My friend Leigh was a trust-fund baby. Her future, at least financially, was secured the moment she was born. Leigh's parents originally came from a small, little-known town miles away from any major cities. Neither her mother nor father had ever received formal education; yet in spite of their humble beginnings, Leigh's father had a knack for business and became successful in several manufacturing and properties ventures. He was truly what you would call a self-made man. Leigh's mother was a full-time housewife who stayed home to raise her six children. She was a devoted wife and mother; she was the heart of the family, a motherly figure who kept the whole household going and every one together.
My parents met when they were fifteen. My father was my mother's first boyfriend; my mother was neither my father's first nor last girlfriend. They dated for 8 years (during which my father had already two or three-timed my mother) before they got married.
Marriage didn't stop my father from being a womanizer. He also became addicted to gambling. When he won, he would splurge all the money on expensive watches, cars, and more women. When he lost... more than once my mother had to pack up at a moment's notice because he had gambled our houses away. Although he was never physically abusive towards my mother and me, when he's angry he would smash mirrors or windows until his fists gashed open. He would challenged random men to fight if he caught them talking to my mother. He would drive like crazy to intimidate my mother while I was cradled on the back seat without any car seat.
My mother was so hurt and betrayed by her marriage to my father, that she came to invest her entire life on her studies and career--at first as a way of deflecting the pain, and later, as the only thing she knew how to do.
My father went bankrupt by the time I was five years-old and never recovered, leaving my mother to raise and support me single-handedly. Her experience convinced her to provide me with the best education she could possibly afford, in order for me to one day be financially independent (because as she said, men simply couldn't be trusted). Hence my enrollment in expensive private schools and college. Her hard work was enough to pay the bills, but we couldn't afford anything else or have any savings.
My father's womanizing and gambling ways was a huge reason I was determined to NOT make the same decisions my mother had. And I went straight for the obvious: I would never marry someone like my father. Looks weren't important, financial stability was first and foremost.
It may sound pretty normal coming from an adult looking to settle down, but I was already thinking that way for as far back as I could remember. When I was twelve or thirteen, and my friends were talking about how cute so and so was, what went on in my mind was entirely different. My mind immediately went: "Well, good-looking as he may be, how much money does his family have in the bank? Will it be enough to afford the kind of life that is different from the life I had growing up?"
That was me growing up. It was drilled into my mind that I wasn't going to fall for a mere pretty face the way my mother did for my father. Look at all the good it did her!
So hanging out with Leigh and her wealthy friends suited me just fine. I've adapted to their lifestyle: the way the dressed, the way they talked, they way they perceived things. I've observed details such as the way they held their drinks, their body language, the subtle gestures they made... I no longer felt inferior; I knew how to carry myself among my affluent friends. For some reason I felt safe, like I was exactly where I should be.
Leigh was not only the big sister I never had, but she inadvertently became my ticket to the high society. She taught me the importance of networking, and of "swimming with the big fishes." She taught me how to spot the wolves in a sheep's clothing (i.e. those who pretended to be rich by the cars they drove, the branded clothes they wore, the flashy watches they sported) as opposed to those who were truly, honest-to-God-wealthy. She taught me things my mother never told me, like:
- Most guys just wanted to get into your pants (big surprise there).
- Yes, he's a cutie and an amazing kisser, but seriously, he made you pay for dinner?!?
- Never spend money on a guy more than what he's spent on you.
- Rich, but stingy? NEXT...
- Be careful of whom you dated, because women were always more emotional than men. You might think it was just for fun in the beginning, but then you sleep with him and before you knew it, you had abandoned all common sense.
I didn't think it was ever possible to find someone who could measure up to Leigh's standards. Until I met Ash. He passed all those 'tests' in flying colors. And I fell for him hard. Like oh-my-god-I-can't-breathe hard. The only thing was, did he feel the same way too about me?
(to be continued...)