Wednesday, December 07, 2005


I'm a bit of an economics buff. My college didn't allow majors in business to have a minor in another field of business, so while I had the credits for a minor in economics, it was undeclared. I adored my econ classes, but that damn B I earned in monetary theory dropped me from Summa to a mere Magna Cum Laude. Ah well, the things we do for passion...

I read Freakonomics, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J Dubner with geeky pleasure this summer. I love the way it proves most conventional wisdom is conventional foolishness. Pseudoscience and shouting headlines can lie, but numbers don't.

Fast forward to last weekend. I was having friends over for dinner, so I thought I'd spruce up the hovel a bit.

My mother hoped with all her heart that eventually I would turn out to be a girl after all. Two years of ballet, three of ballroom dance (no wonder I adore the movie Strictly Ballroom), cotillion, modeling courses, a stint as a cheerleader (first person to laugh finds out how lethal of a weapon a pompon can be), and one narrow escape from drill team (blue eyeshadow. Eek. To quote Kurtz from Heart of Darkness, "The horror! The horror.") failed to do the trick, and yet there I was, actually contemplating buying handtowels for the bathroom. As if mere handtowels had enough mojo to tip the scale for the rest of our place from neglected to fabulous.

Thankfully, I snapped out of it. My naturally miserly,er, debt-adverse ways, proved strong enough to overcome the pull of estrogen. As I regained my senses and got a good look at the crap women buy to decorate their homes, I had a moment of Freakonomics insight.

The entire world economy is based on parties.

Somewhere, there's a factory that exists only to create paper umbrellas for drinks. There's another that churns out holiday themed tchotchkas to serve as centerpieces. Hell, the Christmas light industry alone probably supports a small nation.

A woman throws a party, and she's supporting a family of four across the globe. She might spend fifty bucks on food, but another two hundred (easily) goes into candy dishes and napkins that match the paper plates.

Don't get me started on weddings. They truly are a travesty of good sense and taste. People put more thought into the chair covers than their future spouse. If anything threatens the sanctity of marriage as a pillar of civilization, it's the over the top, queen-for-a-day wedding syndrome. But at least all that lovely money gets spread around to florists, photographers, and cake stylists. And, back to my monetary theory class, the faster we divorce and remarry, ratcheting up the stakes of the celebration each time, the faster the velocity of money moving through our economy. God help us if the music ever stops and everyone sits tight with what they have in their wallets.

Thank goodness my friends aren't that swank. Either that, or they've learned to live with diminished expectations when they come over. They won't eat on china, handtowels are non-existent, and I don't have matching glasses, but at least the conversation will be priceless.

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