Since watching Randy Pausch's Last Lecture, I bought the audiobook version at iTunes and listened to it on my iPod. In one chapter, he recites a story about the time his wife hit one car while it was sitting in the driveway with their other car. She spent the better part of the day anxiously waiting to tell him about it when he arrived home that evening. Much to her surprise, he wasn't upset and said that the dents would be okay. His parents had taught him that automobiles are there to get you from point A to point B:
They are utilitarian devices and not expressions of social status. We didn't need to do cosmetic repairs.... We could drive around in dented cars. You don't repair things if they still do what they're supposed to do.
If your trash can or wheelbarrow has a dent in it; you don't buy a new one. Maybe that's because we don't use trash cans or wheelbarrows to communicate our social status or identity to others. Our dented cars became a statement in our marriage. Not everything needs to be fixed!
This got me considering what else besides cars are used as social currency: muscles or a hot body, a prestigious address, the right credit card (or any credit card!), designer labels, or maybe it's just being able to get in at the new "it" restaurant.
When I interviewed Barbara Raab, a newswriter and editor at NBC Nightly News for the Ten Money Questions series at Queercents, I asked if her law degree was worth the time and money and she replied:
Short answer: yes. Longer answer: yes, but perhaps not for the right reasons. I had a professor in college who used to warn us all the time, "Don't go to law school unless you want to be a lawyer." I don't think I actually wanted to be a lawyer; I think I wanted what I perceived to be the "social currency" of an advanced degree, and I was so unsure of anything in my life at that time, including my sexuality and what was going to happen with that, that law school seemed like a good idea, but only because I didn't have a better one.
What "social currency" are you spending and is it "money" well spent? Or do you have things; like Randy Pausch's dented cars that really don't need to be fixed? I'd love your thoughts below.
When Nina is not spending her social currency (the little that she has!); she can be found blogging about money over at Queercents.