Last week thanks to a gift from kind friends we had a short break in a hotel that we would normally never dream of staying in. It was lovely but I think it’s fair to say that we didn’t feel entirely comfortable in the surroundings and that we almost felt ashamed that we had to worry about money while the other guests appeared to have little concerns in that department.
The reason I’m thinking about this is because someone (our butcher) mentioned in passing that he mightn’t be doing anything nice this year for Valentine’s Day as ‘to be honest money is pretty tight this year’. He looked embarrassed saying those words and we too felt embarrassed as we’re in the same boat and didn’t want to embarrass him. It was a circle of all round embarrassment.
I hate the way lack of money or financial clout can make a man feel so embarrassed.
I had a plan to save a bit of money last weekend before our trip to Mayo by using some of the store cupboard staples and not going to the market.
But on Monday afternoon the back door lock on our car broke for no apparent reason meaning that we couldn’t lock it and a trip to the garage set us back £30 for the mechanic to do a temporary job and lock the door for the trip away. Factor in another £20 for a replacement lock and £30 to get it fitted and suddenly you are down £80.
This is life of course and being able to lock your back door is more important than a dinner out I suppose. But that £80 when money is tight is the Valentine’s Dinner out or a flight over to see relations in Spain. These are the decisions many of us have to make yet still there is shame in saying money is tight.
Well, feck it and double feck it.
Let’s get real and ignore the words of Simply Red that money’s too tight to mention. It shouldn’t be too tight to mention and we shouldn’t feel shame and saying that we can’t afford to pay for an expensive meal under a helium love heart balloon or go out for a friends stag party or ________ etc etc.
Alain de Botton writes a bit about this sort of thing in Status Anxiety
‘Populations blessed with riches and possibilities far outstripping those imaginable by their ancestors….have shown a remarkable capacity to feel that both who they are and what they have are not enough’
And the reason?
‘Our sense of an appropriate limit to anything – for example, to wealth and esteem – is never decided independently. It is arrived at by comparing our condition with that of a reference group, with that of people we consider to be our equals’
That is it.
Comparing myself to all my friends on Facebook is a bad idea because they are the ones going on holidays or doing exciting, sexy stuff while we’re not.
I guess that my reference group should be the church, not even the local church here in Lisburn but the world wide church as they all are (strictly speaking) my brothers and sister, my family. If they’re my first reference group instead of the group of guests at the slightly plush hotel maybe that would help me to see things differently. Or if Jesus is my ultimate reference he didn’t seem to have two beans to rub together, foxes have holes and birds have nests but the son of man has no where to lay his head.