Does money buy happiness? I’m not sure, but I do know it bought the $200 dollar suit, $40 leather shoes, and $20 dollar hair cut I absolutely needed to get hired. Money bought the civilized means that erased condescension, the social capital to tell my wealthy coworker he was an idiot. To be poor and respected – that’s possible only with the credible threat of violence and most people seem to prefer I avoid the thug life.
My body is made of money. Money buys fresh vegetables instead of bulk Top Ramen, which is another way of saying it pays for my normal, unmedicated blood pressure and didn’t pay for my hypertension as a 19-year-old. It buys my trips to the gym for basketball and medical care when I break a foot or sprain a wrist. Money means I’ll be able to walk when I’m 70. It renders the cost of laundry trivial. Money relieves stress, which is to say it saves me from the void of hopelessness sucking at my stomach. Money frees me from my second and third jobs.
It buys the presumption of innocence from police officers and, failing that, it buys lawyers. Lawyers make you innocent, as I learned firsthand in a rural Nevada jailhouse. The justice system suddenly became my friend. Money buys me car insurance or, when I’m in Korea, housing in the communities that have functional public transportation. In other words, I’d otherwise have no legal means to get to work. Money bought me real estate far enough away from the meth labs that I no longer hear the explosions.
Money buys me weekend getaways and first dates in nice coffee shops. Money buys, in some order, sex, marriage and offspring with a chance to be something in the world. Money makes a family possible. If I’m able to secure enough, money will give me a place the grandkids will want to visit someday, and not the mold-infested dump my grandparents died in. It will keep my future wife from crying softly over a checkbook and spare my children from lying like I did to protect the family honor.
I reflect and wonder if, perhaps, we buy a little more happiness than we’d like to admit.
Ben Garrido at Literary Adventures in Korea