For my entire life, I’ve lived in a city that many around the world cite as a launchpad for prosperous careers in entertainment, a city that is constantly glamorized in pop culture, a city that is angelic– by name, that is.
Sure, living in LA has its perks. Beautiful beaches await just over the mountains, just about every culture melds together (that means REALLY good food), and attractions that many travel miles to see and do offer discounts for residents. (LACMA’s free museum admission, anyone?)
Growing up here is also quite beneficial for starting a career. The stereotype that everyone in this city has a headshot is actually quite true. (I, myself, do not have one, but most of my friends and family do, and I know which headshot photographers are the créme de la créme)
But there is for sure a downside to living in such an enticing, notorious town: money.
Concretely, everything seems to cost more in such a large city.
Cupcakes are $5, cheaply made, “trendy” clothes are priced way higher than they have any right to be, and in some of the grimier parts of the city, using the bathroom can even cost a couple of coins.
Also, the myth that Angelenos pay handsome sums to secure a parking space is one hundred percent true. Believe everything you hear.
But my least favorite aspect of living in a city known for its wealth is, well, the fact that it is known for its wealth.
When it comes to money, my city is split into three simple categories: low-income, middle class, and rich.
My family falls into the central classification. We live in an adequate house with adequate income in a financially adequate neighborhood. Our lives are based on adequacy.
I enjoy living this way, to be honest. I’m usually a pretty no-frills person and I don’t demand very much material possessions. (except for black platform ankle boots from Vetements. MAKE A KNOCKOFF NOW.)
But what I don’t enjoy is the divide.
Nothing shows how split up our city is more than our neighborhoods.
I live on a lovely suburban block with one story houses and drought-friendly front yards. Some of the houses near me are a little extravagant, but nothing too out of the ordinary.
But if you drive for a few miles in another direction, you reach the filthy rich village of Calabasas, which has been put on the map by Britney Spears, Justin Bieber, and, most notably, the Kardashian-Jenners.
This section is characterized by its mansions, its money, and its hot moms. Its residents sit at the top of the pyramid that is Los Angeles. If you’re from here, you’re royalty.
But in the other direction are the less presentable, less exciting, and less funded towns.
Most people try to avoid these places as much as possible. The concept of “less fortunate” people is too much for them to grasp.
At my high school, aristocrats hailing from these neighborhoods are everywhere. They have Maseratis, Rolexes, Yeezys, Grey Goose, world-class drugs, and a whole lot of popularity. They are living proof of the “rich LA kids” stereotype.
These girls and boys are worshipped. Many want to either be them, date them, at least know them, or, best of all, all three.
Lifestyles like this may seem intangible to most, but for anyone who lives simpler than these royal classes, they are right in front of us.
So close, yet so far.
Everything in the City of Angels seems to be a competition. Who has the most expensive car, who carries the most high-quality handbag, who retreats to the most extravagant houses.
In this competition, adequacy and stability are not enough to move you up the radar. As the aforementioned Kardashian-Jenner clan have demonstrated, all it takes is money.
Unfortunately, not being as lucky when it comes to finances places you on the bottom, no exceptions.
These social norms frequently test my security of where I am financially. How could they not?
When I see girls from my school flaunting their completely real Vetements ankle boots, it is difficult to not feel like my knockoffs (hint, hint, wink, wink) are pathetic.
These are the times I want to flee the city. Not too far, maybe somewhere in central California, where I can still enjoy the beaches and the balmy temperatures.
But when all is said and done, the bright lights and mass appeal lure me back into the land of opportunity, or the land of broken dreams and self-hatred.
It depends on how you look at it.