12 November 2005

ABBA as a window into the soul

I downloaded ABBA: Gold – Greatest Hits from iTunes this week. Make fun of me if you want, but I am a true, dyed-in-the-wool ABBA fan. Much like Crystal Gayle, Neil Diamond, and Johnny Cash, ABBA became a part of my repertoire because I borrowed my parents’ cassette tapes a lot as a child. Don’t believe me? Just ask the DJ to play Dancing Queen at a wedding reception, and you’ll be treated to the most gawd-awful karaoke rendition of this song that you can imagine. And, thanks to the “miracle” of modern sound technology, Madonna has recently revived a sample of Gimme, Gimme, Gimme! (A Man After Midnight) to inspire a new generation of would-be ABBA fans. I tell you, if my life had a soundtrack, there would be a lot of ABBA classics sprinkled throughout the years. As an example from this week, one of their greatest hits would serve as the theme song for something disappointing that I just learned about myself.

Money, money, money,
Must be funny,
In the rich man’s world.

Money, money, money,
Always sunny,
In the rich man’s world.

Ah, all the things I could do,
If I had a little money,
It’s a rich man’s world.

I hadn’t set out looking for a moment of personal introspection on Wednesday – I was merely looking for jewelry. More specifically, I needed a necklace to go with the dress that I bought for our trips to the opera. Initially, I was giddy at the idea of having free reign to go jewelry shopping, and immediately visited all of my “usual” haunts in the 14th. No luck. Undaunted, I started researching my options. I pulled out two guidebooks that came with our apartment: Paris Pas Cher (roughly “Inexpensive Paris”) and Paris on $90 a Day. Between the two, I compiled a lengthy list of “affordable” jewelry stores that I could scout out. In particular, one of the guidebooks had recommended a chain called Bijoux Burma for locating good costume jewelry. Since this chain had five locations in Paris proper alone, I thought I had it made.

My first clue probably should have been the company that Bijoux Burma keeps. When I found the right street for the first address on my list, I was treated to glamorous views of Cartier and Tiffany and Co. Ever the optimist, I thought that Bijoux Burma might just be a quirky, hip store that could hold its own amongst the endless array of luxury stores nearby. WRONG. Let’s just say that if Bijoux Burma sells “costume jewelry,” I can’t even begin to imagine how to define fine jewelry.

At any rate, I had a lovely time salivating over the gorgeous pieces in the shop windows all along the Rue de la Paix. In fact, the longer I was there, the crazier I got. I found myself rationalizing a purchase! “How often do you get to live in Paris?” I thought. “It’s a great investment – everyone should have one fabulous diamond necklace that they can wear for years.” Or, better yet, “I have a little bit of extra money in my checking account in the states that I could use…”

That’s when it hit me: if I were rich, I would be a selfish, spoiled person! This was a truly disappointing realization. For years, I have always said that I would make a great rich person because I would continue to live normally and just give the majority of the money to charities. For example, when I volunteered at the Humane Society of Huron Valley, I would always tell myself that I would build them a new shelter if I had the money. Or, when Hurricane Katrina hit, I would have found a way to get all of those people out of the Superdome right away – or at the very least, dropped tons of water and supplies for them to ease the suffering.

Now I realize that, if I had a lot of money, I’d actually spend it on myself. I would own expensive jewelry. I would have a ton of clothes. I would have a new car (a Toyota Prius, or some similar hybrid car). I would have a house. I would fly my friends over to visit me here in Paris. I would travel all over the world and see all of the exotic places that I dream of visiting.

This is a thoroughly disappointing thing to learn. I would much rather think of myself as a selfless philanthropist. (Heck, who wouldn’t?) But while I would truly delight in donating a new building to a penniless charity, I don’t think I would have enough money left over after my personal spending spree to do it. What a bummer – I’m not a candidate for sainthood after all. (Of course, I’m also not Catholic, so that might impede the whole beatification process a bit, too.)

By the way, I found the perfect necklace to go with my dress. It’s only 100 euros. I keep it in a store down the street from me and visit it every day. Sigh. “Ah, all the things I could do [for myself, that is] if I had a little money…”

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