Normal families have sofas, she says, and you’ll do what it takes to feel normal.
There’s a chain of rent-to-own stores where we live called “Majic Rent to Own”. They have a top hat and wand as their logo, and when I first saw it I honestly thought they sold supplies for magic tricks. When I realized they sold furniture I thought “why would you rent furniture?” and thought it was about furnishing short-term housing or something.
Only more recently did I realize that I was clueless about why these stores existed because I’ve never been a member of the class they cater to. Like payday loan sharks, they weren’t even on my radar.
One of the most shocking aspects of becoming more socially aware in America is realizing just how expensive it is to be poor. And realizing that there is a whole segment of industry dedicated solely to capitalizing on the plight of people who live paycheck-to-paycheck.
(There are industries dedicated to milking the middle class too. I’m looking at you, every bank ever. And to some degree, the federal government itself.)
Once upon a time I would have responded “who cares about feeling ‘normal’, anyway?” to the quote at the top of the post. “Spread some nice cushions, sit on the floor and save your money!”
But even we, with our middle-class lifestyle, have sometimes felt the strong urge to be a little more “normal”. Between our choice to have lots of kids on one income, and our policies on not carrying debt, we’ve often lacked the niceties that neighbors have. The shiny new car. The big TV and the 5.1 sound system.
And we’d look and say “what are we doing wrong? don’t we deserve that too?”
It’s 10x harder with kids. You can tell yourselves that you’re perfectly happy bohemians and you don’t need the kinds of friends who care about that stuff anyway. But try to explain that stuff to a 6-year-old whose friends are starting to get their own phones…
I think if I lived in a trailer and ferried chicken guts for a living and was never sure if I would have enough money for rent, that brand new 17% leather couch would be an island of refuge for me.
We know what the trappings of normality look like. We see them on every TV show and in every magazine. And those trappings seem to be becoming less and less attainable.