Wednesday, November 12

Put your money where your mouth is

This is my contribution to the APLS Carnival; this month's theme is "Buying Local."

When I was seven years old, I discovered that my friends received weekly allocations of money from their parents—for free—and this money could be traded for candy. They called it an “allowance.” I immediately went home and asked for one.

“Sure,” my dad, who worked in the economic sector, said.

I grinned.

“But first you have to tell me the name of each coin,” he announced, and spread out four different coins.

I frowned, and began studying. Penny, nickel, dime, quarter. Penny, nickel, dime, quarter. I recited their names over and over. Oh candy, you will be mine! I studied them forever (probably about 10 minutes) and declared myself ready for the quiz.

“Penny, nickel, dime, quarter!” I shrieked proudly as my dad produced each coin in turn.

“Great job,” he replied and ruffled my hair. “Now do it again,” he said, and shuffled the coin order. Crap.

I took that quiz a good five times before I had those coins down and an allowance was mine—all 41 cents of it. Penny, nickel, dime, quarter. After doling out the first installment, my dad tried to explain how money worked. “See this nickel? You won’t care if you have two nickels or a dime; they’re both 10 cents,” he explained patiently.

“But Dad, I would care,” I declared stubbornly.

“But they’re both the same amount,” he replied.

“I would still care,” I said, defending my nickel.

Flash forward more than two decades. My dad is an aging Republican who still works in the economic sector and I am his only child that was “accidentally swapped at the hospital.” The black sheep, if you like. My dad buys the cheapest tropical fruit at Wal-Mart without a second thought; I shop organic at my local farmers’ market. My dad picks up a bottle of Pert; I try making my own baking soda concoction in a recycled bottle. My dad laughs in surprise when I refuse to buy something made in China. “What do you have against the Chinese?” he asks.

“Nothing. I’m sure they’re perfectly nice workers,” I reply, thinking here we go again.

“Then why not buy their stuff?” he asks, bewildered. It is, after all, the cheapest choice, and I don’t exactly have cash coming out of my ears.

“Cuz I’d rather use my money to support small businesses around here, that’s why,” I said.

He scratches his head and puts his teacher voice on. “But honey, there’s nothing different between buying from a corporation and buying from a ma-and-pop store. The corporation has more workers to pay,” he explains, “so they need your money just as much.”

“The corporation takes my money and puts in the head honcho’s wallet. The small business uses it around town and it helps them stay in business with all the corporations in town trying to take over,” I explain.

“Why does it matter which town your money goes to?” he asks, still bewildered.

“Because I care,” I reply with a smile, and he ruffles my hair.

I still care … and my dad’s still cheap.


Anonymous said...

It's nice that this exchage can happen with a smile and a hair-ruffle, though. You'll never change his mind, and he'll never change yours, but it can be discussed without ugliness. I wish we could do that on a national (and global) level.

Donna said...

Great post. I'm glad you can share with your dad even though the two of you don't agree. Maybe, someday, something will click for him and you'll finally be on the same side. :)

Momma Val said...

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Jenn & Owen said...

Funny how it works, I have pictures of my parents in early 60s coffee-houses singing folk music, and here I am a conservative (for a Canadian) Barrister. Does every generation flip-flop like that?

BlackenedBoy said...

Aw, this is sweet. You'll never agree on it, but at least your jabs at each other's ideologies are good-natured.

I liked the bit about the difference between a dime and two nickels, that even though they made the same amount of money you still cared how it was done. That was nice.

Green Bean said...

Love this post. It reminds me of my parents. Don't all of us have aging Republicans as parents? ;-)

Hallucinations of a teardrop...sreemanti said...

Its a strange bond between me and my father. unspoken and well expressed. startingly reminds me of it. thanks !

Mon (Global Homestead) said...

What a cool post! I missed this from the apls list. Glad to have found you.

nakeddrunklava said...

sometimes i give up trying to explain stuff with my parents and just take matters into my own hands. like a couple weeks ago, i went ahead and opt'd out my parents from receiving the yellow pages without telling them:

i doubt they'll ever notice!