Recently, after sharing a moment from my childhood where I realized my family didn't have a lot of money, I asked the BuzzFeed Community to tell me theirs.
After I shared some of their stories in a post, the comments poured in. Some people said the experiences in the post were eye-opening. Others found them extremely relatable and ended up revealing their own stories of when they became aware they were less privileged than other kids. Here are just some of those stories:
Note: IMO, there's obviously nothing wrong with a child knowing how much money their family has, but it's when other people — often more privileged people — make them feel different or "othered" for it that it becomes a problem.
1."In middle school, we changed clothes for PE. I only had one bra, and a bunch of the other girls noticed. They would smirk and stifle their giggles and then make fun of me when they thought I couldn't hear. I felt ashamed."
"But my single mother worked hard to pay for my clothes, and made sure they and my one bra were clean and in good shape. Those girls had no idea how much their attitudes hurt me."
2."I failed math in the seventh grade because I sat in the back (it was alphabetical seating) and couldn't see the board. My parents couldn't afford glasses for me."
"When I broke my only glasses and had to beg to sit in the front row in class to see the board. One teacher was really mean about it and told me no — I either had to get my parents to buy me glasses or get the notes from someone else in class."
3."I knew we weren’t well off when my dad brought home two backpacks for my sister and me that were filled with school supplies from the church."
4."My mother and I would walk an hour to a food pantry because she didn't have a license and we couldn't afford a car. I remember in college, people making fun of me for never being behind the wheel of a car (I still don't know how to drive) and being shocked when I said I grew up in a no-car household. Anytime I said I was willing to walk an hour to the nearest grocery store, I would get looks of pity and people thinking I was crazy. That really hit home."
5."When I was in my first year of high school, I had to wear my mom's hand-me-downs from 10-plus years prior. And I had a hard time finding socks to wear to school. One of the things I remember was the 'popular' girls snickering about my nasty socks. Not gonna lie, when I see how well those same girls are doing now, it eats me up inside."
6."My third-grade teacher was terrible. There are so many things she said and did that year that I still think about. The worst by far was when she walked by me when we were lined up to leave the classroom, made a comment about smelling cigarette smoke, sniffed a little closer to me, and then pulled me out of the line to lecture me. Then she gave a speech to the class about why smoking was bad and how it stays on your clothes and everyone thinks you stink, etc. The whole time, I was silently crying because I didn’t smoke, but my mom and her boyfriend did. I will never forget the way she made me feel that day."
"That example isn’t so much about poverty, but I think she didn’t like me because of it. I wasn’t just poor, I was neglected."
7."I was always overwhelmed by not knowing what to say after Christmas break when teachers would go around the room and ask what presents everyone got. There were times when Christmas wasn't celebrated or even mentioned in my family. So when the teacher got to me, I wouldn't know what to say. I would just shrug my shoulders and hope the questions didn't get any more specific."
8."When I was a kid, I went years without cable/TV service of any kind. In maybe first grade, I told someone I couldn't watch whatever was being talked about because I didn't have cable, and they didn't even believe there was such a thing. They couldn't comprehend nothing showing up on the TV when it was turned on."
9."I went to a private high school. My grandmother paid for it because my parents couldn’t afford anything. Everyone on my soccer team wore Adidas cleats, while I wore off-brand ones. A girl on the team called me out and asked when my parents were going to buy me 'real' cleats. I’m pretty sure I told her to fuck off, but it embarrassed me and affected me mentally. I thought, I don’t belong here."
10."I had been wearing my cousin's hand-me-downs forever. Around fourth grade, I got my first fresh new outfit from Walmart in response to all the bullying I was getting. It was a polyester nightmare — a Spice Girls/Austin Powers knockoff — the memory of which I still cherish to this day. It was priceless. And yet, a little shitbird fourth-grader called me out and said she 'saw it on the sales rack at Walmart.'"
11."I grew up in a state with beautiful, well-known beaches. But I never saw the beach until I was 14. And I only went because it was a church youth group trip and my spot was paid for by a generous member of the church."
12."I always knew we didn't have much money, but I didn't realize how much of a difference there was between me and the other kids at school until they started singing a song about how all my clothes came from the supermarket. A lot of my clothes DID come from the supermarket, except for the ones that were hand-me-downs from older cousins and family friends."
13."When I asked my friend about ketchup and crackers for dinner, she looked at me with so much pity. The shame you feel when you realize that everyone around you feels bad for you but won’t step in to help is so hard for a kid."
14."At church, we had to wrap presents for the poor kids whose parents couldn't afford presents for Christmas. Two weeks later, on Christmas, I opened one I had wrapped."
15."I had a capsule wardrobe in middle school, except it wasn’t cool, and it was because my parents could only afford to buy me a few clothing items. I would get bullied for wearing 'the same clothes every day.'"
"I would get, 'Why do you wear that shirt so much?' Well, because it's one of the two shirts I own."
16."We weren't necessarily poor, but definitely frugal, and it was a source of bullying for me when I was growing up. I remember one day, my mom picked me up from a friend's house, and it was garbage night. I immediately panicked because my mom would curb-shop. She saw something at this one house, pulled over, and made me go get it. I knew that kids from my school lived there. I got out, very reluctantly, to get whatever it was — some piece of furniture we didn't need — and realized a kid from my class was on the porch. He smirked. My mom got out of the car because I was taking too long and started talking to the kid. She said, 'Oh, you and Jessica are friends? How nice!' Then that kid told everyone that my family and I took people's trash."
17."I remember getting yelled at by my Spanish teacher for not typing up an assignment, but we didn't have a computer at home."
18."I realized I was looked at differently when I was around 11. When I got into middle school, I made a bunch of new girlfriends that year who had all been tight already for years. When summer came, they encouraged me to have my own birthday party. My parents let me invite my friends over for pizza and cake, but when their parents realized I lived in a trailer park, 99% of them were no longer allowed to come. I knew they lived in real houses and had more money, but it never occurred to me that my home would be viewed so lowly that friends would be banned from being there. After that, I always avoided telling classmates where I lived and never tried to invite people over again."
19."My sixth-grade teacher angrily sent me almost daily to the office to get a sweater to 'cover up [my] body.' I had grown out of my shirts and my one training bra. I didn't have other options at home, and she treated me as if I was trying to have sex with the boys. So humiliating."
20."Those parties in elementary school for things like Valentine’s Day or Halloween where a sign-up sheet went around and everyone had to bring something. I felt so much anxiety when that paper went around the room, crossing my fingers and hoping with everything in me that somebody else wouldn’t sign up for the more affordable items before it got to me. I always tried to put myself down for the cheapest things, like a bag of chips or napkins."
"The gift swaps at Christmas were even worse, since it was easier to tell who bought what. Worse still, though, was having to sit out during these activities and watch all of your friends have fun but not being allowed to participate because you ‘didn’t contribute.’"
21."Growing up, I went to a private school that required uniforms. I hated it until seventh grade. We had a 'Dress Down Day' where we could wear whatever we wanted. I walked into school in Walmart jeans and Payless shoes that were already a few years old. After spending all day getting picked on and teased about my clothes, I never complained about the uniform again. I found out later that my grandparents were paying my tuition and buying my uniforms because my parents were afraid of that kind of teasing in public school."
22."We were more middle class, but I happened to go to school with kids who had wealthy parents. One day in fourth grade, I told this girl I liked her shoes and asked her if she got them from Payless (because that’s where my parents bought mine!). She said no, and the school day went by. During the evening, her mom called my dad and yelled at him, all insulted, because I had had the AUDACITY to think she bought her daughter’s shoes at Payless 🙃."
23."Realizing the reason my mom 'wasn't that hungry' when she took us to McDonald's was that she couldn't afford food for herself. I used to get mad when she would ask for a bite. I'd say, 'I thought you weren't hungry. Maybe you should get your own.' When I realized the real reason, I'd tell her I was full before finishing half my sandwich and drink and most of my fries so she could have them. She cried when she realized I had found out her secret. I still give most of my fries to other people now."
24."I volunteered at school to do a Thanksgiving food donation drop-off with my teacher and a few other students. When we rolled up to my house, I was dead silent for a moment and then asked if I could just go home because I lived there. My teacher handed me the basket and said to 'go ahead' in a really quiet voice. I got made fun of for years after that."
25."I wasn't able to get a yearbook because my family couldn’t afford it. At the end of the year, when they had days where everybody could sign each other’s yearbook, I felt so left out, and using a piece of paper or something just wasn't the same. This stuff really sticks with you."
26.And finally, "When the teacher gave me a ride home from school and I unconsciously told her to pull over at a stranger's home with a white picket fence because I lived in a huge, deteriorated apartment complex. I knocked on the door and just walked in and waited until she left. The person in the house got so freaked out."
Note: Some submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.