“I grew up in a super-wealthy and privileged family. Both my parents were bankers, and almost everyone in my family went to prestigious schools here or overseas and ended up becoming bankers, lawyers or doctors. Until I was old enough to earn my own money I got everything I wanted. My two brothers and I were spoilt rotten and our parents gave in to our every whim.
ALSO READ: Tried and tested: 7 ways to snag a date
“Unlike my brothers and cousins, however, I did not grow up feeling sorry for people who had less than we did. As a teenager, I was generous to my less wealthy classmates, buying them gifts and sharing my clothes, books and CDs with them. When I went to university, I turned down my parents’ offer to buy me a luxury car and instead chose to travel everywhere by public transport. I also took on a part-time job because I didn’t want to rely too much on my parents for money.”
One love, two different backgrounds
“I met Michael when I started my first job as a designer at an ad agency. My parents were disappointed that I didn’t become a banker, doctor or lawyer, but they were thankful that I at least had a job and wasn’t living off them. Michael was another designer who was ultra-talented. We worked very closely together and over the next few months grew pretty close.
“It wasn’t long before Michael and I became an item. We had been dating for nearly two years when I decided to tell my parents about him. I was 28 at the time and could see myself spending the rest of my life with this man. The only question was: would my parents accept him?
“I had a sense that my parents wouldn’t approve of the fact that Michael was of a different religion to us. In addition, he was not university educated and didn’t grow up in a wealthy or even a middle-class family. In fact, his father had abandoned the family when Michael was in primary school and his mother struggled to raise her kids on her own. As a result of his background and upbringing, Michael didn’t enjoy the same kind of lifestyle or privileges that my family was accustomed to.”
Meeting the family for the first time
“I prayed that my parents and brothers would approve of Michael, so I was upset when I eventually brought him home for dinner and hardly anyone bothered to make conversation with him. There was an awkward silence around the dinner table because nobody knew how to relate to one another. I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me whole! I felt absolutely horrible for Michael, who felt so out of place in my parents’ multi-million-dollar house.
“A month later, my parents sat me down and told me that, while they wanted me to be happy, they didn’t approve of my relationship with Michael. Even though we both had jobs, they felt that Michael wouldn’t be able to give me the future I deserved. When I told them that Michael and I were serious about each other and were planning to get married, my poor mum started to cry and my father almost fainted from the shock. Then they got angry, with my mother demanding that I dump Michael immediately. ‘I can’t have you being with that boy for the rest of your life!’ she exclaimed.
“When I refused, and called my parents cruel and ignorant, my father lost his temper with me. ‘You’d better not marry that guy or you can forget about your trust fund or getting any money from the family!’ I was hurt and shaken by my parents’ reaction to my relationship with Michael. They were essentially asking me to choose between them and him!”
Love beats money
“When I told Michael what had happened with my parents, he expected me to break things off between us, but I told him that he was more important to me than my family’s wealth. That was not a statement I made lightly. I had spent a good few days thinking about that angry conversation with my parents. I couldn’t believe that they had chosen to save face over their only daughter’s happiness and future. They were obviously more concerned about how they would look if this non-university-educated, low-income designer married into our family. I was especially angry at the fact they hadn’t even made the effort to get to know Michael. If Michael were a horrible guy who disrespected them or treated me badly then they would have a case against him. But he was the perfect man!
“After reassuring Michael that nothing would happen to us, I spoke to my parents and brothers. I informed them of my decision to go ahead and marry Michael that weekend. I also told them that, while I was appreciative of all their help, love and support over the years, I couldn’t live with them anymore and would look for a place to rent with Michael once we got married.
“My parents stood their ground and made clear how disappointed they were with me. They told me that I was bringing shame to the family and that they could not support my marriage. My brothers took my parents’ side, as I expected they would.
“Michael and I will be celebrating our sixth wedding anniversary this year and we have one son. After we tied the knot we rented a small flat, where we still live today. We are currently working on buying a place of our own. Together we earn slightly more than $9,000 a month, which isn’t very much considering we have a young child to feed and send to school, and Michael’s mum and younger siblings to support, but we get by. If my parents had not cut me out of their lives, I have no doubt that Michael and I would be living a luxurious lifestyle today. I’m sure they would have given us a lot of money to start a new life together and perhaps even helped us buy a nice condo.
“To this day, my parents do not talk to me. My brothers, aunties and uncles contact me from time to time, but we’re not close. No one in my family has met my son, and I don’t expect them to reach out to him anytime soon. It still hurts and angers me when I think about what happened with my parents, but they’re the ones who made me choose between them and Michael. It makes me sick to think how ignorant and bigoted they are. Just because they are wealthy, went to university and have prestigious jobs they think they’re better than everybody else. They refuse to associate with people who come from different backgrounds and have different lifestyles, and I think that’s so sad. Sure, they may have loads of money but when it comes to compassion and understanding, they’re bankrupt.”
*Names have been changed.