I

t’s time we stopped beating around the bush and just admitted it.

You’re rich. There’s no need to be apologetic. It’s obvious to anyone who knows your husband that every penny has been earned with honesty and integrity, not to mention general menschlichkeit. Those more in the know are aware of the huge sums the two of you contribute to various good causes, all in a discreet, unassuming fashion. 

Unlike many others spinning in the hamster wheel of the working world, consumed with pursuing more and more money, your husband’s business is secondary to his real goals in life. The proof? The many hours he sets aside daily for uninterrupted learning, and the way both of you staunchly follow daas Torah, in matters large and small.  

So believe me when I say this, because I really mean it: I fargin your wealth and I fargin your purchases, even those I can’t afford. Please don’t feel a need to farenfer yourself all the time and prove to me that your kids are not spoiled. Wealth comes with plenty of strings attached, so you might as well enjoy the perks without feeling guilty. 

Being well-off also creates an inevitable status. No matter what you say or do, you’re bound to be under public scrutiny. I’m sure it feels lonely up on that pedestal, but saying “Forty dollars is a lot of money!” and other equally laughable statements is not going to bridge the divide. Especially if you’re clutching an exclusive designer purse while saying them. Friendships are rooted in honesty, and false pretenses make our bond difficult to maintain.  

Such statements are also an insult to my intelligence. Do you think me so naive to imagine that we belong to the same tax bracket? Nobody enjoys being patronized.

I realize this comes from a good place — you don’t want to make others feel inferior and you desperately want to fit in. And you really do try to keep a low profile; by no means do you indulge in every luxury your budget allows. Please understand, though, that just as you struggle with the inevitable side effects of wealth, the rest of us struggle to balance the books. 

When you gripe about the rising costs of making (an obviously high-end) Yom Tov, you belittle my struggles to stay within a far more modest budget. Your Yom Tov might cost more, but we both know who will really feel the pinch.

We should not claim to understand your nisayon, but neither should you claim to understand ours. There are plenty of areas where our challenges truly overlap, but still, let’s not pretend this is always the case.

Just to be clear — I’m not asking you to stop sharing your troubles with me. I’m happy to offer a listening ear and be your sounding board as you navigate the demands and pressures of your life. I’m your friend, after all. There is a fine line between sympathy and empathy and sometimes our challenge is to realize that.

So, go ahead and live your life. If you’re discreet, there’s no need for guilt. I am truly happy for you.

Sincerely,

Your friend,

Mrs. Paycheck-to-Paycheck

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 610)