As I walked around the brand new apartment of a mutual friend whose housewarming party had been dragged to me, I watched everything of the “Congratulations!” exposed cards.
Partygoers gushed over the host of her chic new digs and celebrated her “exciting move up the property ladder.”
“It’s been so stressful,” he told the fan circle, “but I can’t believe I finally own my first place.”
I remained silent, knowing he’d had a “helping hand” – and I wasn’t going to congratulate someone on receiving the biggest amount of pocket money I’d ever heard of.
Throughout my twenties, I heard over and over again people around me announce that they had bought their first home.
I attended the housewarming parties that followed and listened to how they shared shopping difficulties and stories of how they dragged themselves up the property ladder.
“It’s not easy”, they told me emphatically, “but you will get there too”.
At first, I couldn’t understand it. How did these people, who in some cases were earning less than me, suddenly buy a property? Every few weeks, photos of their lavish overseas trips or expensive dinner parties flooded my Instagram timeline.
I was saving and saving – but somewhere along the line I assumed I was just being irresponsible with the money. After all, they had bought an apartment without caring and still managed to enjoy all this luxury.
And then one evening, after drinking a few bottles of wine in a new owner’s apartment, I asked outright how long it took them to save up for their deposit. How the hell was I not making the same progress as them?
Awkwardness erupted around the table and no one met my gaze – I’ve always been outspoken about money (growing up with lack tends to make you less aware of the taboo to talk about it) but the host looked deeply uncomfortable.
“Well, I mean, my parents paid for it,” they stuttered, “but like, this is my house, you know? I still pay my mortgage every month and it’s really hard.
I’ve always been hyper-aware of my working-class roots – I started my first part-time job at 12 and while my friends were handed £20 net notes on a Friday afternoon by their parents with no questions asked, I opened my envelope containing my humble £4 an hour salary from the previous weekend.
In college, I worked two jobs alongside full-time studies in order to pay my rent while I watched my peers leave for unpaid internships without worrying about how they could make ends meet while accepting free work in the creative industries during ‘experiment’ – after all, their rent was paid for them by mum and dad’s bank.
Now, with my 30th birthday looming, the new iteration of this is property. For me, after almost three decades of listening to middle-class people faking hardship in an effort to appear to understand the situation of working-class people, this was a breaking point.
To be clear, I really couldn’t say less if your parents paid your £40,000 lump sum deposit and got you up the property ladder – but please don’t pretend you have had trouble getting there.
You don’t know what it’s like to have no choice but to accept that you may not make it for five, 10, 15 years or maybe never – while sacrificing a holiday , outings, shopping and more to store even a tiny amount of money.
You wouldn’t tell someone who has climbed Kilimanjaro that you had the same experience because you climbed Hampstead Heath.
At first, I couldn’t understand it. How did these people, who in some cases were earning less than me, suddenly buy a property?
Wealthy friends in a group need to start being honest about where their money is coming from. Having wealthy parents to rely on not only gives someone the ability to buy their first home, it allows them to take risks that their working-class friends cannot afford.
Sabbatical year? Let’s go. Studying without needing a job to support it? Looks like you’re going to have plenty of time to focus on getting that top grade. Changing careers overnight? It’s fine if it all falls apart.
Especially if you have your own property to lean on, right? Oh, but you still have to pay your mortgage. My heart bleeds – at least that monthly payment gives you something of your own at the end of it all instead of lining a landlord’s pockets. It is not the same.
I have friends who are very open about how they got into property and honestly that validates my own journey. There’s no deception, no pretense that they know what it’s like to come from a working class background and by acknowledging their privilege they also recognize how hard I work.
Accepting your privilege is not supposed to be comfortable and no one will give you a medal for being open about the fact that you only own your property because your parents gave you a huge amount of money.
To be honest, yes, you’ve had a serious helping hand in life, that’s the bare minimum.
However, it will let your friends who don’t have the same access to parental support as you know that this is the real reason for your sudden “success”.
It’s not that you’ve worked harder than them, you haven’t cracked the code of how to juggle all of life’s demands and build a career and somehow offer you a property – hard truths, right?
Admitting you had help doesn’t mean you’re suddenly going to be struck by working-class lightning and we’re all going to call you a spoiled brat – some people have an advantage in life, and I think the least all you can do is be honest about yours.
The truth is…
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