It’s been quite a year. And it’s the holiday time. What a better moment to articulate the things that have really irritated, aggravated, and annoyed Old Money Guys and Gals (OMGs) the last twelve months.
So pour yourself a strong one, put your feet up, and grumble along with me as we detail The Top Ten Old Money Pet Peeves for 2015…Or Any Other Year, For That Matter.
- Conspicuous Consumption. Obviously, always at the top of the list. “If you’ve got it, flaunt it,” they say, nor realizing that the sentence was probably uttered first by a retailer attempting to entice a member of the nouveau riche into purchasing an obscenely priced and probably worthless bauble. In any case, such behavior smacks of insecurity and a profound lack of sensitivity to those less fortunate. Tellingly, it usually portends a fortune that will never be—you guessed it– Old Money.
- Condescending Behavior. Right up there with Number 1. You’ve made a lot of money. Good for you. It’s not the first time it’s happened. So try not to act like you invented the concept of upward mobility. Furthermore, it’s no excuse to be impolite to others. It reveals an impoverished individual, regardless of their financial net worth. It’s good to remember this, as well: the worm turns. You’re up today. Tomorrow, who knows?
- Word Games. In journalistic circles, it’s common to say someone was “detained”, when in fact the person in question was snatched off the street in broad daylight and thrown into a cell without windows. So let’s just say that when the Bentley gets stuck in traffic and Aunt Edna is running late to the debutante ball, she’s been detained. Otherwise, let’s call it what it is: someone’s been arrested or taken into custody by the authorities. Add “unlawfully” if that’s the case. On a more personal level, it’s irritating when someone uses a four-dollar word when something simpler would suffice. Also, the latest trend of using nouns as verbs, i.e. “I’ve been tasked to do this,” or “We’re sourcing this material from Asia,” are maddening. Task is a noun, as is source. Let’s keep it that way, at least until I leave the planet. After that, you can “power off” speaking plainly and have the English language to yourself. And while we’re on the subject, I should mention…
- Bad Grammar. Dismiss your “life coach”, whatever that is, and retain the services of an English tutor to improve your grammar, regardless of what you think you remember from school. Those of us reading your reports, articles, essays, and correspondence will be eternally grateful. This ineptitude has even crept into advertising, long a haven for creative yet spot-on use of the language. An example on a recent billboard touting the services of an investment firm: “You’ve got a retirement challenge. Together, we can beat it.” Well, that’s great. But you don’t beat a challenge. You meet a challenge. If you can’t write, why should I trust you with investing my money?
- Excuses. If you’re late, or unprepared, or haven’t done what you said you’d do or what you were asked to do, just offer up this: “The cat ate my homework.” Why? Because one excuse is just as good as another. Better yet, perform. Get results. Exceed expectations. Leave the lame justifications where they belong: in second grade.
- Absolute Certainty. Really smart people are sure about very few things. Why? Because they’ve become aware through their experience and work that there’s a tremendous amount they don’t know. Even a genius realizes that the unknown is vast. So do your research and have your beliefs, but leave room to learn more and be ready to be wrong. Both are easier to do if you’re modest and open-minded.
- Inappropriate Attire. I’ve written about this before, but obviously there are people out there who did not get the memo. Let me quickly review: clothing serves to protect us, to some extent, from the elements. It also serves to communicate to others the “social tribe” to which we belong, or to which we aspire to belong. What’s more, it communicates the attitude we’re bringing to an event. For example, it is uncomfortable to wear black dresses and suits with neckties in July, when it’s hot. But if you’re going to a funeral, and you want to be respectful to the grieving family, you do it. Why? So you can communicate your respect for the event. It also communicates how much we value the event. People dress up for weddings, proms, and even dinner. This has been the case for centuries. We don’t care if you’re comfortable when you wear a T-shirt and baggy pants to dinner. It’s not about you. When someone doesn’t understand this, it’s irritating. It’s also helpful: we can tell that you don’t share our values or don’t understand our rules. That’s not being a snob. That’s having a set of…
- Values. And dressing appropriately is an indicator of being aware of those values. It’s a part of being respectful to certain traditions and considerate of others. There is also honesty, integrity, discretion, and the values I discuss in The Old Money Book. A deficiency in these beggars a civilized society. Why? Because we can’t make and enforce laws for everything. A democracy has to function above what is legal, at a level of ethical behavior. We must embrace and promote what it fair, right, kind, and human. These unspoken but understood concepts are above the law. They are our higher calling. We should heed them.
- Greed. Greed is not good. Greed is short-sighted and destructive. It declares a lack of compassion and perspective. It betrays all those who have helped put someone (maybe you) in a position to profit. Your parents, teachers, colleagues, and mentors did not contribute to your journey towards success in order for you to take everything from everyone and pull up the ladder behind you. You don’t get to destroy everyone’s planet to make that last dollar. You don’t get to keep everything for yourself. Greed is a symptom of immaturity. It is unwelcome and distasteful. It has no place in our world.
- Corruption. Be greedy, unethical, criminal, and rude if you must, but do not do it from a position of public trust. If you want to feather your own nest, do it in the rough-and-tumble world of capitalism, not the world of public service. The damage done by bankrupting a company is one thing. The damage done by bankrupting a country quite another. Corrupt political and religious leaders whose own agendas are centered around personal gain lessen the effectiveness of government and tear at the fabric of spiritual communities. Both erode trust.
These ten things greatly reduce everyone’s quality of life. I think we all agree on that. So, I want all these irritating things ended by January 1, 2016. I greatly appreciate your cooperation. Spread the word.