People in the South didn’t talk much about money when I was growing up, at least not the cultured ones. It was considered a sign of bad breeding, and that was unpardonable. Fast forward to the twenty-first century; boy did that change. As we got into the late months of 2010, people had been hurting for a while, and I started seeing articles about psychiatrists overloaded with pleas for help from relatively moneyed people, because their losses–job, investments, lifestyle–were pushing them to seek help with despair, hopelessness, depression and the other usual suspects. It seems to me that loss is loss once you’ve stepped up a certain distance from subsistence living, and the degree to which one is unprepared to accept loss is the measure of the difficulty of recovering from it. It has been my observation that many well-to-do people (read “Suzy Marmalade”) are not prepared for financial loss—not in the playbook, can’t happen. So the recovery is hard. I have also observed that our society is not predisposed to feel sympathy for people of privilege except under rare circumstances, like the Lindbergh kidnapping or the Kennedy assassinations, so there is not a lot of support, public or private. Having been both privileged and without means, I can say that I understand that lack of sympathy—people of means are insulated in a way that takes away a whole dimension of worry, and I can see a person without means thinking that there is justice in the failure of the moneyed, let them have a taste, just a taste of what the real world, the one without a safety net, feels like.
On the one hand, it feels like crap. On the other hand, it feels raw, liberating, real and comforting–a person the same as everybody else, not a person apart. Given the choice, what would you pick?