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If I Were a Rich Woman

June 30, 2011 | by Marnie Winston-Macauley

I write for a living. In other words, I ain’t rich.

Some years ago, we made a truly horrific mistake. We moved to the best area and into the worst house to be in walking distance of our son’s school. Yes, there were other choices, but we were taken in by the “Location! Location! Location!” credo, which, to Mrs. Plotkin of Millennium 3 Reality, was an 614th Commandment, falling somewhere between loshon hara and not embarrassing others. (Embarrassing ourselves, however, was another matter.)

So we bought “location” and a relic that was no doubt the original set for the diner scene in Bus Stop. In rotten neighborhoods these are called fixer-uppers. In good neighborhoods, they’re called “carriage houses.” (Much like the distinction between nuts and eccentric.) In fairness, the living room was huge.

According to the original blueprints written in something resembling hieroglyphics, the living room must’ve been added on later -- when the “people” got taller. But the rest resembled a railroad flat, flanking the “real” houses with actual rooms.

I first knew there was trouble when my son wondered why I didn’t wear diamonds to open school night “like all the other mommies,” or fetch him in a Lamborghini. He wasn’t spoiled, merely observant. Even a kid could see the difference between a Donna Karan blazer and a sweatshirt that read, “How can I Control My Life if I Can’t Control My Hair?”

While being a minnow in Lake Superior is no shame, in the words of Tevye, it’s no great honor either.

My reply? “I’m a writer.” Boom! After all, in New York City, virtually all of our “creative” friends, regardless of fame, reveled in “shabby chic.” “Creatives” don’t have to be rich “outside.” We have inner wealth! We deal in ideas, values, quirk! Yeah, that’s the mantra. And for years I got away with it.

But, while being a minnow in Lake Superior is no shame, in the words of Tevye, it’s no great honor either.

Finally, my son, realizing our views were markedly different from our neighbors, asked me, when, in my opinion, you were “rich” – on the “outside?”

Here’s my crumpled list.

20 Ways you know you’re really rich (on the outside)

  1. You tell your family, “Look, if you don’t want it, just throw it out” without mentioning starving children or digging around the junk drawer to find an aluminum foil square small enough to wrap up the top half of an Oreo.
  2. You buy new underwear before the old ones disintegrate -- in Woolite.
  3. You wear them on regular days, not just state occasions, like your wedding.
  4. You regularly “upgrade.” When you think “plasma” your first thought isn’t Mount Sinai hospital.
  5. You don’t download movies, or wait the 10 years for them to be shown on AMC. You go to them.
  6. Moving doesn’t automatically trigger a garage sale.
  7. You don’t haggle over the price of an eight-track of My Yiddishe Mama at Flea Markets.
  8. You turn in your lawn mower for a “landscape architect.”
  9. You throw out make-up within 15 years of its expiration and canned goods within seven.
  10. You know from iPods, iPhones, and any other techie “i’s,” and your computer isn’t larger than your file cabinet.
  11. You’re not addicted to Extreme Couponing.
  12. You don’t bring a big purse with pockets to “All-you-can-eat” buffets. (Or wear a winter coat – with pockets -- in 120 degree heat).
  13. You don’t own a 1985 foreign car from a nation that has no vowels in its name and ceased to exist after the fall of Communism.
  14. You buy red shoes and you don’t own a red anything.
  15. All your ketchup bottles are right-side-up in your fridge.
  16. When you need a bottle of aspirin, you don’t automatically click on E-Bay.
  17. You actually need to buy: soy sauce, ketchup, mustard, Sweet n’ low, string, ribbons, bows, wrapping paper, baggies, tie-ups -- in a store.
  18. You leave half a tuna melt on your plate and don’t ask for a doggie bag.
  19. You buy toilet paper and tissues for the pattern.
  20. When something breaks, such as an air conditioner, heater, fridge, or toilet, you don’t “wait it out” for a season or two.

True, we should be turning back to more spiritual values, especially in this economy. Yet, far too many have taken our cues from the media, and the “reality TV” people, where “rich” is nothing short of a sailboat the size of Lake Mead, a wardrobe by Versace and a 25,000 square foot “family-media room” (for a family that hasn’t spoken to each other since their therapist told them to take a “time out” in 1983.)

And so the “Location! Location! Location!” people are still in business. True, I should have erected a FOR SALE sign right then and moved to a Location! Location! Location! that was a little bit more affordable…like in the Arctic tundra for example. One where the nearest neighbor’s prized possession would their values – and a block of ice.

But, knowing human nature, no doubt some fool would soon move in and put up a bigger something in ice. And then, the neighbor on the left would carve a little something in his ice, prompting the one down the street to hire a sculptor to make a small but tasteful statue, leading to the guy around the corner erecting a Georgian igloo with Waterford windows, which would ...

See what I mean?

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