Can a Mercedes Drive Away the Corolla from My Past?
childhood wounds run deep
Recently an online bullshit detector, combined with the magical words of a friend, forced me to take a look inside myself for answers.
The conversation with my friend was about traveling back to my hometown this October. I wasn’t born in the suburbs of Philadelphia, but it’s the place I lived the longest when I was young, and the area I’ve most felt like myself.
I’ve been back every year for the past couple years. Each time I go, I have to rent a car to get around.
Every year, I have an overwhelming desire to rent a Mercedes Benz.
There, I said it.
Trust me, I know what this desire sounds like. Fortunately, I have enough sense to call out my own bullshit and have rented a Yaris in the past.
Who needs to rent a Mercedes to get from Point A to Point B? Absolutely nobody. A Yaris, a Prius, or any other small car will do the same job — and for far less money.
What $645.10 can buy
A recent visit to a car rental website showed how much less money a small car would be compared to a luxury vehicle. The difference in price for nearly two weeks is $645.10 — and that doesn’t include all the upselling the salesmen will do at the store once I get there.
$645.10 is huge. With $645.10 I could buy a round-trip airplane ticket to New York from San Diego and have an AirBnb lined up for a weekend.
Or I could buy 608 different art supplies from Dollar Tree and donate them to schools.
I could buy two weeks’ worth of groceries for my family.
Or I could hand the money over to a homeless person and make his week.
The only benefit I’d get from that additional $645.10 taken from my wallet is . . . a way to potentially impress someone from my high school who may see me driving down the street, or notice what I’ve parked in their driveway.
That’s IF anyone I know sees me driving it.
That’s it. Nothing else.
A Yaris by any other name
The funny thing is, I really enjoy driving the Yaris! It’s small enough to navigate the charming, narrow roads of the East Coast, can easily fit into any available parking space, and driving it doesn’t make me nervous.
However, let’s take a minute and be honest: the Mercedes is a faster car with better handling, and it’s more pleasing to the eye. BUT. It will not get me from my AirBnb to a museum any better than a Yaris.
The whole reason behind renting a Mercedes is purely to impress my old friends.
That irresistible impulse
Why do I feel the need to impress my friends, especially when I only see them once a year?
The reality is, I grew up in a wealthy suburb of Philadelphia, raised by a single mother with a single income. My dad didn’t feel the need to pay child support very often and, when he died without a will (I was 16), our tiny family really suffered.
Boy, I thought we were poor before my dad died. His measly child support check must have bought more than I understood at the time.
When my sister and I visited him in Michigan every summer, we’d live in the lap of luxury (comparatively speaking). For a month or two out of the year, we didn’t starve, shiver, or suffer.
Living with Mom
We didn’t have enough money, we didn’t have the right house, we didn’t have the right clothes, and we certainly didn’t have the right car.
Our car was a secondhand, dark blue Toyota Corolla with dents. It was an impossibly small car and it was fugly. I was probably the first teenager on record who made her mother drop her off a few blocks from the actual destination. I didn’t want anyone seeing me getting out of that hunk of junk on death-trap tires.
As a result, I took a lot of trains and buses. If public transportation wasn’t available when I needed it, I rode my bike or walked.
I walked for miles and miles in order to get as far away as possible from the physical evidence of my poorness.
The other side of the tracks
Visiting my friends’ homes, I saw their turn-of-the-century stone mansions, their walk-in closets full of clothes from Lord & Taylor’s, and their pantries full of food.
I rode in their parents’ new Mercedes.
They had everything I didn’t, and it made me feel ashamed and less-than.
Some of the kids at my elementary school were cruel. Like a committee of vultures smelling their prey as it drew its last breath, they’d surround me.
One day as I approached the entrance to our school, a girl squawked, “Didn’t you wear that yesterday?” and then laughed with her friends. To make matters worse, I was wearing different clothes from the previous day — unlike some other days.
As an introvert, this kind of attention hurt me like none other.
Words can be like mirrors
Most introverts don’t want any attention at all, let alone the taunting coming from the beautiful ones (albeit, only beautiful on the outside). Their words helped cement the negative thoughts I already had about myself. Their words made me want to run back home where it was safe but not quite warm.
At 22 I moved to California — partially to escape the weather of Philadelphia but also to escape my childhood demons.
By that time I was still entrenched in the working class in Pennsylvania but no longer drowning in poor town. When my dad died someone from my father’s side of the family had somehow managed to get an insurance payout for my sister and me. It wasn’t much but it was enough to guarantee I wasn’t going to freeze.
However, it wasn’t enough to buy any of the luxury items I desired.
Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide
Moving to California allowed me to recreate myself.
At least, that’s what I convinced myself I was doing. But it turns out those childhood wounds only heal if the owner works on them.
Unless one is willing to deal with the issues, the bad things that happen in childhood tend to stick around for a lifetime.
Fast forward to me now: I have the right house, enough money, an overflowing pantry, a great car — and yet, the childhood wounds still have a hold on me.
Every once in a while, I see they’re still here, waiting in the dark recesses of my psyche, ready to pounce on the purchase button for the luxury vehicle choice on Enterprise.