If you grew up in a middle-class White home, you and I undoubtedly share several things in common, of which I wish to focus on one: having a token poor friend. Every middle-class kid had one; integral to growing up to be a well-rounded and intelligent citizen is to learn about poor people through one (and only one) poor friend. Mine was named Sebastian. He lived in my neighbors’ basement with his single mother and younger sister. I’ve chosen to use his real name because I figure it’s safe to assume he’s grown up to be illiterate, homeless, dead or any combination of the above. Here’s what I learned. Sebastian’s family always ordered in or ate take out, even though it’s clearly cheaper to cook at home. The fact that his single mother worked two jobs to support her children is no excuse, and thus I must infer that: Lesson I: Poor people are lazy. His home, a stark white basement with little furniture, had one distinct feature: no doors. Primarily an open-concept living space (how progressively modern for the 90s), bedroom quarters were separated by poorly hung curtains. As Sebastian was entering puberty at the time, thus Sebastian was assuredly experimenting with masturbation. Surmounted with the fact that his only television was out in the open, and that, like me, his desire to watch late-night soft-core that aired on Cable 7 leads me to believe that he and his family regularly engaged in weird familial group masturbation. Lesson II: Poor people are incestuous.

Long before it became hip to shop at thrift stores for second-hand clothing, I’ve been doing it; I remain doing it because it’s hip, but that’s beside the point. It just made sense to me: the same clothes, but cheaper, and for all intensive purposes, I fit in with my other middle-class friends just fine. Yet Sebastian, despite buying his clothing new from Zellers (the Walmart of the North), always managed to look poor. Whether it was awkwardly-colored Camouflage shorts or Looney Tunes t-shirts, it was unmistakable: Lesson III: Poor people intentionally dress shitty. One day, Sebastian’s father arrived unexpectedly, and without as much of a fight, was swept away with his sister to the east coast of Canada (which, for all you Americans, if full of poor people, fishermen and alcoholics), leaving their mother to live alone. Lesson IV: Poor people have shitty families. And are probably drunk, and maybe fishermen. My fifth lesson came not from Sebastian, but from the family which replaced him. Shortly after his mother moved out, a new family arrived, consisting of a single mom and two aggressive twin boys: Lesson V: All poor people are the same.

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