Class Guilt

Fireplace reading

So I mentioned last week that we went to the resort at Pebble Beach. If you’re not familiar, it’s, like, the hoitiest toitiest super elite thing there is. Their golf course frequently hosts the US Open, they have an “equestrian center” and tennis courts, and a spa that was just bonkers. There are actually homes within Pebble Beach that cost upward of 5 million dollars and they’re used as vacation homes. It’s a level of wealth that I honestly find sinful.

Since Bear started this new job, we’ve been entered into a new circle of access and opportunity. We are NOT rich. We have so many years of medical bills and school debt and times when we had no choice but to live off credit cards and then our sweet little San Diego house we had to lose because it was too expensive to sell, that we will be digging ourselves out of this hole for YEARS. But thanks to this new job, we will eventually dig ourselves out. Eventually we’ll be able to have a retirement and probably even save for Atti to go to college. Which is a hell of a lot more than most people can say these days and that thought is never far from my mind.

I’ve never known true poverty, but I’ve come as close as you can get while having access to good public schools and living in an area safe enough that living in my car wasn’t taking my life in my hands. I’ve spent years dodging creditors and floating checks and living paycheck to not quite another paycheck, I’ve gambled with no car insurance, and lost my twenties to having no health care. I’ve come *thisclose* to bankruptcy and been foreclosed upon. So when I go to a place like Pebble Beach, part of me feels like a hypocritical fraud.

But another part is beginning to feel right at home. Through work connections and some generous friends I’ve been able to get enough of a taste of luxury that it doesn’t shock me any more. As I was getting a massage at Pebble Beach this thought actually went through my head: “I’m enjoying this, but I think the massage I got at LaCosta was better.” And then I killed myself.

When Bear and I first got married, one of our first arguments was when I swore to him that no matter how much money he made, I would never shop regularly at Nordstroms. He got upset because back when he was 22 he thought that the measure of his manhood was how he provided for his family, and what would his hard work be for if we couldn’t enjoy it? I brought this argument up to him the other day and he just shook his head and said, “I was such an idiot.” Years of hard times has taught him what the hard work is for, and that’s security. I do not take that for granted for a second, and we have big ambitious plans for how we’re going to use our good fortune to provide security for others. But in the meantime, as I get these experiences that so few people in the world get to experience, my enjoyment is always laced with guilt.

I often call myself a “red-letter Mormon” because the words of Jesus are paramount to my faith. So I take very very seriously the charge to care for the poor and needy. I take seriously how often Jesus condemned the rich and powerful. I believe that people in positions of abundance are stewards and have an obligation to use that abundance for the betterment of the world. And I also believe in beauty, in design and style, in rest and relaxation, in appreciating creation. I guess every person has to find the balance in there somewhere.

For me, so far, the balance is enjoying it on someone else’s dime, and then writing angsty blog posts about it.