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FAMILY   -   FAMILY FEATURES
As a Manner of Fact
The Good, the Bad, and the Money
July, 2005 - Issue #9
Before I begin, a statement to all of my "friends": If you think this article is about you, you're right. Sadly, my gentle suggestions of tact have been ignored, and now I must air your dirty laundry in public in order to make a point. My dear sacrificial lambs, I hope you listen this time. My next option is to plaster your misdeeds on a billboard; please don't make me go to the time and expense!

The rest of you may be wondering, "What blunder could lead to such a harsh reprisal from Judith? Did someone show off their bum at the mall again?" No, loyal readers - this sin is much worse than a little tush peepshow. This etiquette misstep contains all the qualities of serious wrongdoing: malice, gossip, jealousy and money. Other people's money, to be precise.

Last week I was part of a bitter debate revolving around a 2-year-old's birthday party. The gossip afterwards had nothing to do with grandma's over-indulgence of vodka or cousin Suzy's pornographic display of cleavage; no, the topic decidedly cumulated on one issue - the pony. "It must have cost a fortune!" said Gladys. "And Tanya told me just last month that they had trouble paying their phone bill," hissed Sarah. "But the baby loved it, and really, who are you to complain, Ms. Credit MaxedOut-emus?" I exclaimed to a then quiet room.

Now, you may ask, "So what's the harm in discussing the price of ponies?" I'll tell you the harm: First, it undermines a family's right to set their own priorities. Maybe it's important to you to have your house paid off in 10 years, but it's important to them to have at least two quality vacation experiences a year. Neither one is better or worse than another, just different. Second, such constant bantering about someone's personal finances is in poor taste, especially when you consider that somebody to be a friend.

And these discussions aren't just about birthdays, personal investments or business. Even the fundraising world spawns catty remarks. Guests keep mental tallies on how much others spend at auctions, then report to their minions the next day. Friends spend hours semi-publicly arguing over another (not present, of course) person's estimated net-worth. Husbands and wives, desperate to keep up with the Jones, don't celebrate a friend's good fortune when they purchase a better house/boat/car, but instead ask each other, "Now how did they afford that?" I'll tell you how: maybe Mrs. Jones received a raise, or Mr. Jones inherited money, or Timmy landed a big commercial, or the two of them are really jewel thieves that nailed a big score last weekend. Regardless of the "how," one thing is true: It's none of your business.

And it's none of the general public's interest, either. I despise it when newspapers and magazines print what people spend in the nonprofit arena. So what if Mr. Smith spent $6,000 on a parrot at the last charity function? My friends, if he's rich enough to drop the equivalent of 60,000 dimes on a chatty bird, he's smart enough to know that he's not getting a deal. He's spending the dough to help out the organization, in our community for gosh sakes, and we shouldn't stand in his way, by golly. Let the man (or woman!) spend without fear that advertising their generosity is going to get them harassed by other organizations, or worse, mugged on the street.

It's really about the Golden Rule, my snide little lovelies: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, unless, of course you don't mind your "friends" dishing about how you paid $1,200 for a laser peel.
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