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Why Are Rich New Yorkers So F***ing Weird?

Updated: Feb 12, 2021 11:02
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I’m new to the city. Since moving here, I’ve noticed a new kind of interaction has become a part of my life…

It was after work on a weekday. I was walking to the 6 station, and saw a middle-aged man in an expensive suit, trendy haircut, and a gold watch. Real put-together kind of guy. He looked at me in the eyes as I gazed aimlessly around. I noticed that he was staring at me, and looked him right back in the eyes. I live for needless confrontation!

The face of… madness?

As he passed by he gently whispered into my ear, “Meow meow meow,” rapidly and in a high pitched tone. I had no idea how to take that.

I still lay awake at night, thinking about that moment.

Another happened as I was stopped on the street by an elderly lady. She was wearing D&G sunglasses, with designer clothes and a designer bag. She was probably in her late 70’s. At first I thought she may need directions. Instead she asked me if I knew that there are people that have sex with animals. According to her, she was against it, but she vehemently wanted to talk to me about it.

“Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go pick up my mysteriously dead-eyed purebred from the groomer.”

It dawned on me that the only reason my recent experiences seemed odd was because these people obviously had at least some money. We’ve all encountered the homeless man pushing a cart, screaming at no one in particular that the government uses pigeon shaped drones to spy on us. We look the other way because those people have earned the right to be as weird as they want, having lived some of the hardest possible lives in the U.S. That’s just the crushing reality of capitalism!

But these interactions were a new, unfamiliar kind of crazies to me.

Pop culture has highlighted the eccentricities of the significantly wealthy for decades. Iconic characters like Montgomery Burns on the Simpsons; real life characters like Price or Elvis. Why is it so common for the wealthy to act extravagantly? Why do we expect for our financial elite to live inside a Monty Python sketch?

According to Psychology Today mental health issues are especially prevalent in wealthy teens. These privileged children have been shown to be twice as likely to have serious levels of depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, loneliness, and physical aliments that usually appear with high stress.

Look at him. He’s already depressed.

But does strangeness have a direct correlation with mental health? I would imagine the Venn diagram of strange people and people with a mental illness would have a significant overlap; however I doubt there is a direct causal relationship between the two.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, an estimated 18 percent of Americans suffer from at least one of anxiety-or-depression-related illness. Odds are several people you know have one or more of those conditions. Those numbers also don’t include BDP, Schizoids (not a slang term, there are several varying degrees), Anti-social, Bi-Polar, or Benjamin Button Disease.

One could argue that because those with wealth have access to lives so unknown to most that it’s only strange because it is unfamiliar. Which, in a way, does make sense. Perhaps when a Rockefeller descendant wakes up to an in-house chef’s breakfast, slips into their ostrich neck slippers, and shits into a gold-flaked water toilet anything else would just seem odd. Maybe everyone in his social circle routinely vacations on a private beach in the middle of the island they own. Is it just a matter of perspective?

Then there’s Camp. Recently the Met Gala had Camp as their theme at MOMA, which sparked debates and think pieces about celebrities (especially white heteronormative ones) adopting camp and gay culture as fashion statements, and thusly belittling the hard fought identities of LGBTQ peoples.

But camp is purposefully done. It is being strange for the sake of being strange, not being strange because you are strange. When wealthy people act strangely as a form of amusement, then it is more akin to cultural appropriation than an act of self. Somehow I doubt that the people I have encountered, and those you have as well, are performative.

I don’t think we’ll ever have a definitive answer. Perhaps it’s as simple that they become bored after amassing wealth in numbers most of us only dream about. Maybe the humdrum of their safe lives makes them anxious. A nervous itch that can only be scratched by causing a little chaos. If such is the case, then I say fuck them. Leave the weird for those who struggle, as that is our escapism.

Get your own.

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Sonny Curtin

Sonny Curtin

Sonny Curtin (they/them) is an absurdist, and not particularly tall. They are also a Co-Founder and Director of Development for Believe New York Philanthropies, a nonprofit in New York City. Their preferred prefix is Count, but they hope to one day be a Viceroy.

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