Naturally, the subject of work came up. I confided that the day before I'd heard someone (who would know) mention that the school secretary makes $***** per year. This is the secretary whose job our new principal asked me if I was interested in, set up a time to meet with me and talk about it, and then hired the day before our interview. I'd gotten over not being given a chance at the job, but then when I found out what a huge increase in salary it would have been for me, I got mad all over again. It felt good to vent to a friend about it.
But then, in the course of the conversation I mentioned how much of a difference making almost double my current salary would make in my life. My friend stared at me for a few seconds with something like astonishment (and horror) written all over her face and then exclaimed, "You mean you only make $***** a year?!" Um....yes.
She sat looking at me for a few more seconds, made a few halfhearted suggestions about asking for a raise, and then completely changed the subject. She spent the next 20 minutes or so talking about her upcoming trip to Mexico (her third international trip in less than two years). I finally interrupted to say we'd better start on our walk if we were going to get one that day. I didn't feel like listening to her talk anymore right then.
I'll be honest, the whole exchange stung a little bit. I know she didn't mean to hurt my feelings; she was just too surprised to be tactful. But here's the thing: wouldn't a real friend understand without being told that a school attendance clerk makes a whole lot less money than a university faculty member? And she's married to an engineer, to boot! It's hard to believe she's never noticed the difference in our lifestyles, but she does tend to be a bit self-absorbed. Well intentioned, but self-absorbed.
I also know I'm a bit over sensitive where money is concerned. I grew up poor, and as a kid it embarrassed me. I guess that's what triggered the small wave of shame I felt when she acted so shocked that I don't make more money. I'm approaching 50 years old and I'm still dealing with emotional issues from my childhood, which seems ridiculous. Does it ever end?