A woman named Madison (@madisonelsewhere) is opening up about growing up in a “rich white neighborhood” in Denver, Colo., which caused her to internalize many things about wealth and status at a very young age.
In fact, it wasn’t until she became an adult that she started unpacking a lot of the things she learned during childhood — and, in retrospect, a lot of it is pretty wild.
“I’m going to share with you some of the weird messages about wealth and status that I internalized as a child,” the TikToker says, standing in her kitchen cutting an apple. But before she even gets started, Madison makes sure to clarify that she doesn’t actually believe any of these things now.
On her mental list of “things that are inexplicably good,” according to her upbringing, were the brand L.L.Bean (specifically, this tote) and Range Rovers, which can often cost well over $100,000 per vehicle.
In the clip, Madison recalls a specific time when her mom was driving her to a therapy appointment, and she spotted her doctor’s car in the parking lot. After remarking that it looked like the doctor was there, Madison’s mom said, “Yep, she drives a Range Rover — that’s how you know she’s made it.”
This one little comment stuck with Madison for years and actually led her to put undue pressure on herself.
“So in my head, I’m like, ‘As a professional woman, I haven’t made it ’til I have a Range Rover,'” Madison recalls in the clip.
“Another thing that is inexplicably good? Bouldering,” says Madison.
Apparently, this is when you buy expensive “status symbol” items — like cars, watches and purses — but never actually wear or use them, the TikToker shares.
At the same time, Madison says she was also getting messages about what “the community” didn’t approve of, like buying goods from Louis Vuitton or any other designer items plastered with logos. And if you did, the TikToker notes, you should be prepared for “people to think you’re poor.”
Other little “commandments” she followed included not mentioning where she went to boarding school in conversation and buying Louboutins with the red sole.
She also avoided posting photos of herself on social media in general, especially when it came to any “rich people” activities like skiing or taking fancy vacations.
Instead, the unspoken etiquette of social media for rich kids was to stick to “bad, kind of blurry photos of, like, toast and breakfast and your dog.”
“Someone once said that we are some of the people we spend the most time with, so if you spend a lot of time around weird rich white people, you will start to adopt some of the things that they think and say and do whether or not you realize it,” says Madison, who encourages others to “reflect” if they, too, were brought up the same way.
Now that her post has gone viral, a lot of people have been weighing in about the theory.
One person called these hidden messages “wealth whispers,” while others who grew up in similar environments agreed they once thought these things, too.
“Pics on vacation are gauche,” one person declared.
“Yes my dad refused to wear anything with logos,” someone else shared. “My mom said logos were tacky. ‘We don’t advertise for free.'”
“A lot of these rules are to cover up their wealth from clients, employees and liabilities,” another commenter explained. “Emulating as middle class won’t have the same impact.”
Someone else said that what Madison was basically describing is the distinction between “old money” and “new money.”
“Old money keeps it,” the commenter wrote. “New money spends it.”
“Showing off a minty fresh Birkin and keeping it immaculate: Nouve,” one person wrote. “Treating it as an actual everyday tote, like Jane Birkin/a vintage: actual money.”
In the end, though, it’s clear that Madison herself no longer lives by these unspoken rules and strange assumptions. And quite a few TikTokers applauded her for that.
“You strike me as one who’s rejected all of that in favor of a more authentic grounded life,” one person commented. “Good for you!”
“Thank you!” Madison wrote in response. “I’ve worked really hard to process the messaging I grew up around to live in a mindful way.”
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