No one knew the real cost of our parents’ competition. I hid it too well under financial success. All the things Americans begin dreaming of doing in their 30’s, I did in my twenties. I had three degrees, a prestigious law firm job and absolutely no school debt. Danny had a kush job at Apple. We were self-made millionaires by the time we were twenty-six. Our money made money.
I had all the things. I had a pure bred dog. And a piano and artwork and real furniture (that I didn’t have to assemble from a box) to fill a giant house we’d bought just because we decided that our first house wasn’t befitting of our status. I had hand cut, monogrammed stationary for every occasion. I had South Sea pearls so big you could choke on them. My
haircuts alone cost more than most people’s mortgage interest payments.
I planned couples’ vacations to Europe and the beach in Mexico. I threw exclusive dinner parties and themed soirées and crepe brunches. I arranged flowers. I had thoughtful gifts delivered to friends. I shopped for event gowns at Bergdorf’s in New York and cashmere twin sets at Marks and Sparks in London. My jeans came from Fred Segal in Santa Monica. My shoes from Brazil and Argentina. I was in the Junior League.
I made donations to all the right charities. I knew about wine. I pronounced things in the language they were meant to be pronounced. I had a personal trainer. I upgraded to first class. To silly places like Los Angeles. Just because. I spent my time in Half Moon Bay and Carmel while Danny worked in the Valley. I got Botox and laser hair removal. I attended a White House Gala in recognition for my volunteer work on the health care campaign, where I met Barack and Michelle and Sonia and JLo and Kumar…of White Castle fame.
I never checked my bank account balance. I didn’t even know my account number. I had a black credit card just in case I felt like buying a G Class Mercedes on a whim. And if I couldn’t afford it, I could always call a friend. Learjet to San Diego? Little yacht for the Gulf of California? Big yacht for Ibiza? Nothing was out of reach.
I lived a life of conspicuous consumption that put my law school friends’ lives to shame. I was the envy of a lot of people. And it gave me no small amount of thrill to know it. To the outside world, Danny and I were the paragon of American success. But on the inside, I was the oldest 31-year old you’d ever met.
Precocity is a quality that comes at a price. And I was suffocating under the weight of that debt. When the collector came a-calling, and it always does, it was in the form of bipolar disorder, and the mind-numbing, spirit-crushing drugs that followed shortly thereafter.