At the top of the traditional list of things you should try to avoid talking about with family or friends, alongside religion and politics, is money. Wealth and class are some of the most important topics in our lives, but also some of the most taboo. In our first Open Narratives dialogues of Fall 2019, we put those taboos aside and had a discussion on socioeconomic status.
We began by discussing how money was treated in our households growing up. The answers ranged from never discussing it to being completely transparent. The way it was dealt with by our families seemed to shape how we treat it as adults; whether we’re frugal or heavy spenders, smart or impulsive, and if it makes us anxious or not. We also tried to pin down why exactly finance is something people don’t like talking about, and we all agreed that it mainly stemmed from the fear of being judged, either for having too much or too little.
A very interesting portion of our dialogue focused on how money affects who you interact with. We all had similar experiences of meeting friends who were either much more or much less wealthy than us and starting to drift away from them over time. Those that were richer would often go out and do things you couldn’t afford, or in the other direction, we did things that some of our other friends couldn’t afford. We noticed that friend groups often stratified along socioeconomic lines, even if it was entirely unconscious and unintentional.