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Old 04-08-2008, 11:06 AM   #61
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....
But again, when the 2 worlds meet, that's when it is a bit uncomfortable. A few years ago we had invited my wife's boss for dinner. I knew they lived in a big house, in an executive neighborhood, drove expensive cars, so I went upscale. The guy showed up in his PJ pants...
Reminds me of the stories about William Randolph Hearst keeping catsup on the table at San Simeon.

I think you are right: never the twain shall meet. It's particularly bad for the poorer folks when they do meet. I know so many people who want their kids to know poor kids; bad idea, IMO.
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Have you ever felt humiliated for looking "poor"?
Old 04-08-2008, 11:21 AM   #62
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Have you ever felt humiliated for looking "poor"?

I would say that DW and I were able to overcome the weakness of feeling "humiliated for looking poor" 15 years ago or so, about the time we were on tract to reach FIRE. It's really a blessing to not be burdened with that problem any longer.

Since then, we sometimes dress, act or speak to be congruent with the situation we're in, not to avoid "humiliation" but rather just to expedite dealing with people by not giving them a reason to be distracted from the issue at hand. That is, if looking or acting out of place is going to throw folks off and make it difficult for us to do business, get service, etc., we'll generally go along with the program and dress and act to fit the circumstances. This isn't to avoid feeling "humiliated." It's just to not waste time dealing with the consequences of seeming to be out of place.

Example: When car shopping in 2005, I wanted to go take some test drives and talk to some dealership service managers to supplement reading and internet research. Rather than leave the house in my normal threadbare state, I changed to nice dress slacks and shirt (business casual), put my checkbook and pen in my shirt pocket clearly visible, and headed for the dealerships. Got lots of quick, courteous service including disruptive trips into the service department and multiple test drives. Probably would have never happened had I looked and acted like I was just stepping in off the street to warm up! So, in the ten minutes it took me to change, I probably saved hours by having my requests politely accomodated.

If there is nothing in it for me, I could care less, make no accomodation to "standards" and NEVER feel humiliated. Been there, done that, got past it!
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Old 04-08-2008, 11:41 AM   #63
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Example: When car shopping in 2005, I wanted to go take some test drives and talk to some dealership service managers to supplement reading and internet research. Rather than leave the house in my normal threadbare state, I changed to nice dress slacks and shirt (business casual), put my checkbook and pen in my shirt pocket clearly visible, and headed for the dealerships. Got lots of quick, courteous service including disruptive trips into the service department and multiple test drives.
I dressed like a hobo (nearly) when buying my Solara in 2002. I looked the salesman in the eye and told him that I was going to buy a car that day either from him or from the Honda dealer and that I really didn't care which. I got lots of quick, courteous service, too, a low price, and some freebies. Maybe it was just luck, in my case.
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Old 04-08-2008, 11:50 AM   #64
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so I went upscale.
FIREdreamer.. yeah, THIS is the rub. I was asked by an English lady here for gift suggestions for an 80-y.o. acquaintance who was "very rich". My thoughts ran to cashmere and twee estate jewelry, after jocularly bypassing tea cozies. And I realized that the richer the person the more we feel it incumbent upon us to offer gifts more in line with their pocketbooks than with our own. One case is my well-to-do doctor BIL, to whom we gave (spontaneously) an oil painting and an expensive gas grill. Needless to say we haven't spent as much on others in the family NOR have we received ANY gift from them whatsoever!

Anyway, I am the only person who puts out actual ceramic dinnerware and metal flatware for get-togethers. Our rich acquaintances put out plastic plates and forks!

This is just mulling over past situations.. it's not because I am "striving" to fit in to any group, but when I think about it, my past experiences jibe with those of youbet. Dressing the part a bit does help grease the wheels.

I guess those of us with one foot in each camp (like me and FIREdreamer) try to target the "comfort zone" of those above and beneath us, financially. Probably human nature at whatever level.

Sarah and rec7.. great stories! Thanks!
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Old 04-08-2008, 12:00 PM   #65
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Been there, done that, got past it!
So there is hope for a cure for people like us! But I must say that despite a few embarrassing situations, we have never compromised our FIRE ideals (by spending more) to try and fit within the rigid mold imposed by society. So I believe we are on track for recovery! And as you pointed out, I feel the closer we get to FIRE and the easier it's going to be.

But I am struck at how so many people on this board have succeeded in tuning out the outside world's expectations. Maybe it is simply the secret to FIRE!!!!
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Old 04-08-2008, 12:09 PM   #66
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I dressed like a hobo (nearly) when buying my Solara in 2002. I looked the salesman in the eye and told him that I was going to buy a car that day either from him or from the Honda dealer and that I really didn't care which. I got lots of quick, courteous service, too, a low price, and some freebies. Maybe it was just luck, in my case.
Yeah, sure it could work for ya..... Remember, I wasn't going to buy a car that day and just wanted to be accomodated with multiple test drives and tours of service departments........ It's just hypothetical, but I feel in some circumstances it's easier to get what you want if your appearance and mannerisms aren't out of place for the circumstances you're in. On the other hand, sure, you could wind up getting good service and having your requests accomodated sometimes even if you seem very out of place.

It's just the circumstances. When I'm grocery shopping, by my appearance the cashier must be expecting me to pull food stamps out of my wallet! But, the grocery store is not a place where you normally expect more accomodating service by tidying yourself up, so I don't bother. And, believe me, I don't feel humiliated!
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Old 04-08-2008, 12:22 PM   #67
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In the mean time, some people are staring and making fun of us, commenting that people like us (meaning "poor" people) should not buy a TV like that. Some stupid guy in a suburban kept pointing at us and laughing.
i can hardly imagine anyone doing that to anyone else. first i'd check myself to see if it was just my own paranoia. then i'd check my car to find something to throw.

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Another humiliating moment, was last Easter. We were invited at my wife's boss for Easter dinner and they had invited their neighbors too. One of the neighbors told me that the week before he had called the cops on a kid who was collecting money for charity door to door because he drove a Honda Accord 2004 which did not fit in "this kind of neighborhood" (I wish he was kidding but he was not). My wife and I looked at each other wondering if we should go park our jetta out back before he called the cops on us...
maybe i don't understand what you are trying to say with this part of the story but it doesn't sound like a situation to throw food. if the other guest called the cop on the idiot kid, doesn't that mean he has no problem with someone driving a 2004 accord. (as if there ever could be something wrong with a 2004 accord anyway.) sorry, but i don't see the humiliation here. perhaps you are being too self-conscious?
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Old 04-08-2008, 12:29 PM   #68
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...Their "regular" clothes may be modest, but they usually go to pains to keep them clean, ironed, stain- and rip-free.
This keeping-up or maintenance of clothes was big when I was growing up in Manila. My mom and grandma were fussy about clothes being clean, ironed, and in good repair.

When I came to the US, I escaped from all these upkeep tasks because people didn't seem to care--at least the people with whom I associated. Of course, in the 80's at work, dry-clean suits and dresses were the thing but on the weekends, anything was fine. When she first visited me, my mom was a bit aghast about my "sloppiness", and it took her a while to adjust over the next visits to going out without being dressed up.

I used to be embarrassed not about looking poor but about being actually poor. I went to university with kids from rich families, kids whose dads were Supreme Court judges, factory owners, surgeons. We lived in Tondo, known for its slums and gangs. We weren't in the slums but just across the road from our house were squatters in their shanties. I did not fit in at university business school and did not have many friends. Looking back, it wasn't totally snobbishness on the part of my classmates--I was shy and quiet and felt that I had nothing to talk about with them.

Now, I am still poor but I am not embarrassed about it, but of course, I don't know and don't hang around with truly wealthy folks. I suppose I would be intimidated by wealthy people, probably feel a combination of awe and wonder and at the same time would feel judgmental about how much they spend on what I would consider to be non-essential. I don't know if it's related to feudalism, but the culture or at least the family I grew up in was wowed by wealth, most times regardless of how it was obtained or amassed. So I have that in me--the awe--but then I also have the judgment of "they should be using their money more wisely, more charitably", for example, they should be doling it out to me

Like others, I also really like youbet's tip on dressing appropriately to not distract or detract from the purpose of the event or meeting, to dress so one does not stick out, unless one wants to anyway like when going to a party, celebration, or out dancing.
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Old 04-08-2008, 12:30 PM   #69
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The things people assert on this board often amaze me. There is nothing more sure in social life than the fact that others estimate your status in whatever local subculture is most salient, and treat you accordingly.

It is equally sure that this treatment matters to the treatee- he may be acutely aware of discrimination, he may assert force of will and blow it off, he may tell himself that his "indifference" is a sign of his innate superiority-that he is "plain people" full of inner virtue and hidden wealth, not a showy debt ridden consumer, etc. But unless he is not a primate, it matters, deep in a part of his brain that he may not even monitor very well.

These are rationalizations, and they take mental energy. But they are necessary rationalizations, as we must have ways to stay comfortable while living on much less money than others with whom we come into contact, otherwise we wouldn't be able to stay the course and save the money to FIRE, which for most of us is a transendent goal.

This board has various functions, but I believe one of them is to serve as an alternate social group that helps maintain self esteem when we are giving up so many of the usual signs of social status.

I remember a few times as a young father and husband when I realized that I had likely taken this cheap thing too far, and that my farmer ancestors would have been annoyed at me for not putting on a better face when I was able to do so. It can cost your kids, and it can cost your wife, if she is not as fully invested in finally achieving self supported laziness as you are.

Ha
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Old 04-08-2008, 12:45 PM   #70
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i can hardly imagine anyone doing that to anyone else. first i'd check myself to see if it was just my own paranoia. then i'd check my car to find something to throw.



maybe i don't understand what you are trying to say with this part of the story but it doesn't sound like a situation to throw food. if the other guest called the cop on the idiot kid, doesn't that mean he has no problem with someone driving a 2004 accord. (as if there ever could be something wrong with a 2004 accord anyway.) sorry, but i don't see the humiliation here. perhaps you are being too self-conscious?
Wait a minute, checking myself for paranoia.... No not particularly paranoid...

For the second part of the story: A kid was going door to door to collect money for charity (he even had a city license to do so). The guy called the cops on him because he didn't like his car (that's exactly what he told me) and he thought that somebody driving a car like that in his neighborhood must be casing the joint... Am I the only here to be completely outraged by his reaction (I think most people around the dining table were)? Why would you call the kid an idiot by the way? because he was collecting for charity?

So the point was, now my 2001 jetta is parked a stone throw away from his Mcmansion. If he thinks that a 2004 Honda is not good enough for his neighborhood, then when he saw my car he must have thought that the barbarians were descending on his neck of the wood. That's not humiliating, but rather embarrassing to be clearly told that you don't belong in this neighborhood because of the car you drive (even though you know that financially you could easily afford to live there)...
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Old 04-08-2008, 12:47 PM   #71
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The things people assert on this board often amaze me. There is nothing more sure in social life than the fact that others estimate your status in whatever local subculture is most salient, and treat you accordingly.

It is equally sure that this treatment matters to the treatee- he may be acutely aware of discrimination, he may assert force of will and blow it off, he may tell himself that his "indifference" is a sign of his innate superiority-that he is "plain people" full of inner virtue and hidden wealth, not a showy debt ridden consumer, etc. But unless he is not a primate, it matters, deep in a part of his brain that he may not even monitor very well.

These are rationalizations, and they take mental energy. But they are necessary rationalizations, as we must have ways to stay comfortable while living on much less money than others with whom we come into contact, otherwise we wouldn't be able to stay the course and save the money to FIRE, which for most of us is a transendent goal.

This board has various functions, but I believe one of them is to serve as an alternate social group that helps maintain self esteem when we are giving up so many of the usual signs of social status.

I remember a few times as a young father and husband when I realized that I had likely taken this cheap thing too far, and that my farmer ancestors would have been annoyed at me for not putting on a better face when I was able to do so. It can cost your kids, and it can cost your wife, if she is not as fully invested in finally achieving self supported laziness as you are.

Ha
Very well said as usual.
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Old 04-08-2008, 12:54 PM   #72
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Am I the only here to be completely outraged by his reaction (I think most people around the dining table were)? Why would you call the kid an idiot by the way? because he was collecting for charity?
No, I got what you were saying.
The fact that the McMansion owner was judging the kid (who's parents likely got him a throw away car in case he wrecked) while the kid was doing a good deed really shows McMansion's true colors...
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Old 04-08-2008, 12:55 PM   #73
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studies have shown it works and that some people subconsciously are attracted to "lesser" people in order to boost their self-esteem.
interesting because i have a cousin who i know suffers low self-esteem but i never put that together with the types of guys she dates. she's a total fox who dates absolute dogs (the last one being a raging alcoholic). she once told me that she didn't date attractive guys because she didn't like the feeling of being swooned off her feet. (whereas i loved to be swooned and have only dated & partnered with the most magnificant men. swoon away.) she explained it as her method of maintaining control, but the esteem explanation fits better her character.

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said she came in twice a week to buy the chickens--but that she never ate them, she fed them to her dog who seemed to enjoy them for a snack. You know, I just didn't feel all that good after hearing that.
i agree that you should have barked. but what you should have barked reason that would have awoken her to her own insensitivity. some people don't even have to work to wind up with a lot of money. but everyone has to work to wind up with a little class.
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Old 04-08-2008, 12:59 PM   #74
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So the point was, now my 2001 jetta is parked a stone throw away from his Mcmansion. If he thinks that a 2004 Honda is not good enough for his neighborhood, then when he saw my car he must have thought that the barbarians were descending on his neck of the wood. That's not humiliating, but rather embarrassing to be clearly told that you don't belong in this neighborhood because of the car you drive (even though you know that financially you could easily afford to live there)...
In an ideal world, it should be humiliating to HIM, not you!!! He should be embarrassed to make such self-important, superficial judgments. But then he is your wife's boss, not someone that you would necessarily choose as a friend.

One nice thing about FIRE is that I will no longer have any reason to spend time with people that I find distasteful. My world will be my ideal world (at least to whatever extent I can make that happen).
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Old 04-08-2008, 12:59 PM   #75
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Wait a minute, checking myself for paranoia.... No not particularly paranoid...
then i would have thrown something. (you think i am making a scene with this box? you ain't seen nothin' yet.)

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For the second part of the story: A kid was going door to door to collect money for charity (he even had a city license to do so). The guy called the cops on him because he didn't like his car (that's exactly what he told me) and he thought that somebody driving a car like that in his neighborhood must be casing the joint
sorry, i totally missed the point of that story. i thought the kid was collecting money so he could buy a better car and that's why the guy called the cops. but with this clarification, yeah, i'd have started a food fight. like i just said in my prior post, class takes work.
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Old 04-08-2008, 01:06 PM   #76
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In an ideal world, it should be humiliating to HIM, not you!!!.
Yeah I know... He also told my british friend who was at the party that british cuisine was one step up from dog food... I guess he was a jerk...
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Old 04-08-2008, 01:22 PM   #77
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but everyone has to work to wind up with a little class.
A good friend of mine is one of those guys. I'm sure his NW is at least 20X mine, but I took a lot of time & patience to teach him to fly radio control airplanes. We flew in some contests (he built the airplane, I flew it) and won a couple. If I have a structural engineering question he's the guy I call.
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Old 04-08-2008, 01:39 PM   #78
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This board has various functions, but I believe one of them is to serve as an alternate social group that helps maintain self esteem when we are giving up so many of the usual signs of social status.
Ha
Not sure I buy the rest of it, but I think this is pretty accurate.
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Old 04-08-2008, 01:44 PM   #79
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I remember a few times as a young father and husband when I realized that I had likely taken this cheap thing too far, and that my farmer ancestors would have been annoyed at me for not putting on a better face when I was able to do so. It can cost your kids, and it can cost your wife, if she is not as fully invested in finally achieving self supported laziness as you are.
This is a good point, ha. Sometimes what we do can affect our families. Kids especially, like it or not, can be the butt of jokes for what their parents are up to. Some kids are more sensitive than others. Not a good idea to wear your duct-taped shoes and Members Only jacket to the soccer game of your sensititive kid, imho.
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Old 04-08-2008, 02:23 PM   #80
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Not sure I buy the rest of it, but I think this is pretty accurate.
The reason I wholeheartedly agree with Ha is because I see humans as inherently social beings. I think it is in our nature to seek validation and approval from other people, because we desperately want to fit with the rest of the "tribe". Maybe people seeking FIRE are wired differently, I don't know. But could it be that people sign up for this forum because they are seeking approval for their lifestyle choices, choices that are not necessarily understood or condoned by the rest of society? Because they want to fit in a "tribe" sharing their unique values, tribe which they can't find anywhere else?
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