Last week, we published a mystery woman's $20,000 wish list for Christmas and while some of us saw it as rampant materialism and disgusting greed, others seemed to feel that if they had the money, why not spend it?
Well here's why: Money does not buy happiness. It is the simplest phrase in the world, a cliche, something that is entirely too ubiquitous and yet so many refuse to believe it.
When you don't have money, it seems like having money must be the best thing in the world, but being very wealthy does not buy you happiness and it does not buy you love. It just buys you things. Look at Ivana Trump. She married well and could have had all of the riches in the world, but she could not have a faithful husband and intact family.
Or how about Anna Nicole Smith? Her wealthy husband gave her every material thing in the world and she was about as miserable as they come. Goldiggers never fare well.
There are two types of people in the world, it seems: those who expect the moon from their significant other for the holidays and those who expect or want very little. I fall into the latter camp. My husband and I -- together 10 years at this point -- usually buy something nice for ourselves at the beginning of the season and then choose something "experiential" that we can do together as our gift.
I don't want the cheesy diamond commercial where the man hands the woman a Zales necklace and she cries with pure joy. I just want time with my husband. This year we will be in Amsterdam for a week, but in past years we have gone rock climbing together, traveled to Paris, gone to our favorite B&B on the cape and so on.
One has to question the kind of person who presents her boyfriend with a $20,000 wish list, period. Even if he can afford it. One also has to question the notion that "rich people are rich because they are smart" (as someone commented). Sometimes that is true. But sometimes they are rich because their parents were rich, they went to Ivy League schools, became investment bankers and found themselves girlfriends who coveted material items.
This guy may not even know that there are women out there who might (gasp!) love him for more than his wallet. There is nothing wrong with money, of course. It makes the world go round and fixes a whole lot of problems. But it isn't love. And let's remember that the woman with the biggest diamond does not automatically have the marriage with the most love, much as Miss $20,000 Christmas list may wish otherwise.
Choose real love over money (and a $20,000 Christmas list) any day. Why? Because real love is what keeps you warm at night and gets you through deaths in the family, job loss, humiliation and mistakes. It is what bolsters you and supports you through your good times, too. It is on your side when someone lets you down and pushes you when you think you can't go another step. It is the husband who does not run who runs the last five miles of the marathon with you just so you can make your time goal.
Is it possible to have love and money? Absolutely. And no one is above appreciating money and all the $160 pairs of jeans it affords. Materialism has its place and we can appreciate the finer things without making a list of the 20 designer things we think we "need" to fix something that is clearly broken on the inside.
Do I feel "judgement and contempt for that woman?" No. I feel sad for her and the boyfriend who has to do her bidding. Growing up, attending college and now living in an expensive city, I've seen a hundred women with lists just like hers. Maybe she is getting him something equally fabulous, but I doubt it. Having money truly is a gift, but in a perfect world, it also lends the clarity to understand that material items actually mean very little.
What kinds of gifts do you and your spouse exchange?