When ends don’t meet, we have to figure out how to squeeze them together. I watched my mother do this while I was growing up and I did it myself when I was rearing my kids. (My children and me were raised up not dragged up to quote something I heard once. We were pushed and pulled along sometimes, too. Children don’t know what they need and a responsible parent has to be unpopular some times.) Side thought, let me get back to the point.
I watch my daughter and her friends who are all solidly middle-class and notice how much more stuff they have than me and my friends had at their age. We are out-resourced by them and they’ve accomplished things like home ownership and world travel earlier than we did. We are proud of them. Family progress and all that.
Unfortunately, this does not necessarily mean that they are more satisfied with their lives. The stakes are higher for them and their peers. The world is less certain than ever with very little that is sacred and true.
One of the differences between their young adult days and mine, is that I didn’t really know what I didn’t have and should want. Unlike my daughter and her peers, I didn’t have the lifestyles of the rich, famous, infamous, and stupidly-lucky broadcast into my consciousness daily on dozens of different channels and other media.
Who knew about sheet thread counts? Who cared? Who cared about Cristal? Champagne in and of itself was special. Who expected to eat shrimp, lobster and salmon regularly? They were luxuries most places. Spa pedicures were rare and special. Doesn’t having luxuries all the time make them less special, less notices, less appreciated?
I think the near- constant barrage of bad news, scandalous behavior, warped aspirations, “expert advice,” pressure to set the perfect table, have the right information is humiliating, frustrating and debilitating. It doesn’t build people up it erodes self-confidence and the ability to be content! Getting back to the original thought:
Making ends meet meant:
- doing with less,
- stretching resources,
- buying whatever food was on sale and planning meals around it,
- having a deep freezer and pantry to stock up when the sales were especially good,
- buying clothes from the sale rack only,
- it might mean writing a check a couple of days before the funds were deposited in your checking account (no computers then to show if you had funds),
- it meant lay-away,
- visiting the Children’s Museum on Friday evenings when it cost $1,
- going to the movies only at the matinée times and sneaking in our own snacks,
- cutting and using coupons,
- going to Goodwill and Salvation Army for some things,
- hitting Filene’s Basement and Dollar Days at Jordan Marsh,
- buying a T pass before anything else was purchased so that you could always get to work if nothing else.
- bringing instead of buying lunch.
Making ends meet sometimes went doing without – lunch, a new suit or shoes; it meant delaying; it meant saving up and then getting that thing you’d been saving up for – which felt especially delicious when finally acquired!
All of this makes you stronger, more resilient and better prepared for the inevitable down times. It also means that you are definitely less fabulous than people aim to be now. Yet somehow living more modestly felt as, if not more content. More is not better after all.