Friday, October 23, 2009

Money and Happiness Revisited

The idea that money can’t buy happiness has come up again recently. I’m not really sure how this idea ever got so much traction in our society. I personally think it's absolutely absurd. Now if someone said money doesn’t equal happiness, I could agree with that. I don’t believe that money is either necessary or sufficient for happiness.

I know that money isn’t necessary for happiness because I grew up watching Little House on the Prairie. They didn’t have much in the way of material things and certainly they were happy. Not to mention some of my happiest moments in life have cost little, if any, money. If you ever have the opportunity, try this: some summer day get an old inner tube and float around in a lake. If you do have money for a cold beer, take that with you (you may not want to drink too much, the whole drowning thing is not conducive to happiness generally). This ranks fairly high in my happy moment memory bank and was virtually free. You probably have similar memories: the perfect sunset at the beach, a rainy day curled up with a cup of tea and good book (which you presumably borrowed from the library) ---you get the picture. I think we can agree that money is not necessary for happiness. Next we must ask if money is sufficient for happiness. Well, we’ve all read the tabloids, right? Apparently the rich and fabulous are not always happy. Having yet to experience being rich and fabulous I’m tempted reserve judgment, but I think we can be safe saying money is probably not sufficient for happiness.

Now we turn to the real question though. Money may not equal happiness, but can money buy happiness? Of course it can! Money doesn’t just buy material things (though it does and they can be lovely and often make me quite happy. Not a day goes by that I don’t thank God and Steve Jobs for my iPod). Money not only buys things, it also buys experiences. Experiences, the little moments in life, are where we find our joy. Yes, many of the best ones are free, but some of the best ones are most certainly not. Many of the most amazing moments of my life cost quite a bit actually. For instance, one year ago today I was in Stratford-upon-Avon where I saw Patrick Stewart and David Tennant perform Hamlet. Not only was the play, which I had the good fortune to see twice, brilliant beyond my expectations, but the entire trip was a little festival of happiness just for me. I happen to love England and Stratford is one of my favorite places on earth because of my long-time super geeky devotion to all things Shakespeare. This was my third trip to Stratford, but my first time going it alone. I did not miss having company. Being on my own felt like the ultimate indulgence. For me being in England is like wrapping myself up in a fuzzy blanket and sitting in front of a fire. On my very first trip I found myself overwhelmed with emotion because of the illogical, yet unmistakable feeling that I had somehow come home.

Last year’s trip was one of the best trips I’ve ever taken anywhere and I was happier those few days in Stratford and London than I’d been in a long time. Fast forward 365 days and I’m at work in the Pit of Despair, feeling oppressed and miserable. The difference? Money. Quite simply I don’t have the money to do many of the things that give me the most pleasure in life including travel. The more money a person has, the more choices they have for how to spend their time and how to get the most enjoyment out of life. I’m not saying one can’t be creative and find ways of enjoying things for less, but I believe the bottom line is that many of life’s greatest pleasures (for me the list includes travel, education, wine, fine dining and theatre) are not free. This does not even take into consideration the obvious fact that, if you have enough money, you can buy your very freedom--freedom from the job you need, but don't love. I've come to realize it is an absolute truth that money can buy happiness. And a Marc Jacobs handbag.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Real Man

I’ve been watching Mad Men this season and loving it, of course. Loving Don Draper, of course. How could anyone not? He’s so handsome. I’ve actually wrestled a bit with my infatuation with Don because, objectively, he’s not a man I would want. He’s unfaithful. He keeps secrets. He’s dishonest. At the same time he exudes a quality that seems to have disappeared from men in the past 50 years. It’s hard to quantify, but the best I can say is that Don Draper is a real man. He is confident. He’s someone you would trust in a crisis. He’s strong. He doesn’t go whining on about his troubles. I realize it is somewhat ironic that I frown upon whining since that’s pretty much all I do on this blog. I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions about that. Upon closer examination, it seems I’m probably most drawn to Don Draper because all the men I’ve ever dated have been boys. Never mind they were in their 30s. They were boys. I'm not sure there are any real men anymore. Perhaps none were born after 1960 in America. I’m guessing this doesn’t apply to the UK because David Tennant seemed suspiciously like a real man when I met him in spite of his boyish good looks! I look around the Pit of Despair and I don’t see any men. I see boys who make a tremendous amount of money and pretend to be men--the Pete Campbell’s of the world.

So what exactly are the qualities of a man? As I mentioned, I think a real man is confident (without being egotistical), good in a crisis and strong (I’m talking more about emotional strength here, but a certain amount of physical strength is nice too--there is the occasional jar that needs opening after all). They also need to be able to dress themselves and have appropriate clothes for all social situations. The man who doesn’t own a suit (a suit purchased in the past few years—not some ill-fitting thing his mom bought him ten years ago for his cousin’s wedding!) and can’t tie a tie, is not a man. A real man will be at ease in a variety of social situations. A real man can fly solo--guys who cling to their pack of buddies are boys. If he drinks, he drinks something serious. Real men do not drink fruity, girly drinks. BTW, bonus points for the man who can mix a real cocktail—Jack and Coke doesn’t count--I'm talking martini, gimlet, etc. Still, while these all seem to be qualities of a real man, I think there’s also an indefinable quality, a certain je ne sais quoi, which makes a man a man. Whatever it is, Don Draper has it in spades. And I love him for it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I'll Never Be 24

Twenty-four year old blonde girls have become the bane of my existence. I'm guessing I'm not the only one who feels this way. After all, seem to be everywhere. Usually chatting up some guy you're interested in. It's not so much that they're blonde, I've been blonde and easily could be again. It's not so much that they're hot. I can always work out harder and, thanks to the miracle of plastic surgery, I can have giant-sized breasts that defy all laws of physics if I choose. I can have them lipo out all the undesirable padding then add a bit to the backside so I can be entirely bootylicious. Heck, if I can just find that Russian doctor from I Want to Believe, I think I can get an entire body transplant. Despite all of these technological advancements, however, they still haven't invented a pill or surgical procedure that will make me 24 again. And that's a bitter pill to swallow.

Healing Trauma Through Giving

You may recall my post a few months back about the hideous bag someone gifted me ( and how highly traumatized I was to think this is the way people see me. I decided it was time to put the pain behind me so I turned it into something positive by donating the infamous bag to a charity yard sale over the weekend. Had someone take this picture to memorialize the moment (and so you could see for yourself how truly awful this thing was *shudders*). Surely this is the first step toward healing.