I grew up middle class, but sometimes felt like we didn't have all the latest amenities. Like you know how people growing up in the Fifties talk about whether they were the first on the block to get color tv? There are a few thresholds like that in the Eighties, when more than half of all US households had a VCR or home computer of some kind. I guess we were early crossing some thresholds but more often late with some others. Even then, my parents had chosen other luxuries or expenses above some of the common luxuries. For example, we had no dishwasher or clothesdryer up through the time I moved out, 1995. (Age 23? Don't worry, I came back off and on a few times after that. Melinda and I lived in Ma's basement. My stepdad started calling us The People Under The Stairs. Imagine the most gentle, light-hearted way that you could take that, and imagine the underlying hostility if you took it seriously, and that pretty much exemplifies how we got along at different points.)

So that seemed like we were behind the times. On the other hand, my mom had a horse since about 1978, and that costs money. My dad amassed a collection of shotguns and muzzleloaders over the years. We got a Commodore 64 in about 1982, which was probably several years before home computers were in 50 percent of homes. So it's not like we were really poor. We certainly never missed meals.

Anyhow, reading the Feb 2005 issue of Harper's Magazine, I was reminded of another technology of which we were a late-adopter. In an article about tacky architecture in Shanghai, China, the author mentions how some of the tallest skyscrapers you see have rows of air conditioners hanging out the windows, which made him think they were slum skyscrapers.

Maybe it's because I grew up in Michigan and we only had a few hours per day for a few months each year of intolerable heat, but we never had an air conditioner of any kind. Again my mom got one a few years after I finally moved out. (Hey, I'm seeing a pattern here!)

I suppose that doesn't say as much about my situation growing up as it says about the snootiness of that author.


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