The unthinkable poverty of a middle class Christmas

Another blindingly infuriating article courtesy of The Daily Mail has flashed across my radar.

In this self-absorbed, waffling spiel, middle class mother Charlotte Metcalf laments her secret wish to ‘just cancel Christmas’ because of the unthinkable poverty she’s found herself in following the recession. This terrible trauma has seen her whisked away from a world where spending ‘£45 on a pot of gold-lidded lusciously scented body cream as a Christmas present for a distant cousin’ was simply part of a ‘leisurely afternoon’ of Christmas preparation, and into a hellish NIGHTMARE of penny pinching, because, as she bleats, she’s now ‘lucky if she earns £500 a week as a writer’.

Good grief. How many writers do I know that earn £500 a week? Sure, with my foot only two or three rungs up the industry ladder it’s not surprising that the answer to this is zero. Nonetheless, I’m currently working four days a week in a staff job (which is due to end next week, so look out for a similarly whinging post about the terrible horrors of thriftiness) plus freelancing in my spare time, which is essentially every moment that I’m not asleep or at said job. I can assure you that I earn considerably less than £500 a week. In fact, according to this cheery report by the BBC, I actually fall below the threshold of ‘living at an acceptable standard’.  I also do not have the financial support of a live-in partner, nor am I in receipt of child benefits, and so on.

I’m skint, yes. But for God’s sake, I’m not poverty-stricken, as Metcalf bemoans she is. And yes, Christmas is a difficult time when one is poor, or ‘Nouveau Pauvre’ as is Metcalf’s predicament, but I still manage to avoid Pound Land when buying for my nearest and dearest.

No doubt Metcalf’s awful situation has been exacerbated by ill-managed expectation. “I used to buy ribbons from VV Rouleaux,” she says. “Now their price of £50 for velvet and silk ribbons seems truly shocking. Obscene, even.” Fifty pounds for ribbons? Ribbons? And only now, under forced ‘poverty’ is it apparent that’s just a little excessive? For ribbons. Ribbons!

“Shoppers are set to spend just £195 on festive gifts for loved ones,” she continues. Just £195? Perhaps in Metcalf’s eyes the amount spent on Christmas gifts holds some kind of proportionality to the love or value you have for the recipient. Indeed, I imagine that when you’re earning £1k+ a week many products lose any inherent value anyway, and therefore it’s a case of the flashier the better. But regardless, her desire to want to ‘cancel Christmas’ rather than deal with the challenges that every other average Joe face yearly is just indicative of a materialistic idiocy that has besieged the more ‘well-to-do’ in the aftermath of the recession, and is certainly not in the spirit of the season.

‘Bah Humbug’ indeed.

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2 thoughts on “The unthinkable poverty of a middle class Christmas

  1. Paul says:

    Wow. She even *looks* poor, doesn’t she? -_-

    I do love how people get drawn into *optional* routines and continue with them because, well, they’ve become routine. Find Christmas cards a chore? Don’t send any. Complaining about the expense of presents? Make some, or swap it for something like a dinner out somewhere, or – and I know this is a push – ONLY BUY ONE PRESENT.

    If people cause a fuss because you haven’t bought/sent X, Y, and Z, then clearly you need to re-evaluate your relationship with them (and give them a nice, big mug of STFU).

    I’m spoilt and materialistic, and even I find her viewpoint ridiculous.

  2. As much as I agree with you, it did get me think that poverty is a standard you judge yourself on based on your peers. I think no-one in the UK is poor compared to the rest of the world – most people have enough money to eat, have clean water, put a roof over their heads and stay warm, which is nothing compared to how some people live in Africa

    However, if you’re brought up in a certain way with certain expectations, it can be hellishly uncomfortable to be forced into changing routines, or simply ‘doing without’. It’s often compounded by still moving in circles where there are expectations or beliefs, and people can find themselves needing to have money just to keep up or fit in.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t therefore think she shouldn’t have to tighten her belt, that it’s impossible, or that people shouldn’t – I think there’s a lot of value in forcing people to actually THINK about the money they spend. I had to do it when I decided to get married, and the more people that do the better! Just thought it would be interesting to highlight a few of the reasons that people can feel like this…

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