In the winter, every Friday, my classmates and I would take a bus an hour and a half to the nearby snow-covered ski resort.
I was probably 12 years old, and I had a brand new snowboard and lots of puffy white snowgear (I was aiming for snow bunny, but landing solidly on snow marshmallow), but I didn’t give a shit about snowboarding.
The only things I loved about Fridays were boys and french fries.
Being a hippy, all organic, not-even-granola-because-of-the-gluten type kid, french fries were a big f*cking deal. When that whole
ridiculous “freedom fry” movement happened, I almost rallied for it. Just because I UNDERSTOOD THE PAIN! I believed in the freedom to eat french fries! That lasted about 10 seconds when I found out that they were the same people trying to build the great wall of Mexico. And give uzis to preschoolers. Yeah, nope. Not my people.
Anyways, long story short, the ski resort had the most amazing french fries. For $2.25, you got a big basket of fresh out of the oil vat, thick-cut, super hot and perfectly crunchy but still mushy fries. IT WAS AMAZING! All I had to do was endure a 1.5 hour bus-ride, 3 hours of freezing cold flopping around on a mountain of snow, and about 75 BILLION minutes in line for the lift.
And I would get to have fries.
Small problem – I was broke.
So my best friend and I split the basket of fries. But because fries were such a precious commodity, we had to make sure we weren’t getting shorted.
Every friday, we’d sit in front of our basket, neatly unfold a napkin in front of our seats, and count out the fries.
Rules of fry counting:
– two small ones count as one but only if shorter than an inch.
– fries can be used as currency to purchase favors, gossip, or degrading acts of humiliation
– pick a table far from your classmates to avoid fry-trafficking
– if you lose count, NEVER GUESSTIMATE! Start from the beginning.
Fries were important, but I had an equally disturbing obsession with other types of fairness too. My brother and I would weigh out bowls of ice cream to see who got more. Count minutes on the trampoline, or hours on the (only) phone line. We’d calculate the cost of all our christmas gifts to make sure we weren’t being shafted.
It’s tough being a kid. If you don’t look out for yourself – who will?
And it only got worse as I got older. My brother got bought new bike, but I got bought a used car. I got a laptop but he studied abroad.
(yes, I am just now understanding that we were INSANELY SPOILED).
Always, always, with the emphasis on fairness. The worry that we weren’t going to get enough. That maybe, there just wasn’t enough.
Last year, as we prepared for an epically over-the-top Lincoln Christmas, I sat with my parents and we discussed the gifts we had for my brother.
“I’m just worried we bought him too much,” my dad said.
“It comes to about a thousand dollars,” my mom was studying the list.
“Ok. What’s the problem.” I said (besides the obvious extravagance / materialism problem, but hell’s going to freeze over before I convince them of that…)
“We didn’t spend as much on you this year,” my mom said.
“Can you think of something else you want?” my dad asked.
“Your brother just had so many high-value items on his list!” mom chimed in.
Yes, this is the definition of fucked up. But in that moment, I had a realization that hit me like a hot basket of french fries: Life’s not fair.
Not just in that blase way that we all say, “well, you know, life’s not fair.”
It’s actually not fair. And keeping track is like drinking poison.
This weekend, A and I sat down to discuss some pretty heavy money topics.
And fairness came up – what does it mean that I have more? That I’ve saved more? That he’s spent more and gotten to enjoy more luxuries/travel, etc?
And for big purchases, should I contribute more? Because I make more? Because I have more? Or should it be 50/50?
Once again, I saw myself counting fries.
“It needs to be fair,” I heard myself say. “Why should I contribute $$$ when you’re only contributing $?”
“Why should I do without because you’ve done with?”
I’ll cut the ending: we couldn’t find the answers. I still don’t have them.
What I’ve realized is that life isn’t fair.
Every aspect of my life isn’t fair.
All I can do is be SO grateful for what I have, and try to accept what I don’t have.
When that comes to our money situation, I want to stop keeping track*. I want to give generously, because if roles were reversed, A would give generously to me and never count a dime.
And I want to dig deeper and discover why I’m so worried about there being enough.
And I want french fries.