I am frivolous, and I resent the fact that I am. This early afternoon, as I was contemplating ways to make a box of macaroni and cheese stretch as far as it possibly could, I thought of my mother, the meals she used to cook for my brother and me, how filling they were, how completely unfrivolous she has always been. Mama used to stretch a box of dollar store mac and cheese into a full meal on a regular basis when Jeffrey and I were little boys. Boiled elbow noodles and powdered cheese sauce mixed with chopped hot dog or browned and drained ground beef, a can of mixed vegetables. Dinner was served, and god, was it filling. We were never hungry little boys.
Thursday nights we always ate canned chili and store brand hot dogs, red and boiled, on light bread and Fritos. In the winter, lots of beef stew and peanut butter sandwich dinners, pinto beans and corn bread. Skillets of fried Spam and potatoes. I never ate anywhere besides home and my grandmothers' houses, and they ate like we did. I thought everyone did.
I was shocked this weekend spent at a cabin in Pigeon Forge with six of my closest friends when I saw the food they all brought. Ashley and his salmon fillets, peeled and de-veined shrimp. Jeremy and his expensive cheeses, Parmesan not from a green sprinkle can. Virginia's wheel of brie. These things I'd never dream of buying.
Even when I can afford higher-end groceries, I often don't buy them. It's class guilt, I think. Experience has taught me that things like expensive food (or weekend cabin trips for that matter) are frivolous. Money is better spent elsewhere, like on unexpected doctor's visits and prescriptions. Last minute car repairs. And I'm the king of unexpected crises of those varieties. Every damn time I reach for the non-off brand whathaveyou at Kroger, I hear Mama's voice, the voices of my aunts and grandmothers, back and back and back, telling me to think, to plan, to save my pennies here to pay on the dollars I'll have to spend later. And I listen, do as I'm told, and I always seem to have the money for those unexpected things, though I worry that might change with the current state of the economy. But that's a different blog post.
The point is, I can't spend a dime of my hard earned money without toiling over it. I can't have a meal at a restaurant without calculating what sacrifices I'll have to make at home for the rest of the week to make up for exorbitant spending or buy a tank of gas without contemplating canceling my cable service. I know what my means are, and I hate living beyond them. That's the cardinal sin of salt of the earth, lower-middle class people, my people. So, I feel badly for going on a weekend getaway when I should be saving for the unexpected. When I remember how when I was little, Mama was always on a diet, because she was conscious of her weight, but also because she wanted to make sure her husband and two boys had enough to eat. I was raised on my mother's small portions, her practicality. I worry I'll never be as unfrivolous as she is.