DEAR ABBY: The letter from "Embarrassed in Ohio" (May 28), who lives in an affluent suburb and is ashamed for her daughter's friends to see her house and cars, hit home with me. We also live in a community where we can't keep up. We're in an apartment, while most of my children's friends live in beautiful homes with big yards. My husband and I both grew up with more than what we're able to provide our children.
Abby, your response made some excellent points, but I don't think you fully understand what it's like to live this way. We're the underdogs in a snooty community. Re-evaluating priorities and working on self-esteem are important. But they do not negate how we feel when our kids ask, "Why don't we have a yard like everyone else?" Or when the PTA moms snub us because of where we live.
I am thankful for my life, my loving husband and my beautiful, healthy children. I left a career to be a stay-at-home mom. The house a person lives in shouldn't matter, but the unfortunate reality is that, in our society, it does.
— "GETS IT" IN THE 'BURBS
DEAR GETS IT: I appreciate your sincere comments. The response to "Embarrassed's" letter was varied, and many of the writers expressed different views from yours. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I grew up in a nice, middle-class neighborhood. My best friend, her three siblings and their single mom lived in a "dumpy" little house in a poor section of town. Abby, I LOVED going there and experiencing the feeling of family they gave me.
I had some of the best times of my life in that tiny house. There was always home-cooked food, warm conversation, and I was always welcome. As a young teen, I felt my opinions were valued there. Frankly, it was more of a home than my own house was.
— HALLY IN LONG BEACH
DEAR ABBY: We were the poor folks in the rich part of town. But do you know where all the neighbor kids wanted to play? At our house. My friends were jealous because I had parents who were there to talk to us and supervise. Our birthday parties didn't have clowns, ponies or caterers, but everyone loved our homemade cake, hot dogs, balloons and backyard games.
We had fun, and no one had to worry about what others thought. Sure, there were some snobs. But their kids wanted to be our friends. "Embarrassed" should relax, enjoy her family and stop worrying so much about appearances. Appearances can be deceiving.
— POORER, BUT RICHER
DEAR ABBY: My husband, children and I are fortunate to have a beautiful home and luxury cars. "Embarrassed" should know that many of us do not judge others by their material possessions, but rather for who they are inside. I encourage my kids to go to any of their friends' homes, as long as there is responsible adult supervision and similar values.
"Embarrassed": Show pride in what you have and keep things clean and tidy. If there's an issue with some of the other parents, then why associate with elitist snobs?
— MARIE IN OREGON
DEAR ABBY: I also began to feel discontented with my home and "things." Then I volunteered at a soup kitchen. It changed my attitude to one of gratitude. I suggest that "Embarrassed" donate some time to help those less fortunate. It'll do wonders for her perspective.
— LOVES LIFE IN COPAKE, N.Y.
DEAR ABBY: We raised five children on my husband's salary as a teacher and lived in an upscale community. One day, when my 8-year-old had a friend over, I began to wash the kitchen floor. The little girl stood there watching with interest and said, "Our maid does that!" I replied, "Honey, I AM the maid!" It never hurts to give someone a reality check.
— MARILYN IN GROSSE POINTE
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.