Lately I've been getting the house bug again. This usually happens when my husband applies for a new job and it turns my world upside down. You see, I'm quite happy in the town we currently live in, but it's relatively small. I'm more than happy with that but my artistic husband would love to someday return to the large city we grew up in where he would have much more opportunity.
In order to get there though (and I would happily go there as well) he needs to get some more experience. It's possible he could land a job in that large city directly from his current gig, but it's more likely that we'll move to a moderately big city where he'll get a ton of great opportunities and experience necessary to make the final leap.
So whenever he applies to jobs in these moderately big cities (and he recently did, he's currently waiting to hear back) I start looking at houses in the area we grew up. The great news is that the town we grew up in has one of the best public school systems in the country, has low property taxes, low crime, and is very near to the church I've attended all my life. It also has gorgeous homes built in all eras. My favorite happen to be those built in the '20's and '30's that have immaculate detailing and charm. Those kinds of homes simply don't exist where I live and so I find myself getting excited about my husband's possible new job and the opportunity to one day raise our family in one of these classic homes.
The neighborhood I primarily peruse is called the "Old Country Club" area. There homes start at around $650,000 but to get one that has been updated and has a bit of space you're looking at around $800,000 and could easily go over one million. These homes look so perfect sitting on their manicured lawn, lining streets with mature oaks and sidewalks, and I find myself downright drooling.
When I picture us living there I imagine wearing flowing dresses and high heels, furnishing our home with plush furniture that one might see on Downtown Abbey, and sipping wine while eating aged cheeses. For some reason I seem to associate wealth with sophistication and it got me wondering why we associate wealth with sophistication.
The television show Frasier is filled with examples of this kind of thinking. Frasier and his brother Niles are intellectuals who want nothing more than to be seen as sophisticated. They are each experts in wine, fine art, opera, books, clothing and furniture. They are constantly trying to keep up with one another whether it's cars, suits, or brandy.
It's very interesting because their type of "keeping of with the Joneses" isn't quite as revolting as the typical American family with a McMansion, 4 cars, a boat, 2 jet skis, and more clothes, video games, and toys than they know what to do with. But still, spending money in order to look sophisticated is just one side of the same coin. Frasier lives in a rather small apartment he shares with his father and housekeeper, but he has season tickets to the opera, spends lavish amounts on rare books, and drives a Mercedes. His life is not one of shear excess of possessions, but it is one of excess all the same.
And I find that I struggle with this feeling myself. Out of insecurity I want to seem more sophisticated than anything. I've never really felt "understood" within my extended family. The women my age care about highlights and trashy TV, and wearing the latest clothing trends, and I have always felt hopelessly uncool by comparison. I have always been the bookish, slightly awkward, introvert of the family, and while I know my family loves me, I've always felt more comfortable around those with similar interests.
And so I dream of one day living in a charming older house, wearing my high heels, reading classic literature, and finally feeling like a grown up woman (that will happen someday, right)? I feel that it would be immediately apparent to anyone that stumbles into my home that I am sophisticated, and while bookish and introverted, I indeed have knowledge of some of life's finer things. All of a sudden my quirks and idiosyncrasies would be charming, and my lack of knowledge around those "Real Housewives of whatever" would fade into the distance.
But the truth is that I'd still be the same person. I'd still want to watch Breaking Bad and eat pizza with my husband on Friday night instead of going to the ballet. I'd still feel awkward at times with my family, and simply living in a fancy house with fancy furniture wouldn't change that.
And the fact is that even in our little house and used cars, we may have more wealth than many people living a more "sophisticated" lifestyle than us. The bottom line is that wealth simply doesn't equate to sophistication (look at Paris Hilton) and trying to appear so is simply another form of keeping up with the more haughty of the Joneses.