My friends’ tendencies with money fascinate me. I’ve noticed a very distinct pattern with those who grew up with money and those who grew up without. My whole life I’ve known the latter pattern – when you cover someone’s meal or smoothie or movie or what have you, you tell them not to worry about it. More recently I’ve come into many, beautiful friendships with people who’s families didn’t necessarily worry much about money, and the interactions are different; arrangements are always made to square up later. Is it because they grew up with families who taught them about handling money? Are people from more humble beginnings more generous or do they expect the favor to be returned? I have no idea! Maybe it’s as simple as being the method we’ve always known and follow like muscle memory. I prefer the model of squaring up. Being covered by friends without expecting repayment has always felt very uncomfortable to me. Maybe it’s a pride thing. My mom [very explicitly] raised me to be independent and self-reliant. Granted, that lesson comes with some serious drawbacks but that is another issue entirely. Whatever the reason, accepting these financial favors feels like indebtedness, which is decidedly uncomfortable.
I spent this past weekend in Colorado, visiting an old friend along with Alexis. Our friend covered us for several meals and kept saying “don’t worry about it.” True, Alexis and I work for nonprofits and make just enough to get by in San Francisco. Roberto just got promoted and certainly makes significantly more than Alexis and I make combined. There’s something almost patronizing about the offer though right? We shouldn’t be taking trips that we can’t afford. We are grown-up enough to budget our extracurriculars. We expressed our need to spend as little as possible at the start of the trip. My friends who were raised with money would have responded to this by suggesting we get groceries for the weekend to avoid overspending on restaurant meals. Roberto instead offered to cover our meals at nice spots that he wanted us to experience. That’s very generous, but I think also inconsiderate. I don’t say that I prefer more casual meals with friends because I want to appear humble; I say what I mean and it’s frustrating when my word is not taken for what it is. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the generosity and kindness inherent in his offers. Anywho, I just think the difference between the two groups, and my knee-jerk internal responses to each of them, is interesting.