|Image via Google/Urban Outfitters
I am living in what they call “genteel poverty”, one of the things, an article speculates that made designer L’Wren Scott kill herself last week. Genteel Poverty is rich, middle class poverty, the kind of poverty where you live in an expensive neighbourhood but can’t eat out, the kind of poverty where you put the AC on in your car but your internet gets shut off because you can’t pay the bill. More? It’s when you hear of the new restaurants from your friends and peers and can’t try them, it’s when the bottle of wine you take to a random dinner party is such a carefully calculated decision (“if I buy this bottle of Sula, even though it tastes like piss, I can afford a taxi home”) that you almost feel like picking up the half drunk bottle and taking it home with you when it’s still sitting there at the end of the night. We forget, sometimes, our privileges, how money smoothens over everything, how money makes most discussions not worth having, how money is the great liberator. Organic food? Nope, too expensive. Independent woman taking taxi home instead of depending on someone else? Nope, too expensive. Money makes it possible to make well thought out informed decisions.
Luckily, as an Indian, I am never too far away from a hand out from my parents. But, as someone who has been rowing their own boat for close to 10 years now, it’s embarrassing; it’s stupid, I can’t keep asking them for money, even though they offer it freely out of love. Genteel Poverty is too much pride, even though the option is there, which is what sets it apart from regular poverty.
In a nutshell: I am not poor, dear reader, but I am broke.
In many ways, I am better off than friends who find themselves in a similar situation. And this is because of one off-the-cuff decision I made in my first flush of riches: I would never have a credit card. Luckily for me, over the years, credit card companies don’t take well to freelance writers with no fixed income, and so even though I answered yes to the cold calls, I never got a follow up. I live on my debit card, and so, I am never in debt. My car was paid for in another flush of richness, paid for in full.
What does this sort of poverty mean? Well, for one, it means the luxury of being able to stretch out creatively has sort of left me. From the moment I wake up, I’m thinking about money, specifically the money owed me. I get excited and then heartbroken each time my text message alert goes off and it’s not from my bank. I’ve sent enough emails to qualify as a stalker, ranging from friendly to stern to desperate. This is not the first time I’ve had to beg, like literally beg for my salary, and I suspect it won’t be the last. You get a job that lets you work from home, and enjoy a certain amount of freedom, and in all likelihood, you’ll get screwed with the money.
I am broke. I could’ve not been broke had I chosen an office life. I swapped financial security for being able to work in my pajamas, and I swapped the luxury of money for the luxury of being able to get up whenever I liked.
Take the job. Or live an exciting life.