Money seems to be the root of many relationship conflicts, whether the nature of those relationships is romantic, friendly, or, in the case of one woman, collegiate. An administrative assistant at a small tech company, she recently found herself being confronted by coworkers for being "a downer about money," and has found herself effectively shunned by her female coworkers with bigger incomes.
She shared the details of her conflict in the "AITA" subreddit, which stands for "Am I the A-hole," and the discussion might have been one of the more controversial ones to go down in the community. Before you judge for yourself, let's get into the details shared by "defnotarichbitch" about her current predicament.
The original poster works in an administrative role within a team that is primarily made of designers and project managers, and it sounds like there is a bit of a gender divide, where the PMs are mainly women and the designers, I'm guessing, are mainly men. As such, belonging to neither team, she tends to socialize at work mainly with the project managers.
Her issue, however, is that they all make way more money than her and seem to have had more financially comfortable upbringings as well, and often that income disparity is made clear in the conversations that arise about luxury purchases and travel.
While it's possible the person telling this story was projecting her insecurity on the woman who seemed confused and was "looking at [her] weird" for not having ever traveled as a child or as an adult, it does seem clear this coworker is a bit sheltered about how affordable international travel is. According the the U.S. State Department, there were 137.6 million valid passports in circulation in 2018, which means less than half of the U.S. population (327.2 million in 2018) are even eligible to travel outside of the U.S.
And even if you do have a passport, travel can be prohibitively expensive for many Americans. It seems to me this coworker has lived a very sheltered existence if this is the first time they've ever met someone who doesn't hold a U.S. passport and has never traveled outside the country.
The second conflict the original poster cites began when a coworker made fun of the fraying strap on her purse, which she has owned for about six years. She suggested it was time for an upgrade and recommended a purse that cost $150. When "defnotrich" commented that it was out of her price range, saying, "That's a really nice one! But wow, $150 for a purse," her coworker responded with, "Do you think that's a lot?"
Yes, she responded, adding that it's what she might spend on two weeks worth of groceries.
Things came to a head when one of the women in her office bought a house. OP gave the woman a candle as a housewarming gift and another colleague suggested "you're next." It sounds like she is the only one among her coworkers who does not own a home, and doesn't see it as a realistic goal in her life.
"They were all shocked and kept trying to tell me why I was wrong, and I admit I got a little annoyed when they wouldn't drop it," she wrote. "I said, 'With what money?'" And that is when things got awkward.
After the coworker advised her to be "more discrete" about making less money than the other women who were just trying to bond, OP responded that she would if they would. The coworker said she was acting "king of like an a--hole" and punishing the other women in her office for something that isn't their fault. The poster's response was that she thinks "it's tacky to brag about all of the lavish things you can buy." Since that conversation, she says only one of the women in the office interacts with her, and she wonders if this coworker is right that she's the jerk in this situation.
Most people came down on the side of this administrative assistant, saying her coworkers are just used to being around people who share the same privileges they do and don't like being reminded that others aren't as fortunate. At the very least, as many respondents point out, they're a bit clueless if they don't realize an entry-level administrative assistant might not be able to afford the same kind of lifestyle a project manager can.
While general consensus was on the side of this poster, there were some people who felt both parties shared some blame here, though initially OP had the higher ground. "From the tone of your post and the retorts that you gave these women, I'm getting the sense that you are upset that they can afford things that you cannot," says anglerfishtacos. So rather than it coming off to them as you pointing out the economic inequality between you two and trying to make them less ignorant, you are instead coming off as jealous and miserly."
Basically, while the passport conversation cited earlier in the post was a "weird flex," things got a little murkier in the second and third questions, because it was the original poster, not her coworkers, who brought money into the discussion. Many felt this poster should have just politely said the purse her coworker recommended was nice, and that her frustrated "with what money?" comment in the home ownership conversation was "going to the extreme."
What do you think? Is this person being a jerk for reminding her coworkers that not everyone can afford expensive bags, makeup, and travel, or are her colleagues being insensitive? Or do you think the situation isn't so black and white?