Elle Writer's Solution To Poverty Is A Superiority Complex

Illustration for article titled iElle/i Writers Solution To Poverty Is A Superiority Complex

Bliss Broyard's rich friends used to love giving her stuff. At least that's what Broyard, author of One Drop, a memoir about her father's lifelong concealment of his black heritage, claims in this month's Elle. Elle's cover bills the piece as a guide to hanging out with people richer than you — no doubt useful in these lean times — but it's actually a weird exercise in entitlement and rationalization likely to piss off rich and poor alike.Broyard writes that she hates her parents "for raising me to want a lifestyle that they can't pay for." She continues (all in present tense, despite the fact that her narrative spans twenty years):

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Growing up, I take for granted that I will one day be wealthy, too. To make or marry money was the natural trajectory for young women like me — women who attend prep school and a "public Ivy," who know how to tack into the wind and volley a tennis ball and keep their skis clamped tightly against each other. No matter how mortgaged my parents' lifestyle has been, I have apprenticed as a rich person for all my young life and am prepared to move into the position. But that's not what happens.

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Instead, she becomes a writer. "As long as I can earn enough to cover the basic necessities — rent, food, and health insurance," she says, "I prefer to avoid long hours in a job I don't like or a marriage in which my responsibilities and power will be predicated to some degree on my earnings." First of all, a writer who can comfortably cover rent, food, and health insurance is rich to me. Second, although she later swears she has friends with fun, high-paying jobs or fun, rich spouses, it's clear she actually looks down on her rich friends. When getting free clothes from her rich friend Olivia, she notices that it's hard for Olivia to be giving handouts all the time — "everyone grows increasingly pleasant and solicitous around Christmas [...] and then the feigned surprise and exaggerated gratitude when the cash or check appears." Broyard, though, is different:

I give my wealthy girlfriends something, too. As a reminder of how the other half lives, I help keep them grounded amid charity auctions, private jet rides, and vacation plans that cost more than their kids' tuition. [...] Having me in their lives is proof that their kind of people aren't only rich people. And I allow them one of the great pleasures of having money — spontaneous generosity without guilt or expectation.

See, Broyard is totally different from those freeloaders, because she makes her friends feel good about themselves. Because otherwise they'd feel awful, with all that money. And maybe (although she doesn't explicitly say this in the article) something about her difference has to do with her faux-wealthy upbringing — she's just like a rich person, except she's poor! Her recipe for hanging out with rich people seems to be: wish you were rich (like you were supposed to be)... then feel superior when you're not!

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DISCUSSION

morninggloria
Erin Gloria Ryan

This is an analogy for what is going on in the financial system right now.

1. People made choices that led them to not have money to be lavish (Bliss chose to be a writer erroneously thinking that she would end up rich, banks made poor risk-management decisions and ended up losing all of their money)

2. People think that they're entitled to continue the lifestyle that they didn't successfully acheive (Bliss stamping her feet over her parents not being able to pay for the life she wants, banks trying to convince everyone that they need tons of money, and fast, because please can we just have another chance?)

3. People want their friends to pay for the fact that they fucked up (Bliss w/ her superrich BFF's, banks with taxpayers)

4. Everyone hating them.