By Tory Fine, 16, Marlborough School
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Right off the bat, let me tell you something that I don’t always like to share with people when I first meet them. I live in a gated Beverly Hills community off Mulholland Drive and attend Marlborough School, an all-girls private school.

It may sound like the end-all be-all, but sometimes it feels like the odds have been stacked up against me.

When I tell some people about my house or school, I feel doomed. Some people leap to the conclusion that I own a swimming pool filled to the brim with Ben Franklins, or that I’m a closed-minded daddy’s girl.

I can always tell when people have made that kind of snap judgement about me. Their eyes go cool. Suddenly it feels like there’s a thousand-mile rift between us. These same people don’t see that they’re being just as closed-minded as the person they’re accusing me of being.

Oh, just stamp my forehead with a rich-bitch sign and tie me to a burning stake! It’ll be easier all around.

Truthfully, it hurts. But I can always hope those people will eventually look past the superficial stuff and form a new opinion based on the real me.

They assume I’m a snob

Before classes started a few years ago, our school sent out a book with names, pictures and addresses of everyone in our upcoming classes. Later, some girls on the bus admitted that when they received the book, they went through it and labeled each student either a dork, nice or snooty bitch.

When they came across my entry in the book as Victoria Elizabeth Fine of Beverly Hills, they made a decision on the spot not to be close with me. My name and address apparently broke their bitch-o-meter.

Some of these girls are now my closest friends. When they told me all this, I very much understood what they were saying. When it’s laid out flat like that, I wouldn’t want to get to know me either.

So whenever I meet someone new, I’m simply Tory from Los Angeles.

Last year I was talking to a guy at a dance, when he asked where I lived.

"Around Coldwater and Mulholland," I said.
My friend jumped in and added, "She lives in Beverly Hills and has a Mercedes! She’s a real rich bitch!"

I know she said it to be funny, but it came out in that awful, condescending tone. She could have declared, "Behold, this girl before you is marked with evil. Do not touch her in any way, or it will go badly for you! Mwa-ha-ha-ha!"

It would have had the same effect.

The guy shot me a look. His eyes appeared to be weighing me on a scale with my personality on one side and dollar signs on the other. I didn’t squirm. I didn’t even smack my friend upside the head until she saw stars, though believe me, that thought entered my head.

But I did try my best to be doubly charming just so I could walk away from our conversation optimistically. I didn’t want the new guy to turn and shake his head behind my back. I didn’t want to slip into the typical people-to-avoid folder in his mind. I didn’t want someone to only remember my lifestyle, and not my life. I realized that life just wasn’t fair, no matter who you are.

After the initial ka-ching! look on his face, that guy was pretty open to me. I was happy but can’t say I’ve felt the same way about my friend’s behavior since then.

People expect me to give them my stuff

Illustration by Tammy Phan, 16, Mountain View HS

Something that’s bothered me since I was old enough to remember, was the fact that people always want something from me. From the collection of My Little Ponies that I prized above all else, down to a cheap-o version of a wind dancer—foil ribbon on a stick—my friends always asked, "Can I have that?" They assumed that I could snap my fingers and get new toys.

Once, my best friend tried to make off with a bunch of my doll clothes. Her reasoning was that my parents would just buy me new ones.
"Parents are parents," I told her. "It doesn’t matter how much money they might have. They aren’t going to buy me new stuff just because I wasn’t careful with it!"

People are people. They have to follow the same rules whether they’re rich or not.

Sometimes stereotypes do fit

I admit freely that some girls who attend my school are more arrogant than even Napoleon at his height (ahem, or lack thereof). With Kate Spade bags swinging from their arms and cell phones attached to their ears, they have enough attitude to knock out an entire girl gang.

But my friends and I choose not to join their troops. We feel comfortable with ourselves and don’t need to flaunt it. Besides, once you get past Gucci glasses and designer jeans, there isn’t much left to flaunt, except the fact that they need a bunch of pricey merchandise to have self-confidence.

Not everyone at Marlborough is measured by credit card length or by house square footage. My friends and I measure others by personality and charisma.

Or at least we try.

Contrary to popular belief, nobody at my school shrieks when they break a nail. Well, almost nobody.

Honestly, appearances can be terribly deceiving! With so many knock-off Kate Spade bags and Tommy Hilfiger shirts floating around, it is all too easy to be fooled by clothing.

And, in my case at least, the clothing may look real, but you better believe I buy everything at bargain-basement prices. I weave my way through second-hand shops and sales racks for my wardrobe.

To me, a label is necessary only to see if a blouse is dry clean only or polyester—two things even a girl like me can’t deal with.