12/03/2012 11:24 am ET Updated Feb 02, 2013

Hear No Hardship

The women sitting at a restaurant table barely five feet away were especially loud and particularly caustic. I'm not a member of a book club, so I don't know if it's de rigueur for literary associations to throw back a few cocktails and to unsheath verbal knives at holiday get-togethers. If it is, then I was in the presence of a masterful group of readers.

The five brunettes trashed an acquaintance's behavior, then excused it because you "can't expect too much" from redheads. As this auburn-tressed woman couldn't catch their eyes in order to glare (and perhaps shed some shame on their cat-fest) they just prattled on and on. OK, they're friends having liquor-fueled fun trashing their spouses and that music teacher who "thinks she could sing on Broadway but couldn't make it to 39th Street." Time for me to stop eavesdropping on the spiteful barb-beque and focus on my own dinner companion.

Yet just as I decided to tune them out, I was compelled to loiter a little longer. Apparently, while I tussled with my conscience, one of the bookies remarked about someone's inability to afford something. I was pulled back in by another clubber's retort: "I'm so tired of hearing that you can't afford something reasonable if you live on Long Island. That's just ridiculous."

I gasped inwardly as the rant continued. "People who cry poverty and still live here are lying. You'd move away to someplace cheaper if Long Island was really too expensive."

I stopped listening at that point, knowing that I had a forum to vent against Ms. Oblivious. Otherwise, I might have thrown off social convention and tapped her on the shoulder. Tossing back my red hair, I'd have said, "There are plenty of people who can't afford to live in this area, but don't have the funds to leave, either."

Without naming those I'd encountered through my real estate law practice, I'd relate the story of a couple craving a divorce. They can't sell their house for sufficient money to establish separate households off Long Island, so they remain unhappily together. I'd tell her about the mom, dad, daughter, son-in-law, and two toddlers all living together, trying for one year to modify their mortgage so they can afford some "reasonable" things. I'd suggest people in her very community might be three, four, or more months behind on their mortgages. They may be meeting other expenses, but they aren't fibbing about their diminished finances even if they live around the corner from such a judgmental neighbor.

The partier with a snoot full was plain wrong if she truly believes everyone on Long Island is living large. It sounded to my prying ears as if she's both gainfully employed and at least semi-supported by a working spouse, so maybe she doesn't comprehend that there are lots of residents who can't leave Long Island, yet truly can't afford to comfortably stay. Perhaps the book club will read up on that in 2013.