Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Can money buy happiness?

There's an article in the university newpaper this week about a study done here that 'proves' money can't buy happiness. The woman who wrote it, a colleague of mine on our other campus, led her article with these statements: "The Beatles said it. Benjamin Franklin said it. Even your mother said it -- money can't buy happiness."

Well, first of all, the Beatles said "can't buy me love," not can't buy me happiness. (And I, for one, would say that love most definitely does not always equal happiness.) But what I really have to take issue with is the mother statement. My mother most assuredly DID say that money can buy happiness. Heck, it was almost her mantra. "It's just as easy to love a rich man as it is to love a poor one," she used to tell me all the time. Gotta love mom. (And I do, really.)

My boss's mother was even more direct about it: "I married for love, so the least you can do is marry for money," she would say.

And frankly, ladies and gentlemen, I have to say I agree, at least in principle, with both of them. Sure, money might not BUY happiness, but it sure is a heck of a lot easier to BE happy when your checks are made of paper rather than rubber, when the balance in your checking account is black rather than red, when your ability to go grocery shopping doesn't depend on the date and whether or not your paycheck has gone through yet.

Money also opens up possibilities that might not otherwise exist. As the sole wage earner in our family, it was, until recently, a huge waste of my time to pine after the idea of being a stay-at-home mom or even working part-time/freelance out of my home. It's still not a reality, but it's no longer a mere pipe dream. And what made the difference? Money.

Am I happier since Baroy started working? Yes. I am. A lot happier. Why? Stupid little things, for one: Buying a huge $3 artichoke at the farmer's market, just because I have a craving for one. Treating myself--treating MYSELF! Did you hear that?--to an iced coffee once a week or so. Renewing our membership to the local arboretum so that we can spend afternoons and weekends savoring its delectable quiet and riotous color every now and again. Not having a screaming fight with Baroy over the extra $5 of water that got used yesterday when he left the sprinkler on in the way back of the yard for over four hours. (Whoops! We both felt bad about the waste of water, of course, but at least it wasn't a near-catastrophe financially. And man does my basil look perky today.)

And there are larger, though more subtle, ways in which money is bringing happiness 'round here as well. The reduction in stress level--both mine and Baroy's--is beyond palpable. I don't spend as much time resenting him; before, he had the lifestyle I wanted, and it made me angry, and I directed most of that anger at him. (And to make it worse, I had the lifestyle he wanted, and he resented me for that as well.) His self-confidence has skyrocketed; sure, he's still constantly leery about all of this disappearing on him, but at least he knows now that he can achieve in his field. Having his confidence in his own abilities seconded by others has been a powerful tonic. I couldn't be happier for him.

And so we get along better, in general. And we're having sex again, folks! More than once a month! We rock! Not only that, but I actually WANT to be having sex more often than we manage to. This is huge for me. HUGE. I haven't had a real, working libido since before E was born. It could be the zoloft, sure, but it could also be the other changes 'round here. Since they started at around the same time, it's hard to tell. Still, having a few extra dollars lying around has not hurt. At all.

So, maybe money can't buy happiness. But it sure does make me smile.

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