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When I first met Peter through a dating app, I didn’t know anything about his background.
What attracted me was how similar we seemed: He had a graduate degree, a commitment to social justice, liberal parents who never married, and chronic lateness issues, just like me.
I asked Peter about it, and he explained that he wasn’t exactly rich, but his family had some money and helped him get the apartment and live above the means of an average teacher. I got mad at him, mad at America, mad at seeing what it meant to be a young, white, rich man in this country.
Sometimes I couldn’t tell whether he was benefiting from his race or his class—or both.
We had a good first date at a random Irish pub in midtown Manhattan, until he took me up on my less-than-sincere offer to split the bill.
I wondered whether or not to go out with him again (I’m a modern woman, but I still believe that if a man asks you out on a first date, he should pay).
I was honest with him about my concern about being a fetish or some sort of rebellion against his parents. I’d told him that I grew up middle-class, went to college, and owned a home—often superficial signs of having “made it”—and he’d said the same of his background.
And we still managed to fall in love, bonding over our love of political debate, obsession with used Toyota Priuses, and affinity for cooking homemade dinners. I didn’t pry any further, and he never disclosed anything that would make me assume otherwise.
The headline said it was the most expensive apartment in the neighborhood—nearly a million dollars—and it was clear from the pictures it wasn’t even as nice as Peter’s. For the first time I realized that my sweet, socially conscious activist boyfriend was rich. I stumbled through many of these initial conversations about class with Peter.
Our talks about race were often uncomfortable, but we seemed to be having all the conversations that “woke” young people were supposed to have to make sure we didn’t repeat the mistakes of generations past. I had dated white men before, and while I couldn’t relate to their racial privilege, most of them had struggled financially, and we had that common thread to at least superficially unite us. After I found out about his financial status, I felt that I couldn’t relate at all.