A Question of Class

Well if Johnny Depp wants to live in a fairy tale castle then Johnny Depp jolly well gets to live in a fairy tale castle.

If Johnny Depp wants to live in a fairytale castle then Johnny Depp jolly well gets to live in a fairytale castle.

“If you became rich and/or famous would you live in Malibu?”

My sister and I were driving back from San Diego. It was late and it was dark and we had spent the entire day immersed in sensory overstimulation at the San Diego Comic Con so I was making conversation to keep both of us awake. 

“No, it’s cold and grey and they have a lot of wildfires.”

We agreed on this, at least. 

“What about Beverly Hills or someplace like that?” I asked. I had been thinking about status neighborhoods a lot lately: I’d stumbled across an article about the homes of the rich and famous in Malibu and Bel Air and Beverly Hills and Brentwood and the Hollywood Hills. Some, like Johnny Depp’s castle or the Spelling estate of them were indisputably mansions. Others, like the final home of Marilyn Monroe were surprisingly sedate. It made me wonder if this was a matter of personality or of culture. It made me wonder what made for such a vast range.

“Beverly Hills, maybe. It would be nice to be close to work.” She was referring to her fiance’s work since her own employment was largely freelance. 

“You’d want to live in a fancy neighborhood?”

“Yeah I wouldn’t mind. Why, where would you live?”

I told her, jokingly, the same town where I was living now. 

“Really?” Her tone was skeptical. 

“Why not?” I said. “It would be nice to be the richest person in town.”

“Yeah, but…”

I couldn’t really blame her: there is nothing glamorous about where I live. It’s nice and it is average. It’s the kind of place where you either live your entire life or you quickly outgrow and never return. 

“You wouldn’t want to live around… you know… other rich folks?”

We delicately danced around a question of class for a while as we tried to define that this actually meant not surrounded by poor people without actually saying so. It was an uncomfortable question: the question of choosing how to frame your own, (in our case, hypothetical) success and wealth. 

“Wouldn’t you want to live around people who were more like you?” She asked. 

“More like me how? Rich like me? Why wouldn’t I want to live around the people who were around me before I was wealthy who I got to know and be friends with even though I didn’t have any money?”

“I don’t know- if you could live anywhere why not choose the nicest place to live?”

It was a good point: having money also meant having opportunities and choosing not to take an opportunity walked a fine line between being independent and Not Living Up To Your Potential. 

“I’m not sure that where you live is that valuable to who you are as a person.” I tried to explain. “I don’t think that I become an intrinsically better person just because I live in a rich neighborhood so really why would I want to move someplace just because other rich folks live there?”

“Well, it is also about the company that you keep. If you live in a nicer area the people are likely to also be successful, well educated, maybe even better off than you.”

“So it would be like surrounding myself with aspirational people: people I aspired to be like?”

“Well, yeah.”

“Wouldn’t it be just as good to be the person that other people aspired to be like?” That sounded fat-headed when I said it out loud so I tried to amend myself: “I mean, if I’m a hundred-million-dollaraire and I surrounded myself with other hundred-million-dollaraires it would be great to have other people like me around me, but wouldn’t it be really easy to lose touch with reality that way? Wouldn’t it be…. (wise/smart/prudent) healthy to be around average people?”

“You mean to keep you grounded?”

“Yeah. That’s the word- grounded.”

We were interrupted by the GPS around this point and never actually finished the discussion, but it stuck in mind. I was surprised to discover that we had such different philosophies on the importance of neighborhood and was a little surprised, pleasantly, to have such a different opinion come in the form of my sister so I could bounce thoughts off of her without it turning into a fight. 

~ by Gwydhar Gebien on July 23, 2013.

2 Responses to “A Question of Class”

  1. That’s what I’m here for, feel free to bounce ideas off me anytime…and come visit me in my Calbasas gated community in your Lexus 😉

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