Rich vs. Broke

in The Salon by

The law is an ass, but money is a real bitch. If you think you don’t have enough, money is everything and plays hard to get. If you don’t realize you have too much, then money is nothing but a floozy.

Money is the Great Divider, casting two types of people, two basic sides: there’s rich people, and there’s broke people. And if you think you know which side it’s better to be on, then you don’t know anything about money or what she does to people. That isn’t your fault, because money is also a master distorter.

Money tricks broke people into believing rich people have it good. They don’t, really. Rich people have it easy, but their lives are no better than broke lives. In fact, in a lot of ways, and in a lot of cases, rich lives are worse off.

Rich people, for one, are lonely. Even when a rich person attends a rich-people party (called a soirée or function), a rich person feels alone in the room (or out on the lawn or yacht). That’s because rich people don’t get to be themselves the way broke people do. Rich people have to keep up appearances, doing and saying the appropriate things, eating with the appropriate fork, making the appropriately boring comment or joke. (Notice that appropriate is a rich-people word.) Appearances are relatively inexpensive, but it’s the upkeep that drains most rich people’s money.

Due to the costs, broke people can’t afford to keep up appearances. The broke have very little, which means they have very little to hide or lose. So the people at broke parties are always loud, laughing and dancing till their cheeks and feet are sore. For a broke person, the proper fork is the one in hand, and being boring is never appropriate. In the broke world nothing is appropriate; there is only what feels right and what needs doing. The broke life is much simpler: the only thing broke people have to keep up is their heads above water. Everybody is given complete freedom to be himself when he’s drowning, whether in water or debt.

Besides being spiritually alone, rich people are also physically alone most of the time, or rather geographically alone. Rich people tend to live far out on the edge of town, or up in the hills. Even when they live smack dab in the busiest part of some city, they choose homes way up in the rarefied air, away from all the cars and noise and humanity. The views are spectacular, but only because rich people treat the rest of the world the same way they treat their decor: look but don’t touch. Rich people don’t like to get their hands dirty.

High-rises aside, rich people usually live in gated communities. The main feature of these neighborhoods is their beautiful desolation, well manicured, sure, like an empty golf course. The richer they are, the farther away their houses sit from their neighbors’, and the longer their driveways are, which means not only are their houses far apart from each other, they’re also far away from the street and cars and noise and humanity.

Driving through one of these neighborhoods feels like walking among the mausoleums at a cemetery. There are no kids playing outside, since rich kids have everything they want in their bedrooms (or, typically, playrooms) — unless there’s a trampoline or in-ground pool out back, then they might possibly be outside, maybe.

Adult rich people are never outside unless they’re lounging by said pool, or they gave the landscaper the week off so the rich person can play gardener for a few hours on a Saturday. Most of the time they don’t give the landscaper the week off and just play gardener anyway, wandering around their property in high shorts and wielding a watering can or a pair of hedge clippers. Rarely will you see a rich person on his hands and knees digging around in the dirt because, again, for a rich person, dirtiness is next to ungodliness.

Being rich can get very boring, so when they’re not making more money, rich people like to keep themselves busy by playing gardener, golfing (or worse, watching golf on TV), shopping, or going to a restaurant. If all else fails, there is always liquor and drugs to dim the few waking hours not spent making money. Broke people drink plenty of liquor and take drugs too, of course, but usually to enhance the fun they’re already having.

And broke neighborhoods are nothing like rich neighborhoods, though each is a different kind of prison. Broke people don’t live in houses far away from other people and traffic; they live right on top of and between it all. In a broke neighborhood you’re never more than 20 feet from another person, or a roach. You lie in bed at night listening to their noises seeping through the drywall — the people, I mean: moms yelling, babies crying, kids screaming, TVs blaring, stereos bumping, some stupid toy that needs its batteries ripped out. Then there are all the sounds of the street: the police sirens, the firetrucks, the ice cream trucks, the garbage trucks, the guy on the sidewalk arguing with the girl leaning out a third-floor window, the honking, the car alarm going ballistic for 10 minutes, the bang! that was either a gunshot or a firecracker (but definitely a gunshot) and, if you’re broke in Chicago or New York, the hissing of buses, the metal screeching of trains, the constant cooing of pretentious pigeons muttering to themselves, Ooh, these people live like animals! Such noises would drive a rich person mad. But to a broke person, they’re the soundtrack of his life.

Now most of what I’ve said about rich people applies to them only in general. Remember what I said about money being the Great Divider: not only does it divide the rich from the broke, it also divides the just got rich from the been rich, or what’s commonly termed New Money and Old Money. Because they’re formerly broke people who just got rich, New Money tend to be decent enough folks, betraying only some of the characteristics I’ve outlined, and to a lesser degree. They still remember being broke, and no matter how much money they pile on top of themselves, that broke person is always in them somewhere. A leopard can rock Gucci, jaws to paws, but he can’t change his spots.

Old Money, however — they’re the worst. Born of money, raised by money, surrounded by money all their lives, Old Money are more like aliens than actual earthlings. They practically live on other planets as it is. Depending on your commute, you might spot New Money on a regular basis. But you never cross paths with Old Money, and for good reason: Old Money are born and live their whole lives on paths specifically designed never to cross the paths of broke people. Only on occasion does Old Money even cross paths with New Money, but that’s only thanks to the fact that New Money choose paths with the intended purpose of crossing paths with Old Money as much as possible, upping New Money’s chances of becoming Old Money, which is the real American Dream.

One clear difference between Old Money and New Money is that Old Money tend to live close to their friends and family, who all come from money, whereas New Money only live around other New Money. Sometimes New Money lives near Old Money, if the New Money can afford it, or if the Old Money are on their way down to being broke people. But for Old Money to go broke takes a miracle, usually in the form of bearded revolutionaries.

New Money comes from the broke world, so New Money’s family and real friends (the friends they can be themselves with) tend to live back in the broke world, far away from where New Money has decided to live. New Money might get enough new money to have all his friends and family live close by, and though that’s the dream of New Money, it’s rarely the case. Thus, Old Money isn’t nearly as lonely as New Money. Old Money has old pals, whereas New Money is forced to make new ones.

I’m opposed to money as a general rule, but forced to choose sides, I say out with the Old and in with the New.

Now, you might be wondering how I know so much about money. I’ll tell you how: I come from broke people — from Honduras and Puerto Rico, whose main exports are broke people — but I married New Money.

Not only am I married to New Money, I married her when she was broke, so I got to see her go from broke to New Money. Now we live in a gated community, on the edge of town, up in the hills. We have an in-ground pool and attached hot spa where we lie around like lizards. We even joined a fancy-shmancy country club, which allows me to study rich people up close in their natural habitat. I’m basically the Jane Goodall of rich people. I move in their midst, saying very little, no sudden movements or loud noises, watching, taking notes. It’s all extremely fascinating.

Rich people are so like us, with only a few key traits which make them very different. Like most people, rich people talk about food a lot, but whereas broke people talk about where to find discount meals and their favorite chain restaurants, rich people talk about how the 70-dollar steak they had at Chic Name last weekend tasted better than the 70-dollar steak they had at Italian Word the weekend before. They also say “tartare” a lot and order plates with hollandaise sauce, neither of which broke people have ever even heard of.

The closest broke people come to eating wine and charcuterie on the veranda is lugging a styrofoam cooler packed with Capri Sun and Lunchables to the zoo (the free zoo, not the one with all the animals). Broke people also eat tons of white bread and mayonnaise. If they’re Latino, then it’s tortillas and sour cream. All broke people drink at least a liter of soda per day — Coke or Pepsi, orange or grape Crush, 7 Up for an upset stomach, RC Cola or Nehi if the rent is due. Rich people, on the other hand, eat tons of poached eggs and artichokes, and they mostly drink bottled water, wine or, on the weekends before two, mimosas.

Rich people, especially the young ones, tend to maintain a healthier weight than broke people because it’s easier for rich people to choose what they eat and when. Broke people have to eat whatever, whenever. If a broke person is skinny, it’s because either they’re sick or the struggle got real. If a rich person is skinny, it’s because they’re self-starving, either with keto, paleo, or intermittent fasting. Still, though they rarely have full stomachs, rich people do like the look of a full fridge,  so they buy more groceries than broke people, most of which ends up in the trash unopened.

A rich person’s dog might eat better food in a given day than most broke people glimpse all year. I assume the same goes even more for rich people’s cats, since cats are as notoriously finicky as rich people themselves. A rich person’s cat must be impossible.

Rich people also, especially the young ones, tend to maintain a healthy glow, because it’s easier for rich people to choose when and where the sun hits their skin. They have their swimming pools, like I said, and they can fly to the Caymans for Christmas, allowing them to fine-tune their complexions year-round.

Broke people know no such luxury. After all, most outside jobs are reserved for broke people, and even when a broke person works inside (as a janitor, or teacher), to get to his job he has to walk to the bus stop and wait, and then walk to the train station and wait, and do that twice a day, there and back. Plus broke people don’t go anywhere in the winter: either they can’t afford the ticket or they can’t afford to take a few days off from work, especially around the holidays. (January’s credit card statement won’t pay the monthly minimum toward itself!) This constant exposure to the elements is why broke people tend to have bad skin and look five to 10 years older than their rich peers.

Lastly, I’ve heard it said that broke people fuck better than rich people. I think it’s true, but then again, I’m broke myself, and therefore biased. Still, there’s logic in the theory: if a broke man can’t give a woman an organism, then he can’t give her anything she wants. A rich man might cum early, but he can at least send the lady home with a pair of Louboutins for her trouble. Hence why rich people don’t fuck but have sex, like they have apéritifs before dinner. Fucking is having sex like your life depended on it, like it’s the only great pleasure available to you. A certain degree of desperation is required for fucking, and rich people just aren’t that desperate.

For a broke person, on the other hand, there are no Porsches or speedboats or 70-dollar steaks. All there is, is good friends and fucking. So a broke man gives it everything he has, all his sweat and energy, all his frustrations and fears and doubts. And when it’s all over, and he and his lover are laid out on the futon, for that fleeting but glorious moment he feels like a rich man.

The reason why rich people mostly have sex and don’t fuck is directly related to the reason why rich kids never get good at boxing, MMA, or other contact sports. Why get hit in the face or risk getting CTE when you have a hoverboard?


Featured image: Kevin Dooley/Flickr

Hector is the editor and publisher of Enclave. A Chicago writer now floating on the edge of Las Vegas, he is also the former deputy editor for Latino Rebels, as well as the former managing editor for Gozamos, a Latino art-activism site based in his home town. He has contributed to RedEye, a Chicago daily geared toward millennials, and La Respuesta, a New York-based site for the Puerto Rican Diaspora, plus a number of publications, including The Huffington Post. He studied history (for some reason) at the University of Illinois-Chicago, where his focus was on ethnic relations in the United States.

Leave a Reply

Latest from The Salon

Real Luxury

You can keep your watches, cars and trips to Paris

Carpe Viam

The way you drive is the way you live

Judging New Books

'The Hispanic Fanatic,' a collection of essays by Daniel Cubias, is available
Go to Top