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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Mustard syndrome

My parents are not rich by any stretch of the imagination, but they are of a generation that has carved out a very comfortable life for themselves through a lot of hard graft and a little bit of luck. Like many people of that generation, they have found to a certain extent that the serendipitous circumstances that helped buoy their earning power (that's the construction industry then) have also mutated into the reason why the family belts have been summarily tightened.
A friend of mine told me the following anecdote. His mother had just bought a designer handbag on the reasoning that everyone deserves a treat once in a while - nothing wrong with that... if you can afford it. Said friend went grocery shopping with his mother and tried to put some garlic in the trolley. "We already have garlic." she said, referring to a months-old bulb mouldering away in the fridge. "We have a very limited budget". She then stuffed some quails eggs and Dom Perignon into her basket and proceeded merrily on her way, cackling and clacking her heels on supermarket linoleum.
That last part didn't happen. I'm exaggerating. It was actually Parma ham and elderflower cordial.
As we grow up and out of a global financial situation and our core beliefs are shaken by the very people that we put our trust in, is it not reasonable to question our parents and their financial habits? After all, the Church has scarred us, bankers and the government have stripped us of all semblance of trust; why not look to our parents to totally dissolve any faith we might have left in the ability for a human to live a balanced life?
My friend's mother is merely symptomatic of the older generation of spenders that are obsessed with the trimmings. They spend money on all the little things they couldn't afford before they became affluent and ignore all the important basic needs.
There are people (of all ages, I might add) with racks and racks of designer dresses hanging on hooks because the money spent buying a wardrobe might be better dispersed on a pair of Choos.
I call it mustard syndrome. You know you have it when you arrive home one day and find that all you have in the fridge is fancy syrup, continental cured meats, expensive mustard and one solitary, greenish garlic bulb softening at the very back.