Oh, you guys, I totally lost my shit at my in-laws tonight. I feel so bad, but I also feel right, and I feel angry that I came off as the trouble-causing bitch. I don't know if I am more angry at them or at myself.
For context, I am privileged. I am lucky. My dad grew up working class and got lucky, got scholarships starting in high school, got an education, and built a great career for himself. Not in anything that is hugely lucrative, but enough to give us a comfortable life (always knew where the next meal was coming from, always had a roof over our heads, if the car broke down or the fridge stopped working it wasn't the crisis it had been when I was a little kid, had gifts at Christmas and birthdays although no new toys or clothes in between, had vacations every other year). My mom grew up middle class, without much support for education and career because she was a girl, but still has managed to have a fulfilling career in a pink collar field that doesn't pay tons, but enough. They are comfortable now, and they along with my grandparents helped me go to college. Which makes me privileged and lucky.
My husband's family is wealthy. Full stop. Family money, no need to worry. Fancy private school in NYC wealthy. Legacy admit to Ivy League school where the family name is on a building wealthy. CEO and finance salary wealthy. This made me uncomfortable when I first starting going to his family events, because I had never been around people who had that kind of money. I put my foot in my mouth a few times. At this point I am more used to it, and have been really trying to perfect my smile and nod technique for getting through family events. I lost my cool once before, and I felt bad, but I was able to shake it off because the person I lost it to is, frankly, a racist, and no one likes him. So even if people thought I acted badly, he is categorically worse. I promised myself after that that I would keep my mouth shut.
This time is was my sister in law. She is a nice person, so I feel bad, but she is so clueless. It started because she, her husband (a libertarian!), and her parents were talking about how our new mayor, Bill DeBlasio, is "scary" because he is such a populist. I am basically a communist, so I made a comment about how upsetting it is to hear a room full of wealthy people saying that he is "scary." (Fortunately my husband agrees.) That set off a fire storm. She ended up crying, talking about how upsetting it is for people to call her wealthy and all of the sacrifices she has made because she had to buy an apartment in the 80s on York Avenue (the very edge of respectable Manhattan according to her). This is a beautiful, newly renovated two bedroom, two and a half bathroom apartment in a full-time doorman building. As far as I can tell her sacrifices involve walking an extra couple of blocks to get to the subway. She says she is not wealthy because everyone she knows at her corporate finance job lives in nicer apartments in better neighborhoods. This is someone who once said that anyone who makes less than $500k in NYC is poor. This is someone who bought a puppy from a breeder and pays a daily dog walker, doggie day care, and weekly dog trainer. This is someone who just tonight said that they had to buy an extra carry-on bag to bring home their souvenirs from a recent vacation to Europe. We could not get her to understand that they are wealthy by NYC standards. That Manhattan below 96th Street (as far as she is concerned Manhattan above 96th Street, aka Harlem, doesn't exist) is not the entirety of NYC, and the vast majority of the outer boroughs (millions of people!) are worse off than she is. I tried to explain to her that my husband and I, on just his salary, are considered wealthy in our very nice outer borough neighborhood, and she and her husband probably make close to double what he makes. That she can't just pick and choose a few very wealthy finance people to compare herself to in order to declare herself "just getting by." She just does not see the doormen in her building, the taxi driver, the delivery guy, the people who work in the restaurants and shops in her neighborhood, the teachers, the police officers (I could go on and on), as people. They are invisible to her. She truly believes she is just getting by. And that she sacrifices.
My father-in-law, an incredibly mild-mannered guy, yelled at us to stop the conversation because he was upset to see his daughter crying. She was crying, which makes me (and my husband to a lesser extent, because he was gentler in expressing his views) the bad guy. If I were him, I would be upset to see that I had raised such a selfish, clueless spoiled brat. But then, I am the trouble-making bitch. :(