Keeping up with the Jones’s

I had to buy a new car.

It was time. The old one was putting the mechanic’s kids through private school, sucking up money with a straw, and complicating our modern lifestyle by forcing us to have ONLY ONE CAR during random breakdowns and repairs.

Once upon a time I didn’t own a car. I lived for about ten years without a car. I was working at a small nonprofit and living unbelievably close to the bone (I found out later that my salary would have qualified me for food stamps), so I rode the train, the bus or walked. This usually worked just fine and I always managed to cadge rides to and from parties and clubs. Helps that I was living in the inner city at the time. Poor people housing is always on a bus line.

Now its impossible to imagine such a thing. One carless day in my highly regulated suburban life and I am crabby and irritated. The irony is that I live in a neighborhood with a high “walkability score.” This means that I could, if I want, walk to the bank, grocery store, library, restaurants, coffee shops and a movie theater among other locations. And I do sometimes. But of course as a two-parents-working household its not that simple on a weekday. That’s what makes me crabby.

A full schedule of errands to Target, Whole Foods, CVS, grocery store, dry cleaner, shoe repair, hardware store and post office gets jammed into the weekend and is now shared with every other irritated working person trying to get life done on Saturday. Poor me. Middle-class pity party.

The fact is that my life has expanded to expect two cars. Like a can of expanding insulation foam I fill all the time cracks and spill messily over the edges in an effort to “get everything done”. [An aside – Am I the only one incapable of tidy caulking, or is this a universal problem?]

So we bought a car. A new car. Our First New Car ever. While we were in the process it seemed logical, practical, a good investment and we discovered that we could afford it. How about that! And its a great car. Turns out its a “car of the moment” as I see around ten of them in my parking lot everyday now. I really like the car. And it took a whole 14 hours post delivery for me to start weeping secretly and uncontrollably. My husband finally busted me and talked me down a day or so later when he discovered the weeping.

Rather than classic buyer’s remorse that we paid too much or can’t afford it, this was all about jumping from one socio-economic class to another.

“This is not me! I’m not someone who owns a new car!” With a whole lot of – “We are just keeping up with the neighbors, but we’re not really middle class like they are” thrown in – it was a period that my husband now refers to as “The Terrors of Pleasure”.

I got over it and (vaguely) forgave myself for being successful and acknowledged that I am in fact ‘someone who can buy a new car’. I know I will backslide and hear my mothers voice telling me I’m “acting like I think I’m better than everyone else”. But not about the new car. I like my new car.