MONEY MAKES THE WORLD GO AROUND
(From Fred Ebb and John Kander’s musical Cabaret)
The other day my grandson, during a family dinner, brought up a topic they were discussing in his business class. His teacher had told them that picking a profession should not be based on how much money one would make but on the impact it would have for each of them. I asked my grandson to ask his teacher “What if making money is the most important impact for a person?” My grandson said he would ask but as yet I haven’t heard back.
I was raised in a house where money was the means to an end, i.e. to put food on the table and to buy clothes, toys, cars, furniture so that we could survive. The goal of making money was for that purpose alone and the desire to advance to any higher upper echelon not of import. We had friends, a comfortable home, a good life.
I did admire and kind of envy my friends who had bigger houses and nicer clothes and who had their own cars. I lived with my lot and never expected to do more than that. I learned to manage what I had and to always, beginning in fifth grade when I sold Christmas cards door to door, try to make it on my own.
Who would have thought when I married my husband, who was even less well off than I was, that in the future we would be more than comfortable in our old age?
I remember the pressure that came with the increasing access to wealth. I needed to pay more attention to my wardrobe, my house, my car. I had to learn how to keep my hair, my home and my children up to date on haircuts, clean carpets, and well-tailored clothes. Somehow my mother had always done this within her means and was a good role model and yet, she didn’t know much about this next step into the world of capitalism, the one where you mingled with corporate types and neighbors who were trust fund babies who mostly discussed which resort they would go to for their next vacation
I have always been a big fan of Judith Viorst who is most famous for her children’s book Alexander and the Very Horrible No-Good Day, a book I read over and over to my children. I particularly remember reading a chapter she wrote in her book How Did Get to Be Forty (And Other Atrocities) where she talks about getting to a stage where she and her cool college roommates had turned into women “with matching sets of luggage.” I sort of think this epitomizes my transition into the world of capitalism. It became a necessity to figure out how to focus on the ways to increase that wealth so I could continue to buy matched sets of luggage.
And then all of a sudden, I was no longer looking out for the welfare of the world. I became more focused on what it took to bring in the bucks.
As I have grown older, I have realized you can both make sure you are financially comfortable and be happy doing this. Sometimes you will have to sacrifice and do the things to advance your goals that may overlook your do-gooder instincts. But you can minimize this as well.
Regardless, if you look at the world, it’s always been about money and trade and wealth and power. We’re stuck with that. Money does make the world go around. I have come to believe you just have to deal with it.
Mimi Pockross is the author of three books. Her new book, a novel called An American Family, has just been completed and is pending publication.