My novel takes place on a cross-country train trip from New York to California, pre-iPods, cell phones and personal computers. After the main characters have played cards and read the newspaper, there is nothing left for them to do but (gasp) talk to each other. They decide to start a game where they take turns answering the question, What would you do if you were given one million dollars? Tax-free, of course.
The Barenaked Ladies have some ideas on what they would do with a million dollars.
But, one of the characters in my story points out, that is too easy. Most people could live their wildest dreams with one million dollars. What would you do with one thousand dollars? he wants to know. With one thousand dollars, you can’t chuck it all and run away to Fiji, spending the rest of your days sipping umbrella drinks and fanning yourself with palm fronds. So they take turns rattling off a list of things they would buy with the decidedly compact sum: a powerful telescope to look at the moon, a fancy car (this is 1943), a pair of diamond earrings for his mother. What they choose to buy with their fictitious money speaks to their personality and what they value. Then the main character throws a damper on everything. “I would put a down payment on a house,” she says. She just can’t be frivolous.
It did not escape my notice that, in this instance, I was channeling myself. I would have done exactly the same thing. Why is that? Why can’t I throw caution to the wind and just be irresponsible? It’s a game for goodness’ sake. Even in Monopoly, I never, ever buy Park Place or Boardwalk. In my story, someone says to the main character, “God, you’re prudent even in your dreams.”
I’m not alone, it seems. Gretchen Rubin from The Happiness Project recently posed a question on FB: If you have $500 and HAD to spend it on yourself, for something fun, what would you do with it?
My first thought: I really could use some new bath towels. Sad, but true.
There were many people like me who couldn’t even let themselves fantasize about being frivolous:
- Buy new glasses
- A new bed
- Fun? What’s fun? I’d go buy some groceries.
- Interview clothes
- Pay off some bills
But some folks had no problem spending the money on something fun:
- Get a massage
- Ride every roller coaster within driving distance (Aside: LOVE this one!)
- One incredible pair of shoes
- A knitting shopping spree
- Buy lots and lots of books
How would you spend five hundred dollars (or insert your own currency) on something fun for yourself? Could you let yourself be frivolous?
Have a great weekend, everyone!