Twelve April, Twenty Twenty-One
My parents were Depression Era kids. Grama Remington used to talk about how Daddy and his brothers didn’t have shoes in the summer to save money. What scarred my parents got handed down to us kids. There was a constant, subconscious certainty that there wasn’t enough. Four kids, two baths. Who left that light on? Do you really need to stand there with the refrigerator door open all day? Keep your hands off the thermostat! If you’re cold put on another sweater.
Add to that the fact that I was coming of age when environmentalism and its kissing cousin, anti-consumerism, were really catching on and I was a little Communist waiting to happen.
My friends and I didn’t hang out at the malls. Are you kidding? Those ghastly nightmarish temples of conspicuous consumption? Please. Instead, we drove up and down Route 18 outside of Medina, Ohio endlessly. We smoked pot and listened to Rush and Led Zeppelin on the 8-track and talked about changing the world. Apparently, we never got past the talking stage there. Sorry.
I have traditionally been averse to spending money. It’s in my DNA.
Shopping as recreation? What is that about? I don’t shop. I go in, find what I came for, buy it, and leave.
And, yet, in the past several months, I’ve been spending like we finally hit the lottery (we haven’t). I’ve bought new skillets and bedding and (bigger) pants and a pair of Vans and a new microwave oven. We’re talking about an overnight trip to Ocean Grove, New Jersey in the next several weeks. I even treated Neil to dinner at the Hi-Life last week! And today I plunked down $127 on an unlimited Metrocard. I’ll probably be buying a second one as backup soon. No matter what the MTA says there’s bound to be another fare hike coming soon and I’ll be ready.
It was only four months ago that I was lamenting the end of the line for me and the unlimited Metrocard. Then I got vaccinated and suddenly I can ride the subway without wanting to scream at the inevitable nincompoop with his — oh, yes indeed, I am gender-profiling here, Sunshine — mask under his nose. Now I’m out every daggone day and while I’m out there in the city, I am spending money.
What is going on with all this profligacy? Did I inherit a long-forgotten Auntie’s fortune? Have I patented a unique formula for ensuring a marked increase in readers? That I’m still working on.
It’s much less thrilling than all of that. I’ve been unemployed since October 2019 and the gods couldn’t have bestowed better timing. Thanks to our friend, the virus, I’ve had my unemployment benefits extended and even expanded over and over again. Throughout our Unholy Year of the Virus, as the money’s been coming in, we have not been going out. Ok, we have been going out to walk in the park or stand in line to buy groceries. But not out out.
Over the past year what we have been doing is saving money. And now that I can go out more safely it turns out that there are things we need.
Also, the part of the equation I never acknowledged before is that spending money doesn’t just mean lining the over-filled vaults of the 1% (although it does mean that). It means paychecks for people who have kids to feed. It means helping someone else pay down their student loan debt (I feel your pain). It means keeping people in jobs…at least until the robots come for those jobs, too.
Every year when the Season of Cheer arrives I always think it’s probably a good thing that the rest of the world doesn’t do like I do — meaning buy nothing extra at all — or the economy would crater.
Well, we’re very near the edge of a cratered economy now.
Now I don’t kid myself that my microwave and two new pair of Dockers are making all that much of a difference. But for someone who is constantly tucking money away for the coming typhoon season, being not terrifically uncomfortable spending money on myself feels — dare I say it — healthy.
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