Dixie Gillaspie believes that the seemingly shallow viral battle between a society girl and a banker reveals a deeper truth about our cultural values.
You’ve probably seen it, the viral post of a young beauty’s plea for advice on how to marry a rich man in New York, and the rational response, supposedly from the CEO of J.P. Morgan.
If you somehow missed seeing it, the Cliff Notes go something like this:
The young lady laments that, in spite of being pretty with good style and taste, she seems to be “stuck at $250,000” in regards to the annual income of men she has dated so far. And that salary isn’t going to allow her to live in the area of the city she prefers in the manner which she believes she deserves.
Her line is, “I’m young, pretty, and socially acceptable. I’m not asking that much by New York City standards, and I’m worth it.”
The banker responds by explaining, in simple economic terms, why marrying for beauty is a foolish investment. His wealth, he points out, is likely to increase. But her beauty will almost surely fade with time.
His line boils down to, “You’re as good as you’re going to get. I’m likely to get a lot better with time. Why would I make a long-term investment in a losing proposition?”
Comments on social media posts and various sites where this letter was shared were varied. But most could be translated (in the kindest terms possible) to, “Well! I guess he told her!”
And he did.
He told her that by trying to leverage beauty for wealth she was playing a fools game.
It’s meant to be biting and funny. But the joke (if you can laugh through the sadness of it) is on both of them.
Because both beauty and money are superficial and false indicators of worth.
“Mr. CEO” takes the stance that “Ms. Pretty” will never be prettier. And maybe he’s right.
He also supposes that his wealth will continue to increase. And maybe he’s right about that as well.
But who cares?
I know plenty of women who are more lovely at 40 than they were at 20.
And we’ve all heard of bankers who had the financial world by the tail only to have that tiger eat them alive.
If you marry for beauty you risk that the beauty will fade. If you marry for money you risk that it will be lost. Every transaction comes with risks.
And that’s what this conversation is about; not a relationship, a transaction.
Now I’ll grant that the institution of marriage was originally a transaction. Usually made between the two parties parents. And often based on assets such as financial wealth, beauty, virility, and social status.
But in our culture we have the privilege of choosing our mate, not for the lifestyle we expect, but for the relationship we hope to have with them.
And with that privilege comes the responsibility to look beyond what will fade or what can be gambled away. It is our responsibility to choose the spirit with which we will share our most intimate energies, our most secret thoughts and our most sacred moments. It is our responsibility to choose for what makes our heart soar and our pulse quicken.
It’s possible that, for Mr. CEO and Ms. Pretty, beauty and wealth are the best indicators of worth that they have found.
If that is true, then I hope they are fictional, farcical characters. Because I cannot imagine that their stories, no matter who they eventually marry, will ever have a happily ever after ending.
But hopes aside, here is what I believe. They might be fictional. But they are not unusual.
When marriage was an institution arranged before the children were out of dirndls and short pants, it might have been sensible to consider wealth and beauty as tradable assets.
But in a culture that holds marriage to be a sacred commitment entered into by two people in love, I see a heartbreaking number of people who value their mate more for their wealth and beauty than for what is in their heart and soul.
And that is more than a fools game in marriage. It’s a fools game in life. Because when we hold those values as sacred we can never truly measure up to our own mark. We can never rejoice in what we have been given, never revel in all that we are and all that we can be. We have to settle for trying to be happy with what we see on our bank statements or in the mirror.
And that, to me, is a non-sustainable currency.
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Photo credit: Lisa Cyr