The boyfriend and I got into an interesting discussion the other night. He posed the question, “If you had to trade the esteem of everyone you will ever meet for an extraordinary amount of money, would you do it?” Naturally, I wanted some clarification before answering (because I’m a pain in the ass like that). I wanted to know the numbers: how much money? He picked a number: 100 billion dollars.
Now, that’s a lot of money.
My initial reaction was to agree to it. I don’t tend to get wrapped up in what strangers think of me, and I could do a hell of a lot of good with $100,000,000,000 (look at all those pretty zeros). I understand under the rules of this game that no one would ever sincerely thank me for the work done with that money, but it would still get done. Plus, I’m entirely serious when I say that living an isolated life on an island sounds like an exceptionally good plan. And I could do that with that kind of money.
It’s not like every person in the world would hate me—they just wouldn’t respect me. I don’t know that they necessarily respect me now, so really not having the respect of strangers and being ridiculously wealthy sounds like a better deal than not being respected and broke.
But in the end, I realized that I probably couldn’t take that deal. While I don’t worry about the respect of strangers (or people I don’t respect), I do want it from people close to me. I can’t imagine how it would feel to lose the respect of my parents. I think that would be devastating. That kind of isolation is something I don’t think I could handle.
While I’m sure friends question my choices, I believe, fundamentally, that I have their respect. Similarly, I’ve been lucky enough to have been well-regarded by partners. Having a boyfriend who didn’t respect me would be an impossible situation. I wouldn’t enter into that arrangement, but to be already involved with someone and lose their respect? To never be able to get it back? In my present situation, I think it would be crushing.
Alas, it turns out that to lose the esteem of those close to me (and never be well-regarded in the future by anyone) is a price I’m unwilling to pay. It’s a shame, too, because I really think I could spend $100,000,000,000 wisely and with great aplomb.
How about you? Could you take the money knowing that you would be sneered at for the rest of your life? And if so, would you send me some?