When I was in my early twenties, I had a lovely job at a small museum. I did a variety of things from managing the volunteer corps, writing copy for the exhibits, handling public relations, and setting up chairs for special events. I did just about everything except manage the books and curate the shows. I loved my job and my boss and met many people I’m still in touch with, all these years later. The one thing I didn’t love about the job was the poverty-level wages I was paid. Though the job looked great on my resume and was really a lot of fun, I was barely paying my bills.
The museum was in a very posh little town in Connecticut. It’s exactly what you’re picturing when I say the words posh little town in Connecticut. Historic houses, charming shops, expensive restaurants, Volvos and Mercedes everywhere. Sailboats and yacht clubs and a lot of fundraising galas.
I was raised in a middle-class family, but both sets of my grandparents struggled a bit. My mom has eight brothers and sisters; though they never lacked for food or clothes, there wasn’t a lot of excess. My father’s mother was a single mom for years before she married my step-grandfather, and she worked full-time, which was unusual in those days. So while my own childhood was lovely, we cleaned our own house, cooked our own food, and raked our own leaves. We were normal, in other words.
But Essex was different. Money oozed from people’s pores, it seemed. I worked with a lot of extremely wealthy people, and some were very normal, too. In fact, the wealthiest person I ever met is as down-to-earth as could be. But more than that type were the people who were a bit gross about their money. The “jokes” about how poor Vicky had to have 1000-count sheets, and the 600 count that Bill had bought at Bloomingdales were just not good enough for her. The sad fact that a family had three kids in college and was throwing a wedding with 500 guests, so they could only afford a month in Nantucket that summer.
It was the kind of moneyed affect that you could only have if you were born into it, you know what I mean? A few times, I was referred to as “the help.” Some people were surprised I’d gone to college and a fairly prestigious college at that. Once in a while, I’d be invited for a drink or lunch at the rich folks’ homes, because I was well-liked in our little museum community. But I just couldn’t imagine living in those houses, most of which had a plaque on the door proclaiming the historical significance. One place had a carriage house and a live-in housekeeper. Now that, I could picture—being the housekeeper. I’ve always liked to clean things.
On my lunch hour, I’d walk through the town, ogling the houses (as I still do; it’s a hobby of mine). I’d wonder how on earth people could afford to live in such places. I wondered what my own home would be like someday.
Jessica Dunn, the heroine of ANYTHING FOR YOU, grew up as trailer park trash in a town where there’s plenty of money…for some people. Her dream in life is to own her own home in the Village, the tidy, sweet part of town near the lake, just off the town green. Not rent, not live with a boyfriend or husband…be the homeowner. Have a porch with hanging baskets of flowers. A yard where she could plant flowers and rake her own leaves.
My friend has a saying: Happy is the person who knows she has enough. Jess, who grew up so poor, is always worried the other shoe is about to drop. Throughout the course of the book, she’ll learn how much she really does have, and it has nothing to do with finances. It never does, does it? So many of those wealthy people I knew back then were utterly miserable. You just never know.
I hope you’ll love ANYTHING FOR YOU. Let me know, okay? Happy, happy New Year!