His Family Had Money. Mine Didn’t.


Our kitchen was wreckage. Dirty plates piled high. The floor was constantly wet. For a few years, there was a hole in the ceiling, a gaping wound formed after my brother left the bath water on upstairs. My bedroom, which I shared with my siblings, was painted in five different shades of pastels by me. Paint flaked and peeled off the walls, and small craters had been left in the plaster from all the posters we had tacked up and ripped down. Charlie touched one, eyebrows raised. He acted like a tourist, fascinated by our disorder.

His family home (where he had spent little time, having attended boarding school since age 13) was a five-bedroom mini-mansion 30 minutes outside London. When I stepped inside for the first time, my eyes glazed over. Everything shone. The clothes Charlie and his parents wore had a warm, clean smell; the towels in the bathroom were always dry.

Sometimes when his parents went out, and Charlie fell asleep, I would wander around each room, smelling the scented candles — vanilla, tobacco, pear. I would open the refrigerator and look at the food, which had been thoughtfully categorized. There was a shelf for cheese that actually contained cheese. A vegetable drawer that actually had vegetables in it, neatly stacked. Everything felt safe.

Dating Charlie, I felt as if I had opened a door. I saw that what class bestows is a belief that you can achieve things. I did not have faith in our relationship. I had seen something I wasn’t supposed to see. I came to realize that many of Charlie’s school friends would never come to houses like mine. Or if they did, they knew they would leave. They wouldn’t see the chaos in an intimate way.

In his world, nobody ever says anything, but they notice everything.

Our bubbles drifted apart for good when the time came to go to university and the vanity of small differences between us became starker than ever. He passed his exams breezily and was accepted into a prestigious university with red brick buildings. My grades were disappointing, and I decided to not even attend school, not immediately. Instead, I spent a lot of time with Charlie at his, not doing much of anything. This lasted for about one year.

After our breakup, I saw on Facebook that he was dating someone from a school named Princess Helena College. Eight years later, they’re still together. The founders of Toffee Dating are right. People from similar backgrounds do stick together. Stuck in the same batch of toffee, perhaps, safe in that impenetrable goop.


His Family Had Money. Mine Didn’t.