Last week, we saw the following tweet and got a little inspired:
My wife grew up thinking that having water/ice dispensers IN THE FRIDGE DOOR was a life goal.
I grew up thinking if you had a basketball hoop with a clear/plexiglass backboard, you were rich.
What are some things you thought were indicators of wealth when you were a kid?
— connectpoliticditto (@cpoliticditto) June 27, 2020
So we asked our staff to answer based on their own experiences. What are some of the status symbols you thought were indicators of wealth when you were a kid? Got your own ideas? Give us a shout on Twitter @thepromptmag.
As far as kid-wealth went, nothing mattered more than the size of your Nintendo library. Adjusted for inflation, the average video game back in the late 80s would cost close to $100 in today’s dollars. And it took several years before a video game title might go on sale, with no guarantee it ever would. This meant that most of us had to make do with getting a game for Christmas, then playing it into the ground for the majority of the subsequent year. Having more than 10 or so titles to your name made you the playground equivalent of Monopoly’s Mr. Moneybags. Keep that in mind the next time you’re on the crapper and thumbing through the virtually infinite library of free games in the app store.
When I was younger, my envious nature came out in full force in the summer months. You see, what I wanted was a backyard pool. Not one of the tiny kiddy pools, or one of the rectangular two-feet tall ones, or even one that was in-ground. I wanted a blow-up Intex four-foot tall pool with ladder and filtration system, like the ones the cool kids in town splished and splashed in. It was exercise and refreshing! Who wouldn’t want that?
A year later, a sale price in a superstore ad landed the pool in our backyard. My whole family took to it, and most days in the summer, I could be found lounging on a raft, or doing very short laps. But, as the years passed, I got taller and my sisters and I got older, and we used it less and less. One day, my dad, sick of the upkeep and our grass dying, decided to drag it out of the garage mid-rummage sale, and price it at $20 dollars. It was quickly snatched up, and with it went our summer reprieve. Now with even hotter summers, I look with envy on those who have the pools, and long for ours.
I was 12 years old, and I had encountered the height of luxury.
It’s definitely not what you’re expecting. To a 12 year-old, certain things are irrelevant. We didn’t know about property values or realtor assessments or tax brackets. None of our parents were so wealthy that it would be visible to an adult’s eye. Our entire community was either lower or lower-middle class, with very few exceptions. Again, none of us knew of these things as kids. We only knew what we could see and feel.
That is why, when my friend Irina first invited us all over for a sleepover, we were unanimously dumbfounded.
Irina lived in an old house with hardwood floors and those intricate, fancy air vent covers, and a narrow staircase leading to the second floor. None of this mattered to us, of course, because we were all transfixed by one thing: her parents’ waterbed.
I remember we flopped around on it, and I made it a goal of mine to own one as a way to prove I had ‘made it’ in the adult world. I thought, Surely every wealthy person owns one of these, so I will too!.
Then one day, Irina reported the bed had broken and made a terrible mess of the place, and that was the end of that.
There were few things I envied more when I was a kid than families who owned a trampoline.
Having a trampoline was a status symbol, the Birkin bag of the playground. There was nothing more exotic than going to a friend’s house and jumping on one, giggling and shrieking with joy for hours, forgetting for that brief time your own backyard comprised of crab grass and boring, un-bouncy dirt.
It behooved you to keep in the good graces of the kid with the trampoline. Even if he sucked at football, you’d better pick him for your team at recess, because you never knew when he might slide a trampoline invite your way.
Childhood opulence was a well stocked snack cabinet, three rows of seating in a family car, but most of all, PREMIUM TV CHANNELS. I’m not just talking about the regular cable packages, but the extra stuff. The stuff my mom and dad wouldn’t spring for. The HBOs and Cinemaxes. Hell, I remember a time when Comedy Central wasn’t on basic cable. Having a buddy with movie channels was like being friends with a movie theater!
There was no greater childhood status symbol than a backyard swing set. Bonus points if it was made out of wood and had little castle-like outposts and other good places to hide in for hide-and-seek. I would say treehouses would be a close second, but I didn’t know anyone who actually had a treehouse until my dad and uncle built a “tree fort” for my sister and me. Yes, it had a password. No, I won’t tell you.
My paternal grandfather grew up in the Bronx and then built a successful industrial dry cleaning business. He was the wealthy one in the family and spent a lot of money on tacky “old world” Italian sculptures and the like. He also favored Mercedes Benz. But what made him truly rich to me was, well, his cash. He refused to use a wallet and instead chose to wrap a thick wad of bills in an old rubber band. “Always have cash to buy what you want,” he admonished me and my little sister. Cash, kids. That’s wealth.
My signifier of living well was pretty simple, and clearly stems from growing up in a small ranch-stye house. Multi-level homes always made me feel like the occupants were living the good life, and I was some Oliver Twist urchin. If your home had two floors, you’d better not complain around me.
There were houses on my street that, from the outside, looked like mine, but had a basement inside. Had my parents been duped by some evil realtor? What had we done to deserve this single-story fate? Being at a friends house and going up or downstairs gave me a brief taste of the escape changing floors could offer. One floor is bad enough, but I certainly didn’t need the salt on the wound that came when, on two separate occasions, I was gifted a slinky, an unimpressive toy in the best of circumstances rendered useless by the lack of stairs in my home.
There were few things I truly envied growing up, I made the best with what I had but the one thing that I longed for was a big backyard. When I was younger I always had my nose in a book, in my free time, on road trips, even in school when I should have been paying attention to the teacher. I was reading stories of kids going on great adventures, putting their lives on the line to save the world and there was part of me that longed to do the same or at least pretend too. There was only one problem, my yard was maybe 10 feet long and that didn’t seem like much of a world to save.