|Matt and Lucy by Nicholas Moore. Mixed Media on Linocut. On display at the Contemporary Art Center of Thessaloniki.|
A friend of mine, who is a foreigner like me, said she feels embarrassed talking about her upcoming holidays because it implies financial comfort that others may not have. Since then, the word “embarrassed” has been whirling around in my thoughts. I’m familiar with the kind of embarrassment that comes with not having money, of having to tell friends that I can’t “do brunch” with them, although I have always refused to eat brunch on principle, not just for lack of funds. I have recently been elevated to the middle class, but my feelings on brunch will always stay the same. It’s a hoity-toity mealtime for snobby rich people. Brunch is dumb. End of story.
Embarrassment is still an emotion I associate with being poor, although I need to stop that. I’ve recited throughout my teens and twenties the Benjamin Franklin quote, “Having been poor is no shame, but being ashamed of it, is.” Thanks, Ben, but that’s a little easier said than done. There is still some sensitivity when it comes to class, even though I can now buy perfume and jewelry for myself and generous gifts for other people. I felt embarrassed on an airplane recently when I bumped into a woman whose kids I used to babysit. When I said, “Hello, I used to babysit your kids,” she replied, “You must have really saved your pennies for this trip!” I wonder if she thought babysitting was my career, and not just something I did in high school so I could go buy more Tom Waits albums.
I’m in Thessaloniki, one of my favorite cities. I came here to read, write, walk around, drink coffee, and feel safe. This city is like Neverland, where most people don’t seem to have aged past 25. I love walking along the water and seeing all the packed restaurants and bars full of happy people having a good time. I made a new friend named Libni who lives in the Ivory Coast. I went to a nail salon for a mani-pedi and socialized with nice women who sang along to songs on the radio. I went to a spa for a relaxing facial massage. I shopped at my favorite jewelry store and bought exquisite rings and earrings from a man who looks like Tim Robbins. He also gave me a sparkly pink ring as a present. I’ll cherish it and I’ll always think of him and his wonderful store when I wear it. The opulence doesn’t end there. I also bought dresses at my favorite clothing store in Thessaloniki, a store called Philly. I dined at my favorite restaurants, Mom’s Cooking and Koi Sushi. The waiter at Koi Sushi thinks I keep returning because I’m enamored of him, but really, I just can’t get enough good sushi.
I’m a creature of habit. When I love a place, I keep coming back. When I was at the nail salon, I told the women that I want to live in Thessaloniki. They said that wasn’t a good idea because life is hard in Greece right now and salaries are low. It’s these kinds of humbling heart-to-hearts with people that help me understand what my friend was talking about. I won’t feel embarrassed about living luxuriously from time to time, but I will feel extremely lucky.