I’m a fairly simple soul in my tastes. I live a very nice middle class life, and usually am not troubled by a desire to gild this lily. I don’t need a car fancier than a minivan (although I discovered yesterday that it would probably be worth my while to investigate in a navigation system), I like plain clothes, I find jewelry distracting, I’m a homebody and don’t need fancy entertainment, and so on. My home, my family and my computer are pretty much all I need to entertain me.
Also, I’m fairly financially secure, which is a far cry from my childhood, which always reminded me of the financial thin edge described so well by Mr. Micawber in David Copperfield: “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.” Because Mr. Bookworm and I grew up in houses that valued education, and we were willing to work for advanced degrees, we make a decent living. Given all that, I’m surprised at how envious I’m feeling right now.
You see yesterday I met a very nice man at a soccer match. He’s about my age, has a few children, drives a minivan, and is worth (at a guess) about $70 million. I do not envy him his three luxury homes, his kids’ fancy private schools, his technological gadgets, or the movers and shakers who are a regular part of his world. Nope. What I instantly desired, and I just can’t get over envying, was his freedom from the irritating minutiae of life. He’s not pulled in a million directions. His personal assistant manages the details all of us usually handle for ourselves: she tracks his and his kids’ schedules, books his trips, makes sure his homes are in good shape and ready for his taking residence, pays his bills, keeps his electronics up and running, etc. His cook buys his food, cooks it, serves it, and cleans up afterwards. His housekeeper, obviously, keeps the house. All of those are the maddening details of my own life. And of course, he doesn’t have the single biggest worry that nags all of us: “Will this (whatever “this” happens to be at the moment) cost too much?”
I think I was more envious than I would usually be because, as I said, he is a very nice man. In my town I meet lots and lots of extremely wealthy people and I usually don’t envy them because there’s nothing about their lives that even vaguely compares to mine. They live such rarefied lives that I don’t see any points of connection. This guy, however, was tremendously low key, and the one child of his that I do know is a delight — unaffected, hard-working, and well-mannered. In other words, I could see this guy living my own life. His values are the same as mine; he’s simply done away with all the hassles. And so, every time I’ve passed the mirror today, I’ve seen myself washed in a pale shade of jealousy green.