Poor Little Rich Folk

Today one must no longer write 'rich people'; that has been replaced in the media by the alternative description: 'people with high incomes.'

There are things that go out of fashion never to return, like crinoline dresses and powdered wigs. And there are things that come and go and come again, like floral prints and striped fabrics, wide and narrow collars, Bermuda shorts and capri pants - and, of late, rich people and poor people.

Just this past spring, it was the fashion to gambol around rich people, no matter how ill-gotten their gains. On the contrary, the bastards among them, the charismatic rogues who could wrap us around their little fingers, and made their money from exploiting our weaknesses, were the height of fashion. It was a huge honor to be invited to their family celebrations or to be their barber, tailor, PR person or cook.

But when the season ends, there are always the end-of-season sales, and what was prestigious suddenly becomes a schmatte sold at 70 percent off from a basket outside the shop. And all of a sudden, whoopsie-daisy, the wealthy rogue bastards who just yesterday wrapped us around their little fingers have gone out of style. The summer season and apparently the fall as well are characterized by barefoot, shabby chic; no more circling about those who wrapped us around and got rich from it. Now it's fashionable to be poor and have nothing, and he whose refrigerator is barest is best.

Is there a logic to the changes in fashion and the fact that this season it is the front pocket on the jeans that is unraveling, and last season it was the back pocket, or that there are no pockets at all? These things are decided by pure caprice, as well as by people's need to relieve their boredom with change of some kind. In exactly this way, I feel, the spirit of the class war and the dictatorship of the proletariat on Rothschild Boulevard, and the sudden turning of the collective back on the wealthy this summer and fall, are based mainly on caprice. And the sense that something has got to change stems only from impatience for the end-of-season sales to start so we can afford to buy the schmattes that just yesterday only the rich could afford.

The principle guiding fashion in the coming seasons will be, as noted, that rich is bad. And what happens to bad children? They are sent to stand in the corner. Or they are expelled from the classroom and their parents are phoned. And it is already possible to see how the word "rich" has become derogatory in the press, a word that is not politically correct.

Just as in the past "Arabs" was replaced by "minorities," and the word "frenks" became "people with Mediterranean features," and "Negroes" became "African Americans," today one must no longer write "rich people." That has been replaced in the media by the alternative description: "people with high incomes."

People with high incomes are much easier to live in peace with than "rich people" - "rich" being a term that brings to mind a portly gentleman with a gold watch chain dangling from his waistcoat pocket and a cigar stuck in his mouth. The term "people with high incomes" also fudges the gap between swine and kosher animals. It makes wealth something relative because, how high is an income? Depends who's measuring and where you start the measurement: from the pants down or from the waist up? From the ankle or from the belly button?

By writing off the rich and replacing them with "people with high incomes," another advantage will be achieved: Unlike in previous seasons, when it was clear there were bad rich rogue bastards and good, innocent poor people - henceforth everyone's belly button will tremble lest he be included (according to sizes "small," "medium" and "large" ) among those with high incomes.

If, say, my late parents, both of whom worked very hard and bought an apartment, which at their death they bequeathed to me, and I, heaven forfend, rent it out - what does this make me? Will people point their fingers at me in the street and will children throw stones at me and shout as I walk by: "Get outta here, you stinking person with a high income!" If that happens, I will reply: Leave me alone. Can't you see I'm poor? And they will persist: "You have income! Icky-poo! You are rich! Rich! Rich!"

I will plug my ears so as not to hear these taunts, the wild incitement. How dare they say I am rich? I barely have money for a cottage. Or cottage cheese.

This shudder around the belly button is, therefore, the dernier cri. It replaces the shudder from last season - the shudder of excitement that passed through us at the sight of the publicized wedding of one of the richest men in the country, or when we happened to enter a restaurant where that same rich man was eating and there, in the toilet, we peeked and we saw that his, ummm, income isn't as big as people think.