Worth It: Eric Reads the Week, #44

Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?

My mother likes to tell this anecdote about going to the supermarket with me when I was a little kid. I was old enough to walk and so I followed along beside the cart, randomly pulling thing from the shelf and asking her to buy them, as kids/drunk adults are wont to do. My mother's response was always the same "It's not on the list." After a while, I stopped and thought for a minute. Then I turned to her and asked "Well, how does something get on the list?!"

Even at 6 I was trying to understand the system so that I could destroy it (and get all the Honeycombs and Vienna Fingers I could eat.) Cut to the present; I go to the market probably 3 times a week. This is down from my single days when I would go every day. I went to the market so much that I started dating the guy at the deli counter. We dated for 2 years! I love the market! And now I know how things get on the list.

I feel like going to the market (or spending money in general) is a game that I can beat. (I know this will not end well.) I will sometimes text David the amount of money I've managed to save on groceries through coupons and sales, immediately after leaving the store. As if this is an urgent bulletin that cannot wait the 10 minutes until we see each other in person. There's probably some psychological stuff there but who has time to examine themselves? The icebergs are melting; you gotta stock up on supplies at a steep discount.

As an adult, I suppose my rule is "It's on the list if I say it's on the list and it's on sale." That works really well for food but not so much for pretty much anything else we have to spend money on. Because of our move and job changes and whatnot, a lot of things have shifted for us in the way that we plan for the future, monetarily. Our savings priorities have shifted, the cost of things that we put in our house has increased, rent went up; it's a whole thing. It stresses me out because it feels like something I can win but don't know how. I tinker with our budget probably as much as I used to go to the market when I was single. I'm on Mint.com e'r'day. (Honey, I am so fun in real life.) But there are times that I think "I don't know how something gets on the list."

Retirement, for one, confounds me. How much money will I need when I'm an elder? All of it? What will we want to do every day during retirement? How long does this have to go on? I am working now to support an opinionated elderly man who really likes going to see Broadway plays, winning silent auctions and will probably impulsively want to pay for his grandchildren's tuition (while reminding them that higher education is a Ponzi scheme but there's not substitute for a liberal arts education really).

Speaking of education, David and I have also started trying to figure out how much it costs to have a child. We started working with a financial advisor like actual adults. The advisor is a friend of David's named Bernard Madoff.

Actually, his name is Ryan and he works for Edward Jones. There's something really comforting about that company name. All companies should have last names. Everything else feels too informal. Chipotle? Chipotle who? I don't know any Chipotle.

Anyway, we asked Ryan how much money we would need to have a child who had a good life but wasn't spoiled and maybe thought his parents didn't have any money so he took the time to develop character but also didn't feel impoverished and worked really hard at his progressive education but just for his own edification and not to accomplish something as a cog in a capitalist wheel. Ryan told us there was no number for that. Well, what's the point of advising?!

He did take us through how much we'd need to send a kid to The Park School, the absolutely extraordinary private school my parents sacrificed to send me to. I'm convinced that the Park education is the best education you can receive in America. (And I'm not just saying that so they'll give my unborn kid a scholarship. BUT I WOULDN'T MIND IT AT ALL)

Like, I'm really interesting, but Park and my parents made me smart and inquisitive and fostered my creativity and taught me to use it. Plus, most of the people I went to school with are now famous and/or rich and/or really good humans. Anyway, Ryan showed us a very cool chart (I love charts) to illustrate how much money we'd need to save to send this kid to private school and college and I immediately got pissed at a son I don't yet have. I am still angry about it. I told David, "His mind is going to cost us the equivalent of a very nice lake house." How did that get on the list?

But I suppose it's all worth it, right? Or, at least, at some point you decide that it's worth it. And most of us decide to make money now so that the future is nice for ourselves, and for our kids, and--by extension--for everyone else in the world. It's like time travel socialism, a little bit. (I think. I didn't study Socialism at Park. I was too busy going on whale-watching trips and starring in Little Shop of Horrors. It was worth it.)

One day, all my money will come back to me and I'll reach inbox zero and my list will become a to-do instead of a to-buy and then life will really begin.

This week's columns were all about people doing things that, frankly, did not seem worth it. Martha Stewart thinks Tom D'Agostino's renovations were a waste, Justin Bieber did a commercial for Bananagrams, but first... this idiot tried the Starbucks Zombie Frappuccino...

Starbucks' Zombie Frappuccino Should Be Tried at The Hague

Ostensibly this is a caramel apple flavored drink with other flavors thrown in just to spite you. I will tell you what it actually tastes like. The first sip is like being punched in the throat by a caramel apple Jolly Rancher and then slapped across the face by a chocolate-covered cherry. This whole experience is a drive-by artificial fruiting. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

Martha Stewart Will Come to Your House and Read You For Filth

"That apartment was very beautiful and light-filled and airy — and all white, the way it was meant to be. Now it’s much more enclosed and dark!" The way it was meant to be! This is literally the only instance I will delightedly cackle at someone saying all white was the way something was meant to be. Martha is like that neighbor on Trading Spaces who gets Hildi as a designer and is not here for it when the reveal rolls around. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

An Interview With God in Response to Bill O'Reilly

"Like, what does he want me to do, fly around the Earth in reverse like Superman so he can undo all the stuff that he actually said he did? I'm busy! He's mad because he's eating crow over his own mistakes? You know what I say? 'Bon appetit!'" [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

Alexander Skarsgård Cut Off His Hair to Spite Your Thirst

Somebody call Hillary Clinton because I need to know what happened. The only explanation for this is that he's playing Sexy Friar Tuck in a movie called Sexy Friar Tuck. (I would also accept him as a drag queen, named Prior Tuck.) But even those projects would seem sacrilegious for man with such an exquisite head of hair. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

My New Goal in Life Is to Eat at the Queen's McDonald's

The Queen owns a McDonald's and all other restaurants are cancelled. Sorry Public Kitchen and Arby's; sashay away. Red Lobster better prep a batch of Cheddar Bay Bye Bye Bye, because the only place I'm interested in eating from now on is the British Mickey D's owned by the Crown. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

Asahd Khaled Had a Live Tiger at His Birthday Party and What Are You Doing with Your Life?

Excuse me?! What in the Sher Khan is this? I keep searching that photo for a glass wall between them or a rift in the space-time continuum or something because that is an physical baby tiger next to very rich person Asahd Khaled. Even the tiger is like, "I don't know about this, fam." [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

Note: I LOVE how the internet works! I wrote this article and suddenly people started sending me pictures of their kids and pets in costume. This is all I've ever wanted! And then my friend Jill (also from Park School!) told me about a local DOG COSTUME CONTEST and my whole world changed. I went yesterday and had the time of my life. Cancel my retirement; I want to write about dogs in disguise forever.

I Am Much More Invested in Your Dog’s Halloween Costume Than Yours

Look, I have a bone to pick with you. I don't want to hurt your feelings but it's Halloween and at Halloween we tell the truth. Actually, we tell the booooo-th. Sorry. Anyway, I am, I always have been, and I always will be more invested in what costume your dog is wearing than what costume you're wearing. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

Justin Bieber's Social Media Presence Continues to Be a Beautiful Mystery

No shade to Bieber who is just out here living his best life and inviting you over for a game night where you actually play games instead of sitting around talking. Here, as always, Biebs' social media presence is a thing of peculiar, earnest beauty. Like a gangly baby ostrich. You look at the things he posts and think, "He can't be serious." But then Bieber looks you right in the eye and caresses your cheek while mumbling "I'm so very serious." But in a funny voice. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

How to Train Your Grandpa

What are we going to do with all these older men who keep getting themselves in trouble with all of our new-fangled rules about what's appropriate to do and say to other people, particularly people who are also women? It's a brand new world (that actually has always existed and been systematically ignored and legislatively oppressed)! What's a man of a certain age to do? Your favorite elder may also turn out to be someone who makes lewd comments to coworkers or is prone to unwanted advances. Does his pocket full of Werther's outweigh his seeming inability to act in a way that is not antisocial? You may be surprised by the answer! (The answer is no, it does not.) [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

Kristen Bell’s New(ish) Show Is Giving Me an Existential Crisis

Many sitcoms are about hell being other people (see: The Office, Seinfeld) but this is the first one to make the case so explicitly. It’s a lot for a Tuesday, but it’s one of the most fulfilling TV experiences I have every week. This show does the impossible: It takes a troubling, even horrifying philosophical concept and makes it not only funny, but thought-provoking. [READ THE FULL ARTICLE]

Random thing from the internet...

In 5th grade I met Nikki Giovanni (at Park School!) A small group of us got to meet with her and learn about her craft and her thoughts on writing. I remember she told us that she'd watched The Bodyguard in the hotel the night before. She ruminated on that for a while. Then she told us that all of her books have chocolate smudges on the corners of the pages because she likes to each while she reads so all of her senses could be delighted at once. I was enthralled. I felt like she was speaking to us like adults, like friends. Those random asides and delicious bon mots shaped my idea of what a writer was and what a guest visit could be. Nikki Giovanni has always been magical to me. This interview with her on the Shondaland website brought back all of those feels and more. It's wonderful and so is she.

Is it worth it? (Put your thang down, flip it and reverse it).