Friday, April 06, 2007

Making comparisons

I'm at my brother-in-law and his wife's house, which is filled with kids, the oldest of which is 3. Since my youngest is 7, it's an adjustment to be around such young children. I will admit to not really liking other people's children until they get to an age where you can carry on a conversation with them.* I would have made a terrible aunt in and of itself. At least since I've had my own children, I can be understanding.

I have, unfortunately, a habit of comparing myself to these people. I have a habit of doing this more generally, but I'm particularly bad about it with these in-laws. So, I think things like, they have a bigger house than I do. And that depresses me, but then I have to remind myself that I have access to wonderful things like museums and other cities and great schools. And that their house would cost over 2 million in our area and they'd probably live in a smaller house if they lived where we do. I do these mental acrobatics over and over again. And I wish I didn't. I wish I could just be and not worry whether I'm skinnier than her or smarter or a better mother or . . .

Mostly, I've been jealous of what they can afford. Before they had 4 kids, they would travel a lot, always had nice clothes and new cars and new furniture. And it kind of killed me. For one thing, they talked about it all the time as if everyone could afford such things. And for another, I grew up that way, but now, because of the career and location I chose, those amenities are more difficult for me to obtain. Once, though, when I was complaining to Mr. Geeky about their mentioning yet another trip or yet another purchase, he said, "Don't you understand? She wants your life just as much as you want hers." And it was true. She wanted children and I had them. For me, my life was fulfilled yet until I had settled into a career. For them, it was about the family. I had done the family thing almost without thinking as much as they had fallen into careers as doctors which afforded them a lifestyle I envied.

One thing about living where I do is that I'm often reminded of both ends of the spectrum. I drive through the area of 2 million dollar homes every day and I walk around a city where the homeless ask for money and in my own neighborhood, we are all the working and middle class, some of us doing better than others. I guess I'm very conscious of my class and of the class of those around me. On the one hand, I want to erase class boundaries. On the other, I'm all too aware of the invisible walls that often separate us.

I had a dream the other night which kind of encapsulates my anxieties about class. Mr. Geeky, Geeky Boy and I were standing around talking to a realtor discussing purchasing a home in a swanky area. The realtor glanced at Geeky Boy and said, "By the way, I hear that the schools have an excellent remedial reading program." I flew into a rage and called the man an asshole among other things. The crux of my anxiety is that I will be judged for other things based on how I dress and what kind of car I drive and how big of a house I have, that people make assumptions about my intelligence or abilities based on surface things. I try my best not to do that to others, but I've certainly been on the receiving end of such judgments. I guess my visiting here brings these issues to the surface for me. For lots of complicated reasons, those issues are raw and sensitive for me. Maybe they always will be.

*Even then, my tolerance can wane. If they're mean or annoying, for example. Luckily, this almost never happens with kids I know.