The Broke Rich

A month ago I decided to fly home to LA for a week because I knew I would not be able to come home for Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. I usually like to spend a few weeks in LA when I fly back, but this time I could only stay for a week, as I have weekly bible study group leader duties in New York. Sure, leading a bible study group for the past few months has been cramping my jet-setter-nomad lifestyle, but I committed to being a bible study group leader at my church, so it is what it is.

If you know me, you know I can’t stand to have burly un-neat, misshaped eyebrows. It’s my thing, probably because I don’t frequently wear makeup and nice eyebrows are the best un-makeup a lady can wear. Note: If you ever see me in the streets and my eyebrows are lookin’ rough, then you know I’ve hit rock bottom. I prefer a manicure, pedicure and eyebrow wax every two weeks, but if the recession gets the best of me, at a bare minimum, I will find some change for an eyebrow wax.

As a result of my eyebrow preferences, I have formed very nit picky habits about my eyebrow care. They have to be groomed to a certain shape (i.e. natural), and I need my wax specialist to wax, pluck and trim. If I come across someone who only does one or two of those procedures, she’s crossed out of my book. I will not return unless under dire circumstances.

I realize I’m this way because I’m spoiled. Five years ago I discovered the best eyebrow wax specialist on the planet. I’m not the only person who thinks this, as numerous Yelp and FourSquare reviews agree with me. This eyebrow wax is only $10 and located in West Hollywood, CA but it’s not even about the price. It’s about the wax specialist: her name is Michelle and she’s the Michelle is Vietnamese, I believe, and she looks ageless (one day she told me she was almost 40 or something crazy old, and I gave her the side eye because she doesn’t look a day over 26).

Having the eyebrow waxing requirements that I have, one can only imagine the difficulties I endured after moving to New York two years ago. The New York beauty game is a whole different ball game. There are nail salons on every other corner, many of them charging $7 for a manicure and the service is flippant because there are so many options.  You would think the price point is perfect until you go in and look at the conditions of the salon, or the method in which they sanitize their instruments. I’ve also tried upscale, expensive places, and I am just not impressed with New York.

Nobody in NYC seems to be able to groom my eyebrows like Michelle. As a result, every trip to LA requires an eyebrow wax. It doesn’t matter where I’m at in my two week waxing cycle. It doesn’t matter how broke I am. I have to make a trip to WeHo and see Michelle.

So, back to last month. I stopped in my nail salon to get an eyebrow wax on my way to LAX. I stopped by as soon as they opened because I was going straight to the airport to catch a flight back to NYC after my waxing. I was so early, in fact, Michelle hadn’t yet arrived for the day. I told the receptionist I loved Michelle, and didn’t mind waiting. I explained that I was on my way home in NYC and had to see Michelle, as was my ritual these days.

“So, you’re just visiting LA?”

“Eh. Sort of. I kind of live in both LA and New York.”

“Oh, so you’re rich?” She said with blunt amazement.

I looked at her rather quizzically. Nobody has ever called me rich before, and seriously meant it. Especially so bluntly. Sure, it sounds like I’m rich. Whenever I tell anyone I am bi-coastal they swear up and down I am some kind of baller. If only they knew I feel the brokest I’ve ever felt in my life. Years ago my bank accounts were bigger than they are now. Which is odd to me because years ago I felt like that was the brokest I’d ever been in my life. But today? Right now? This is what broke feels like.

And yet here a perfect stranger was calling me rich. To my face.

I humbly went along with this “rich” notion as we continued to talk. I explained I pay rent in NYC, but my car and furniture remain in LA, and my business was also based in LA. Yeah…I wasn’t doing such a good job of convincing her of how un-rich I was. The problem with this conversation was that she was absolutely right. In the grand scheme of things, compared to the rest of the world, I am richer than something like 3% of the people on the planet. Even though I didn’t have the money for my complete mani, pedi, and waxing ritual, and even though I was being “frugal” by just getting an eyebrow wax….here I was. Rich.


As I get closer to my trip to Haiti, my finances are feeling the most strain they’ve ever felt. The rumors are true: running your own business is as difficult as they say. And yet I am doing my best to remain focused and worry less about money. It’s difficult, I won’t lie. I am going out less, and can’t help but feel like my friends think I don’t want to hang out with them. I take taxis less, and walk more because I live in Midtown Manhattan and can walk to many of the places I need to go. I’m working the MTA by subwaying to my destination and then busing my way home. I’m giving myself manicures and stretching out my bi-monthly pedicures to every 6-8 weeks (you don’t even wanna know how gross this makes me feel lol). I even briefly went back to processed foods because they were considerably cheaper than healthy organic fresh produce. I am doing my best to be a more responsible adult and pay for bare necessities so I can pay off debts and make rent every month. Needless to say, I feel broke in every way of life right now.

Today I went back to the nail salon to see Michelle for my routine eyebrow wax, as I found myself back in LA, four weeks since my last visit. I spoke to the same receptionist, and though I doubt she remembers our last conversation, I remembered it. Broker than I was the last time I saw her, I was reminded that I am indeed, rich.

Richer than the vast majority of the people on this planet.

14 thoughts on “The Broke Rich”

  1. Yeah, haha I get that “rich” stuff too, except it’s because I speak English properly.

    It’s actually a problem if you’re trying to rap to ghetto chicks because if you’re not fluidly throwing in a few “Aint”s and several “President”s as a staple in your vocabulary, chicks figure out that you’re highly educated, which, for them, equals “rich”.

    Unfortunately, I’m not well versed in “I ain’t be got no weapon”, so I just kind of have to shrug it off and keep trying to get on. 😉

      1. @Bill -I took exception to your comment and I had to ask myself why. Maybe it’s because I do not know you and wasn’t let in on the inside joke. Because to me it felt like you were saying you, because of your proper English and education are better than someone who does not have the same.

        And fortunately (or unfortunately, however you see it) that simply is not the case. We are not our circumstances. We are not the way we speak or the education we have or do not have. And seriously, I don’t know how often I use the words “aint” and/or “presidents” (Do you mean as in money?) I am educated, self-employed and extremely fortunate so this is not a case of sour grapes, I just don’t like the thought of people (especially those of African descent) looking down on each other.

        1. The point is, most people in America do not consider themselves rich, when in fact they are. Our poverty level is richer than 90% of the world. It’s not really a matter of your personal frame of mind, what you think you have or don’t have, or your circumstances…..but a fact of the international economy. Check out

          1. Hey Emma. 🙂

            To restate EXACTLY what I said.. If I’m speaking “The King’s English” to people who do not, they think that I’m well educated, which I am.

            TO THEM, that translates into my being rich, which I am not, except by the standard that Liz mentions above, being worldwide wealth.

            I never gave my opinion of what I think of people that speak Ebonics. I never said, in this thread, that I was better than anybody else.

            My point is that the fact that I speak actual English causes me to be singled out as soon as I start speaking. It either works for me or it works against me when I’m trying to meet women, whom, I will add, I’m not interested in whether they speak English, Ebonics, or Yiddish, so long as they look good.

  2. Great post, crazy how even when we are at our brokest, we are still ballin to most folk in the world Hell imagine if they knew me when I had a 9-5 in the fashion industry I mighta been a freakin celeb.. egt it. But I am not and I am good with that. @ Bill you are a nut and shees I haven’t seen you in well over a year.

    1. Thanks.

      It’s interesting you mention your old 9-5. I honestly used to think i was so broke when I had mine but this territory is so different lol. If anything I am definitely learning how to be a lot more resourceful with my funds, which I thought I was good at, but there’s always room for improvement.

  3. @Tina: haha Last year literally flew by for me! 😀

    That’s the first time that’s ever happened. I usually have long-ass years.

    Not only are we ballin’, but a homeboy of mine and I are always complaining about all these people clamoring to get our time! 😀 haha How ridiculous is THAT, when people are losing jobs and houses left & right? o_O

  4. RICH is not a matter of MONEY. You’re wealthy beyond the vast majority of the people on this planet because you are in control of your own destiny. You work for yourself in a bleeding edge industry. This is so beyond what most people are capable of even imagining, much less doing. What that woman said to you without knowing any of the above simply allowed you to see the freedom you have to be the boss of you. What is that truly worth? SO MUCH MORE than the majority of the people you perceive to be “rich”, just because they have more income. RICH is not a matter of MONEY.

    1. That’s actually a good way to think about it, Aliona.

      I was thinking about that just yesterday. People are losing their jobs left and right, with no way to kick-start their income. It actually IS a form of “wealth” to have our own businesses and make our money wherever and whenever we need to.

    1. Compared to the rest of the world, I am rich. Financially. That is what I meant. Even the poorest of poorest Americans are richer than 90% of the planet.

      1. Ooooooh! Okay. I don’t consider myself rich. Not even remotely. I don’t even consider my or PIC’s family members, who have several houses, as rich. On the higher end of financially stable, yes, but definitely not rich. *shrugs* I guess it’s subjective as many things are.

        1. I’d be interested to find out what you would define as rich or fortunate in this case? I’m not sure I could say someone with multiple houses is not very fortunate in this world, especially when so many people are homeless, without clean running water, etc.

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