Stop Pretending You’re Poor

Rhyme and Reason


Lemme tell a story
You’ve probably heard a lot.
About a needy Harvard kid
Whose family owns a yacht.

Mommy is a lawyer.
Daddy’s got a Ph.D.
They paid for cello lessons
Ever since their kid was three.

His parents own two houses.
They vacation near and far.
And once he learned to drive
Of course, his folks bought him a car.

Now, if you called this student rich,
He’d say that wasn’t true.
Admitting he’s well off, it seems,
Is something he can’t do.

Sure, his family income
Has more digits than your hand,
But if you call him privileged,
he’ll say, “You don’t understand.

My parents aren’t CEO’s
They aren’t billionaires.
I’m simply ‘Harvard middle class.’
I’m not like other heirs!”

If you pushed the matter,
He might then push back and list
All the ways his life was rough
that you seem to have missed.

Sure he went to Europe,
But, like, only once or twice!
He always had to wait to buy
the newest smart device.

Though he went to private school
It wasn’t, like, the best
For only half the students there
Got 5’s on AP tests.

Though he has some money
Surely, other kids have more.
“And that is why,” he says,
“By Harvard standards, I am poor!”

Clearly, you and I can see
Straight through this phony show.
‘Cause not owning a mansion
Doesn’t mean you don’t have dough.

And yet so many students here,
Whose parents make a lot,
When asked if they have money,
Try to act like they do not.

It speaks to the phenomena
That happens at this school,
Where privileged Harvard students
Think that being poor is cool.

They’ll start with off-hand comments like,
“Oh God, I’m like, so poor.”
Then, they’ll buy their daily latte
From the coffee store.

Come time for summer rent
They’re like, “I can’t afford it, see?”
Despite the fact their parents
Pay their rent in NYC.

And in a weird attempt to seem
Less stuck up or less snobby
They’ll get a campus job
That’s really more a campus hobby.

‘Cause if things really did get tight
Their folks could bail them out.
They’ve got a solid safety net
So they won’t go without.

Yet, still, they try to minimize
The role that privilege played
In getting them to where they are…
It’s like they are afraid.

Like, if they were to say that, yes,
Their family has dollars,
Then all their peers would question
Their ability as scholars.

And so, to best preserve
This shaky meritocracy
Many will remove themselves
From aristocracy.

Alone, they’ll moan and groan with you.
They’ll gossip, and they’ll scoff,
“Kids here are so rich and stuff.
They’re all, like, so well off.”


But rarely will they take a pause
To think ‘bout where they are,
And how their financial safety net
Has let them get this far.

And if you ask their income
It will be at your expense
For such a blatant question
Is offensive to their cents.

“Sure, my parents have some dough,
But that’s not mine, it’s theirs.
Right now, I’m like, so poor
That I can’t even buy new shares!”

“Ugh, it’s so expensive.”
“Guys I’m like, sooo broke.”
“I’m just a college student
And my bank account’s a joke.”

It seems that many Harvard folks
Are filled with endless dread
At the prospect of admitting
Money helped them get ahead.

I’m not just talking ‘bout the kids
Of billionaire descent.
(Though over half of y’all
Come from the top 20 percent

But also all those Harvard folks
Of upper-middle class
Who fail to see the privileges
That helped them to surpass.

Cause what these students fail to see
and others just ignore, is that
Being upper-middle class
Does not mean you are poor.

The average Harvard income
Is like, far above the norm
And financial stability
Can help kids to perform.

But mostly, folks, this fake
“I’m poor” act that you’ve been deploying?
I’m here to tell you all that
It is, frankly, quite annoying.

Although I am low-income,
I’ve still got some lucky stuff.
My parents own a home
Where I can go if things get rough.

But real financial struggles
Aren’t trendy, hip, or cool
And very few of us actually
Feel them at this school.

So yeah, this was my PSA.
Y'all, please, hear what I’m saying.
Stop acting like you’re poor.
We know you’re not, so quit your playing.

Mireya Sánchez-Maes ’24 is a joint concentrator in English and Theater, Dance, and Media in Currier House. Her column “Rhyme and Reason” appears on alternate Mondays.