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The 5 Stupidest Habits You Develop Growing Up Poor (Part 2)

#2. You Become Hyper Aware of Fashion and Brand Names

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When You're Poor ...

When I was a kid, Rustler was the bottom-of-the-barrel jeans all the poor kids wore. They were as cheap as a necrophiliac date and virtually fell apart after a couple of weeks. Shoes were worse. You could spot a pair of generic Walmart shoes from down the block, and if you wore that shit to school, you were made fun of. Even if it was indirectly -- overhearing people making jokes about buying some clothes at Walmart and going to the Halloween party as a welfare mom.

Since clothes shopping only happened after a tax refund, you made the most of it and learned to find the knockoff brands that most closely resembled the real thing. It was never a case of being a slave to the latest fad. It was a means of protecting yourself from that soul-piercing shame asshole school kids love to dish out.

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"Here's your lunch, you Rustler-wearing bitch!"

If you ever go to my Twitter and see me reminiscing about the grunge era, that's why. I was never happier than when I found out that my entire wardrobe was suddenly 10 times cooler than anything the rich kids were wearing.

Once You Escape ...

Even if the frequency of clothes shopping stays the same (that is to say, rare), you jump at the chance to buy cool stuff. Cheap, shitty clothes stick out like a flashing neon sign that says "ASSHOLE," and you avoid that shit like the plague. I have three kids, and when I take them shopping, I have to remember to not impose those old habits on them. Because I remember being made fun of and feeling that constant shame, the parent part of me wants to protect them from that and buy them nothing but expensive name-brand stuff.

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"I hate you. So very much."

When they find a shirt or something that they really like, if it happens to be cheap, I have to force myself to buy it, despite the alarms going off in my head that make me scream "Noooooooooo" like Darth Vader and run away, kicking over bins of Rustlers in a rampage.

I guess the middle ground that's so hard to find when you have this hang-up is remembering that it's best for the kids to dress how they want to dress -- not how they're forced to dress. I just have to do it while teaching them the difference between quality and crap along the way.

#1. You Develop an Irrational Hatred of Rich People

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When You're Poor ...

Let me say right off that this has little to do with jealousy. Yes, jealousy can play a big part in irrational things like hatred, but that's not the interesting part to me. When you grow up poor, you start seeing nice clothes, expensive cars, and big houses as public displays of bragging. Little trophies that say, "I'm better than you, and here's physical proof. So suck it, poor people."

One of the first things your mind jumps to is a financial comparison. You think about how little money you're surviving on and then stamp rich people with the label of frivolous, greedy assholes who buy things they don't need for way too much money just to rub it in other people's faces.

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"Oh, dear, your Rustlers are just to die for!"

It's not that you necessarily want what they have ... it's that you resent them for having it.

Once You Escape ...

As you make more money, you find that you require more things in order to live comfortably. For instance, I work from home, so I need a bigger house that supports an office. I have a computer chair that cost more than my first car, not because I'm a computer chair snob, but because I'm 6' 3", I sit in a computer chair for up to 20 hours a day, and I have chronic back problems. I needed one that wouldn't leave me a hunched-over mess when I stood up.

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That's me.

You realize that more-expensive shoes generally last a lot longer than the cheap knockoffs, so it makes more sense to pay more for longer use. You get tired of shitty cars that break down one year after buying them, so you spend more for one that doesn't have a sock as a gas cap. You get a better understanding of why some rich people have what they have, but that underlying bigotry still lingers around.

For instance, I can't stand red carpet events. And when I say "can't stand," I mean I actually get angry when I see that huge line of limos dropping off people who are wearing outfits that cost more than my house. It makes me want to punch them all in the crotch until their children smell like knuckles. I fly into a shaking rage when I hear reporters ask stupid fucking questions like "Who are you wearing tonight?"

I wish I didn't feel that way because I know it's not rational, and I have no business even giving a shit. But it still lingers around like a broccoli fart stuck in a couch cushion, and every time I sit down ... I apologize for where that analogy was going.

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I fucking said I'm sorry! Let it go!

I guess the point is that all of these things are learned behaviors, and with some practice and devotion, they can be unlearned. And unless you've lived it, I'm sure it sounds like borderline insanity. Maybe it is, but I know there's a lot more people than just me who have gone through it, and we wouldn't relive it if you threatened to pierce our nipples with a crossbow.


John is an editor and columnist right here at Cracked, with a new article every Thursday. You can also find him on Twitter and Facebook.

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