What art-de-vivre ?


Lunch time, colleagues ordered sushi and are joyfully discussing new year’s plans while I am chowing down my home-made salad and sipping lukewarm home-brewed coffee.

At some point, nostalgia kicks in and they start recalling childhood memories. Then it hits me. Hard.

These people are not bragging; this has always been their life: Summer in Italy, Skiing in Switzerland, and shopping in Paris. I thought these people only existed on TV and in novels.

To me, summer has always been a season, to them, summer is a verb.

Going into consulting was the ultimate goal for me and every meeting, every case was a milestone.

I was thrilled to meet these powerful people. I had earned my spot with a lot of blood and sweat but no tears because I was raised to be tough.

Going into consulting, investment banking, Big Law was the normal path for THEM.

The big wigs I had butterflies meeting are the people they called uncle in the country club, their grandparents went to the same colleges, collect the same cars and conclude business deals at the cigar club.

Economists often refer to lifestyle inflation, or how your expenses increase the more your income does, so you never feel the incremental disposable income.

Yesterday’s luxuries become today’s necessities and it is often an unconscious process.

But how about when you’ve been conditioned to be frugal?

And many years later, when your starting salary was 2.5 times what you ever dreamed to achieve, when your annual bonus has several zeros and you are expected to fit within the lavish culture, but you can’t?

They say, you have to mirror the person in front of you so they feel a connection and are more willing to interact with you.

When your clients are the crème-de-la-crème, you have to at least mirror part of that.

A butler for an aristocratic family has more class than a white collar manager because he is surrounded by the lavish wealthy lifestyle.

This is one of those moments when I have to make a conscious effort to upgrade my style once more… and I thought buying full priced items instead of clearance only was THE ultimate upgrade.

Every time I think it is superficial, and I cannot buy an item to show earning power because this is shallow. But then again, I see the places I get invited to and the people I get to meet.

I chose to have my little spot in this dandy wealthy world so I do not have the luxury to hide behind my intellectual armor and scream: “you have to accept me as I am”. Because as painful as it is for me, there are people as intelligent and competent as I am who also happen to have the art-de-vivre that makes the client want to take them out for just coffee (insert golf round, tennis match, yachting trip) and end up securing a large contract. Time for me to pay for the parallel untold education I never had. No scholarships here, no textbooks, but nothing money can’t fix. And thankfully, this is at least something I can afford. Fake it till you make it right?

In those fairy tales where the prince marries a peasant, the minute she wears a royal dress and tiara, she looks like a princess.

Well no, no one ever told us about the “cleaning up” process, about learning protocol, etiquette and how to carry oneself.

Nothing that money can’t solve. Now let me buy some class to easily fit with the old money, instead of looking either “poor” (le gasp) or “nouveau riche” (double gasp).

What do you think?

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