A Gentle Reminder . . . to Myself
“Hush Christopher! You’re not supposed to talk about your money.” It’s funny how in certain cultures, money is not discussed, yet in others, it is flaunted. I was raised in an environment where it was not appropriate to talk about what one paid for things. Mind you, I was raised in poverty. I recall teachers in school telling us that there are certain things one didn’t share. You were never supposed to make your peers uncomfortable — boasting about what you have and reminding others about what they didn’t have. Looking back, I believe this was a good life lesson. Something tells me Brooklyn has changed since the 60s and that they’re no longer teaching these values.
I’m getting to my point . . . I live in a place where lots of expats (immigrants) come to retire, play mah jongg and/or poker. The people I’m surrounded by are not poor, but for the most part, they are also not rich. These are people stretching their hard earned dollars. Travel, good food, concerts, and time with friends, is their currency. I rarely hear much boasting; it seems to be more about sharing experiences. What is nice about this, is that you can get some good ideas and learn from other people. So long as we listen to one another — a lost art indeed.
Every once-in-a-while, someone says something about a house they’re buying or something they ordered online. I hear a hint of bragging and it makes me cringe, but the truth is we all do it. I try to stop myself when my thoughts head in that direction, but sometimes it feels good to hear someone ooh and ah. For example, I was sharing a recent memory of a Michelin star lunch I had in Porto. I was treated, so I’m not sure it counts. I was describing the setting and the dishes and I could tell, a couple at my table was taking mental notes. I know it wasn’t a vacation in the Maldives or the purchase of a beach house; however, I was eating up the envy. Isn’t that a form of bragging?
I recently spent some time with friends from South Wales. They casually asked me how much I paid for my condo. I shared the amount with them, but I was somewhat surprised that they asked the question. I told them that although I told them what I paid, in my world it was not something you usually divulged. They were miffed by my words. First, it was their impression that Americans loved to discuss their wealth and second, they said that people in Wales talk about what they paid for a house without giving it a second thought.
How One Might Respond to Boasting
There is the gentle, innocent bragging and then there is the Donald Trump, over-the-top variety. Which one might you think I despise? There are a number of ways to deal with it when it is directed at you or when you are a part of a larger group listening, as all collectively cringe.
Here are some responses to the obnoxious kind we have all been forced to endure:
“I didn’t realize you could afford something that expensive.”
“Wasn’t that watch popular in the 80s?”
“Can you leave it to me in your will please?”
“Can you save this for the next time, I’m buying a Ferrari today and I’m afraid I have an appointment with the dealer.”
“Show me that diamond again, I didn’t see it the first time.”
Bragging about children, grandchildren, or pets shouldn’t count; except of course, when a person goes on and on until you get to the point where you’d like to knock the phone out of their hands.
Am I being unkind? Sorry, I don’t think so.
What I Have that I Consider Priceless (happy to boast about this):
- Family who love me despite my shortcomings
- Friends who make me laugh when I’m down and who are there for me when I need them most. In other words, friends who are chosen family.
- Paco, my furry friend and companion
- A love of art, words, nature and the undiscovered
- Good health
- The ability to reason and rationalize
- A home in a country where social democracy is embraced and practiced
- My father’s passion for food and cooking
- My mother’s sense of humor (and legs)
- A seeker of truth and justice
Not an exhaustive list, but you get the point. How can anything material this world could offer me, trump this list? I implore you to take inventory of what truly matters.
I consider “know it alls” to be right up there with people who boast. Wouldn’t it be great if we could sometimes just say, “Would you please just shut up!”
When You Might Be Misunderstood
I recently posted the purchase of a friends painting on Facebook. Some might see that as boasting. “Look at him bragging about buying art.” In truth, I did it to promote my friend’s work. I wanted others to see her talent and visit her studio; in my mind, that’s not boasting, it’s supporting a friend. I’m not ashamed of my behavior; I’m proud to know talented people.
I’m currently exploring the Loire Valley. It’s too hot to walk around, but Pornic on the coast starting Saturday will offer milder weather and even a thunderstorm (my favorite). Milan and Genoa in early September; Toronto, Denver, and Detroit coming up mid-September (the best time to travel). Cruising to northern Europe in October, and then a number of shorter trips to the end of the year. This isn’t boasting by the way. If I said I was was staying in a suite on the cruise, that would be boasting. I always travel on the cheap.
I probably won’t dedicate a blog to Nantes and Pornic (where I am now). I’m enjoying being away from home. For me, writing about a place can be distracting. Feel free to ask questions if you have any. France is one of my favorite countries and sometimes being here feels like an extension of home.
8 thoughts on “I Am Not What I Own”
We brag about you, are we wrong?
Christopher— I love this. Thanks for writing and sharing it.
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Thank you for reading my blogs Michael; I’m grateful that people are listening.
Nice blog Christopher. It’s tricky acknowledging the abundance one has without crowing about it. Sometimes I get it right sometimes less so. But it’s also good to embrace the abundance of yours and your friends lives
Crow away David. You’re extremely self-aware and never go overboard.
When we returned, however temporary, to the U.S from Portugal, we moved off an island on the coast of Georgia to a very working class neighborhood on the mainland. We have such diverse neighbors and everyone is caring and kind. It is absolutely refreshing. While many of our old friends say our house is “cute” it is rather obvious they would never do the same. We decided to make the move so we could continue to travel when we want to and cultivate, in our opinion, more authentic neighbors. After traveling the world it is so obvious to us how very fortune we are in comparison to 99 percent of the world’s population. We are so grateful each and every day.
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The true nature of people in our lives always reveals itself. I’m glad you’re doing what’s best for you and Blaise.