I never understood the star-crossed connection that led me to rich girls. Dating rich girls was not something I set out to do. It always just sort of happened. My initial attraction never hinged on whether or not they were wearing designer pants or real diamond earrings.
I mean, I was never close enough to see the tags of the pants or the shimmer of the earrings Daddy had saved up for weeks to buy until it was too late. Likewise, I could never fathom why rich girls were drawn to me. I was not terribly good looking, or funny. My teeth weren’t as white as theirs and my car didn’t go as fast as theirs. My modest townhouse in a bad and getting worse neighborhood was nothing to write home about … well … Facebook or tweet about. Rich girls don’t write anything that doesn’t involve a touch screen. I wore clothes from Old Navy. I sported old little league hats because they were worn in and fit well, despite their childhood filth.
Maybe I was the puppy they could wash, place in a handbag and tote around. Or Pretty Woman, only instead it was the innocent boy with the jeans frayed from fixing the fence, not because they came like that. Maybe I was the guy that they just wanted to fix and never could. And on my end, maybe I was subconsciously searching for a lifestyle more affluent than my own. Who knows.
The girls were different, but the endgame was always the same — watch them burn through cash, and then watch them crash. I dated short, blonde rich girls and tall, brunette rich girls. I dated rich girls that couldn’t stand their muffin tops and rich girls whose ribs I could feel during foreplay. I dated rich girls where the man of the house worked all day and the mother stayed home and baked cookies. I dated rich girls that came home to empty households while both parents worked. I dated rich girls whose wealth seemed to come down from the chimneys as both parents always seemed to be home, drinking wine and reading magazines.
Whatever the family dynamic was, the household was always the same: Large, beautiful, cold and quiet. I always felt myself whispering in a house that had plenty of space for music or laughter. The foyers usually centered around some sort of chandelier that could easily kill me if its chain snapped while I quietly sat on the polished floor and put on my Payless sneakers. The banister snaking beside the stairs never sported a single, speck of dust. The cleaning ladies were apparently quite thorough.
The living rooms had grandiose fireplaces down which Santa Claus might actually have been able to slide, rotundness and all. Only fires were never lit. The fathers did not chop wood. They just adjusted the thermostat. I assumed that while changing the temperature of the house (not home), the patriarchs would intentionally make the house chillier — I was always freezing. It may have been the temperature. It may have been the general attitude of a place booming with design but lacking any sort of love to fill it. These were families built on sense and savings, not camaraderie and cuddling.
But for the most part, I could tolerate these rich girl red flags. The girls were hot, after all. I rarely came across a rich girl who was not good-looking, but I suppose if they were not good-looking to begin with, I would not have had time to peek at their bank statements before I turned back to the girls with the skin-tight yoga pants and low-cut t-shirt sitting next to them in class. I was a sucker for a good body. But really, who isn’t?
The ultimate deal-breaker for me was the scraping, or lack there of. The rich girls never scraped. Ever. My single mother had scraped for years to put a roof over my head. She scraped quarters from between the seats of the Buick, she scraped as she worked double shifts at the diner, she scraped when she went back to college, and she scraped as she paid off student loans, got a better job and was able to relax a little. I admired her ability to claw through life when necessary to reach her goals.
But for rich girls, life was different. No scraping, no problem. Everything was easy, sans the whole “daddy doesn’t actually love mommy, they just say they do and smile for the camera” thing. When the going gets tough, the rich girls go to the ATM, or discard whatever could have been scraped to save a few pennies, even if pennies were things they only saw lining the bottoms of mall wishing wells.
On a bright afternoon a few years back, I stood in the over-sized kitchen with Jess, whose profile fit the rich girl mold, while she made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. She walked over to the mahogany pantry, removed a loaf of bread and glass jar of organic peanut butter and brought it to the center island. Heavy, iron racks of pots, pans and cooking utensils hung overhead, despite the fact that Jess’s family ordered or went out for food nearly every night. She retrieved the jelly from the stainless steel refrigerator and brought that to the island as well.
She removed two slices of bread from the loaf, opened the peanut butter jar and inserted her knife. We both heard the “ting” of the knife as it tapped the bottom of the nearly empty jar. I peered over to see that with some scraping of the sides of the jar, a sandwich could easily have been made with the remnants of peanut butter lying within.
Before I could say anything, Jess shrugged her shoulders. “Good thing we have another one in the cabinet,” she said and tossed the old jar in the trash.
No scraping. No need to. There was another jar in the cabinet, after all. Why would you scrape if you don’t have to?
"You could have gotten enough peanut butter out of that other jar for a sandwich," I said.
"Yeah, so? We have a whole new jar here, see?" She responded without another thought.
I was taught to scrape everything. To the last morsel. Peanut butter, jelly, tomato sauce, mustard, toothpaste, aftershave, you name it. Get it all out and then buy a new one if you can afford it. We usually couldn’t until the end of the week. Scrape, scrape, scrape.
But not at Jess’ house. Surrounded my marble counter tops, she defied everything I had ever learned from my mother as she popped the new jar’s lid, dug her knife into the fresh, untouched peanut butter and continued making her sandwich as though nothing was wrong.
But everything was wrong. I was wrong. Again. Jess was just like the other rich girls: Wasteful without a care in the world.
I bit my tongue and forced a smile as she made a sandwich for me as well. After lunch I said goodbye to Jess, slipped on my middle-class footwear and left, knowing I would never speak to her again. No scrape, no boyfriend.
I made a pit stop before returning home. Flowers for mom.
On the small, paper insert, I wrote: “For scraping with the best of them.”