Who's the ascetic?
A reminiscence triggered by the 'crunchies'....
Growing up in Manhattan, my best friend for many years was Warren. His family was strictly parallel to mine by most demographic measures. Both fathers were assistant profs at K-State, both mothers stayed at home, both families lived in identical houses in the same subdivision.
But there was an important difference, which I didn't understand until much later.
My parents were 'modern' and ambitious, devoted to keeping up with the Joneses. They bought new clothing every year, new furniture every few years, a newer and fancier car every two years. My father worked hard at his job, always studying and preparing in the evening; they mastered the art of making a Correct Martini and Playing Bridge, because those were the Necessary Tastes to impress the boss at the Mandatory Monthly Parties.
Warren's parents didn't bother with material advancement or making an impression. They bought one cheap plain car for cash and kept it. They bought their house for cash and kept it. Their furniture, clothing, and eyeglasses were bought in 1948 and repaired as needed. The father didn't spend any time on studying or advancement, and the mother didn't worry about martinis or parties. Their only luxury was golf. All spare time went into golfing. All spare money went into savings.
At the time I thought my parents were enjoying life and Warren's parents were dull and ascetic, avoiding fun for the sake of some abstract principle that I couldn't grasp.
I was wrong.
In fact my parents were the ascetics and Warren's folks were the hedonists.
My parents were not enjoying life. They were struggling uphill toward a nonexistent destination. They stayed in debt (though never excessive) and my father worked until age 70.
Warren's parents were having fun. Golf was the only thing they loved, and they arranged their life so they wouldn't need ever-increasing income, thus wouldn't need promotion and advancement and stress. They retired at age 50, moved to Arizona and played golf forever after.
This truth dawned on me around age 38, and I steered my life toward the Warren model. Though I started late, it still worked: I was able to semi-retire in 2002 at age 52.
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[Literary note: I thought I had written this tale before, maybe even twice, but a search of the blog didn't find it. I must have written it in a brief earlier incarnation of the blog on LiveJournal.]