Spoil Me With Your Love, Not With Your Money

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Family, Self

Stuff is nice. But I would always rather do something with him than have more stuff.

When I was about twelve years old, my father took my family out for dinner at the fanciest restaurant in town. We knew the family was celebrating his company going public, but we had no idea what that meant. It wasn't until just before dessert was served, he handed us each a crisp $100 bill and told us our lives were about to be very different that we understood.

We were rich. Until then, we'd been very much a middle class family. My mom stayed home, my dad worked on his Ph.D., and after that, at a laboratory, inventing new technology and ways to use the brand new baby internet. He was apparently really good at it.

For about three years, I was a rich kid. I had an epic bat mitzvah party. I got a piano for my birthday. I had a monthly allowance just for buying clothes. We vacationed on cruises and at Hawaiian resorts. It was amazing...

Then the dot com bust happened and overnight, we weren't rich anymore. Not even close. Before I knew it, my father was miserably laying off his closest friends, and my mother was working at the grocery store down the road.


The thing was, my life didn't feel very different. My friends weren't friends with me for the money I had access to. Most of them had no idea. Despite the monthly clothing allowance, I still dressed like a weird, goth teenager. I still wanted to spend my time drinking cheap coffee in all-night diners with my weird, goth friends. None of that changed.

As I grew up, I wasn't fixated on money. I didn't feel driven to make sure I had any; instead, I lived in a shoebox studio apartment, living off dried beans and rice, and writing poetry. It had been nice to have money, it had been a blast. But the best thing money ever did for us was give us a chance, as a family, to do things together. And you really don't need a lot of money for that.

When I met my future husband and we started talking about building a life together, he warned me he would never make a ton of money. I was a writer and painter  he knew I was never going to bring one the big bucks.

He's an engineer. He likes math, and math generally doesn't pay too spectacularly, either. I told him I didn't care. And I don't.


Money has never done for me what experiences have. I would rather make a Halloween costume out of thrift store curtains than buy a shiny new one at the store. I like learning to do things like canning and gardening. I like to spend my time quietly reading or playing board games. While elaborate vacations are nice, I don't need to go anywhere. It's the people in your life who make it special.

Every once in awhile, my husband apologizes for not being able to afford a spectacular present he wants to get me for Christmas and I tell him, with total sincerity, not to think twice.

Stuff is nice. But I would always rather do something with him than have more stuff.

I've had stuff. And while it's great, it can't create happiness. My fondest memories of being rich aren't of realizing I had a brand new piano or paying for twelve friends' Chinese food on a whim. My fondest memories of being rich are when my sister and I entered a talent show together singing "California Dreamin'," or when the whole family sat around watching bad movies together, or when my father helplessly tried to make dinner for us kids with my mom out of town, realized we were out of groceries, and suggested feeding us Cheerios and beer before ordering pizza.

My favorite memories of our wealthy years are of my family enjoying each other's company, no matter where we were.


So I tell my husband, don't worry about taking me out to a fancy restaurant. Don't worry about buying me new gadgets and gizmos. Don't worry about it. I'd have a better time staying home, watching Clue and drinking cheap wine, maybe with a foot rub thrown in, being together instead of buying something together.

If he wants to spoil me, he can spoil me with love. It's better than money any day of the week.



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