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I am the son of a billionaire: a friendship with me is different

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I am the son of a billionaire: a friendship with me is different

Getty Images; Alyssa Powell/BI

Pete Ballmer, son of billionaire and former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, talks about his experiences with friendship and dating. He explains how he has learned over time to keep people with possible ulterior motives at a distance. He further emphasizes that his childhood in a wealthy family does not define him and that most people do not treat him differently.

This is a machine translation of an article from our US colleagues at Business Insider. It was automatically translated and checked by a real editor.

This essay is based on a transcribed conversation with 29-year-old Pete Ballmer, a San Francisco-based stand-up comedian and one of the sons of billionaire and former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. It has been edited for length and clarity.

When I meet people, they usually don’t know that my dad is Steve Ballmer.

It’s funny – my dad is at a very interesting level of celebrity where some people make the connection straight away while most people have no idea. I have some friends who took a long time – many months – to realize the connection.

Some kids were mean

I don’t think there was an exact point in time when I realized how rich we were. At some point as a child, I went from knowing that we were rich to realizing that it was something that people brought up when they met me and that they already knew about.

There were a few kids who were mean to me about who my father was. I was once on a trip and my mother brought me my lunch in a bag from an Italian restaurant. And this kid asked, “Do you have Pallino Pastaria for lunch?” I replied, “No, it’s just a sandwich. It’s just in the bag.” It’s not even a particularly fancy restaurant, but he just wanted to cause me grief. Some kids tried to “get me” with things like that, like, “Oh, you’re so spoiled.”

At university I noticed that people treated me differently

When I was a child, no one was nicer to me because my father was who he was. But in college I noticed that some people were definitely nicer; they focused more on me when I spoke. They treated me like we were better friends than we actually were.

I remember a guy in my dorm (who I didn’t know very well) saying to me, “It’s pretty cool – I’m telling my family at home that I get to party with Steve Ballmer’s son at school.” Me I thought to myself, what’s the point of telling me this? The interaction made me uncomfortable and seemed strange.

I didn’t like that people knew about my family and how much money we had before they met me. I didn’t like that they mentioned it in a way that made my own identity seem secondary to what they saw in me: a child from a wealthy family.

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During family weekend my freshman year, my three roommates and I invited our dads over to play beer pong with us and a few other friends. Stanford had an unofficial “open door policy” that allowed students to drink freely as long as we kept our doors open. So we set up a beer pong table in our dorm room and turned it into a father-son game.

I was just having fun, but then I noticed people in the dorm coming up one by one to watch my dad play beer pong. That was kind of annoying, but I get it – it’s a spectacle, whatever.

For some people I’m just an asset or a connection

I notice when some people see me as just a trump card, someone who would be good to stay in touch with.

A few people send me messages about the Clippers, which my dad owns. These are the only messages I receive from them. These are not the kind of people I even want to be friends with.

I was once friends with a guy who made the effort to talk to me. I initially liked him and held back from assuming anything too early, but his actions over time showed that he clearly saw me as nothing more than an asset.

I’ve actively tried to ignore him in some way, even though he still texts me sometimes. He’s a venture capital jerk – for lack of a better description – so I know he’s thinking about how to exploit his relationship with me because he wants to be near tech money. He wants to show me off so his friends can see that I have a connection with him, and that’s annoying.

Of course, it is strange to accuse someone of impure motives. But I have the feeling that it’s like a sixth sense often enough now. I don’t actively avoid people, but I do make sure to keep those who I think have some ulterior motives at arm’s length.

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With my real friends, my father’s identity takes a back seat

I believe that good friendships are important and I trust in the people I have met and get along well with – I am very lucky with my friends. I have a close circle of friends here in San Francisco and we have a lot of fun together. I am also fortunate to have a close friend group from college and close friends from high school. My comedy friends are great too, and my newest friend group, my girlfriend’s friends, are really cool.

You always read articles about how people have fewer friends than they used to and how friendships are becoming more and more rare, but that’s not my experience at all (although I’m generally pretty sociable and easy to get along with, which is helpful if you trying to find friends).

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Over the course of my closest friendships, my father’s identity has faded into the background. It’s not something you really talk about in everyday life, just like most people don’t talk much about their parents with their friends.

I’ve never had anyone date me for my money

Everyone thinks that my family background would have a big impact on my dating life, but that wasn’t the case. From an anonymity standpoint, dating apps were honestly pretty great because the profiles only contained a first name and sometimes a last name.

I never talked about my father or my financial situation on my dates, but at one point I felt like I would be lying if I didn’t mention it.

I didn’t broach the subject until I felt like I had a feeling for the person and had a good idea that I wanted to spend more time with them – usually on the second or third date. At this point I felt like I knew they already liked me, so the way they approached me didn’t completely change.

I’ve actually never had the experience of anyone trying to date me for my money or anything like that. I feel like it’s kind of a two-way street. If someone is looking for a date with someone who has a lot of money, they are probably also looking for someone who will spend a lot of it. Since I don’t spend a lot of money, I don’t think anyone will look at me and think, “I can probably get a lot of money out of him.”

I never focused on the other person’s work or financial background. I had the privilege of not having to take someone’s financial situation into account because I knew I would be fine, and I don’t think a person’s work defines them.

For me, it was all about how I feel with this person – do I feel comfortable? Am I having a good time? Do I enjoy talking to them?

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My girlfriend and I have very similar attitudes towards money

I believe that the way someone approaches money is a byproduct of their overall philosophy of life. If you meet someone who is very pragmatic, sensible, grounded and down to earth, it is unlikely that they would happen to have a completely different approach to money than everything else.

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That’s why I looked for someone whose philosophy of life aligned with mine, and that usually applies to finances too. That was the case with my girlfriend. We’ve been together for almost two years now, and I’m very happy that we agree on how we approach money.

We live together in an apartment that is perfect for our purposes. It’s a two-room apartment with one bathroom – no bigger than it needs to be. We’re both pretty practical – we occasionally order late night UberEats even when we have food at home, but neither of us spends excessively.

I would feel uncomfortable if I didn’t split the bills evenly

My friend has worked hard in her career – she has a good job in tech – and has worked hard to be responsible with money and wants to be financially independent.

While we’re pretty confident we’ll stay together indefinitely, neither of us wants to merge financially just yet. However, one day my money will become our shared money.

We’re pretty independent in our approach to our finances at the moment; We share the expenses for the house, groceries and everything else equally. We never considered splitting bills and expenses proportionally. If I were with someone who suggested prorating expenses, I would be a little annoyed and feel like they might see part of the deal with me as a benefit to their lifestyle.

I learned that my family background does not define me

While I’ve noticed some people want something from me over the years, that’s only been a very small percentage of my experiences.

I’m still pretty open when I meet new people. I worried that once I left school I would be treated with less empathy or grace because of all the (justified) negative rhetoric about rich kids. I understand why some people are angry that people like me exist in this economic system, and I agree that this fact is a tragedy.

But even though some people have questions, I’ve found that the overwhelming majority of people don’t treat me any differently than they treat other people.

When you’re around people, your own prejudices quickly fade into the background and you just experience what it’s like to spend time with them.

I have learned that my identity does not define me. I thought I would have to break down more prejudices against the type of person I am or people’s assumptions about me in order to win their favor, but at the end of the day, most people just want to get along with other people.

Read the original article in English here.

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