossible and unpredictable standards. I imagined the demanding presence of life-raping drugs. Illusive escapes. Failed geographical cures disguised as year-long Caribbean cruises with no happy ending. Trippin’ and spreading STDs around for weeks on Daddy’s yacht. Suicidal in the Porsch, trying to fill the five car garage up with carbon monoxide. I imagined them walking into the office of the most costly psychiatrist or spiritual guide in the world and asking him/her to “fix it.” Poor kids. The jokes on them. This is the best I can do as far as empathy. I tell myself: Hey, I employed my imagination. At least I made an effort. It’s more than what most of the Rich Shits would do for someone like me. I kick myself again. Damn it.
I kinda’ sucked at my attempts to make the Rich Kids “more human” (or whatever it was I was trying to do). I confess, it made me feel better to imagine the Rich Kids suffering. My empathy was more annoying than anything. I kept stepping over the edge and onto the dark side. And, in part, I hated myself for even trying. Poor kids?? I didn't believe it. Sure, there is tremendous pain in being ever-surrounded by concrete objects but nothing 100% Genuine . . . but that pain isn’t reserved for the elite. I wonder if the Rich Kids know this?
There is one Instagram of a Barbie doll posed to look as though she’s sucking a line of cocaine up her plastic nubby nose. Maybe it’s indicative of a Rich Kid poking a little fun at herself. But there lies the cocaine, three lines of it. Expensive shit – or so I hear. And it’s real. I’m sure of it. It’s as real as the massive sailboat off the shore of Greece in another Instagram. Thousands upon thousands of dollars are sucked up Rich Kids’ noses (on sailboats, helicopters, jet planes, yachts, penthouse suites …) in big swift sniffs. But I think I have every right to be upset/bitter/angry, even as they snort drugs, sip refined alcohols, throw exclusive parties all in some stretch of desperation I will never fully understand. I know nothing of this place these kids live in, the Kingdom of the fleeting Instagram. And they know nothing of me.
I try to relate, but I can’t. My efforts to be sincere, to be some kind of higher spirit capable of rising above my anger, capable of redefining myself as “lucky” (luckier than the Rich Kids) for having gained extra insight by pulling myself “up by my bootstraps” “against all odds” (by way of many ominous student loans) seems dishonest, pointless and wimpy. It also feels conceited because making claims of having pulled oneself “up” from anywhere is subjugating that from which you pull yourself up and out of. I still struggle with such concepts, hence, self-loathing. When I say “And they know nothing of me,” a little (oddly American? smart?) voice in my head says, “Why the fuck should they care?”
I’m not being holier-than-thou when I say I WISH I didn’t want for anything. Of that, I am sincere. Ironic, but sincere. Even as I make myself write about it, I know I’m seeking (any) confirmation, some reassurance I’m doing okay. And because I was raised as I was, writing can feel selfish. Even the desire to simply work toward being “comfortable” feels excessive. When you grow up poor, you also hear that little voice say things like, “Who the hell do you think you are?” My tendency toward self-defeat feels like a curse. A Rich Kid may be first to tell me I’m being stupid. And I would have a hard time not punching Rich Kids pretty nose. Or maybe Rich Kids hear "Who the hell do you think you are?" even more than I do.
Truth is I can be a prideful bitch, and I think I might genuinely want the “Rich Kids of Instagram” to hate me back to keep things simple. The logic of dominance works every which way. And it works by way of fear and through a global want for some kind of love. We all want confirmation. After all, here are these pictures. And so I'm trying to forgive them.
Thanks “Rich Kids of Instagram.” I have to wonder if a bit of personal enlightenment wasn’t the foreseen part of a grandeur plan of the tumblr's creator. I want to kick myself again for doubting it.
See ya’, Rich Kids. Wouldn’t wanna’ be ya’.