I received an email the other day from someone I did not know. It contained a single sentence.
“Who are you?”
Very quickly, my mind ran from Friedrich Nietzsche to Roger Daltry back to Carl Jung over to Hindu philosophy…Then I calmed myself, realized that this person was inquiring about who I was as it related to the content I share on this blog and in The Old Money Book, as well as The Old Money Guide To Marriage. Not a bad question.
Who am I? I’ll tell you: I’m the uncle that your parents warned you about.
Perhaps you’re just out of college. Perhaps you’re attending the wedding of a cousin. You’re at the reception, fairly bored, trying to avoid people of all ages who may want to dance with you or introduce you to someone who would be absolutely perfect for you.
So you grab onto the railing of the bartender’s cart like it was a life preserver in the middle of an angry ocean. You sip a strong drink and hold tight, warily watching the crowd, but trying not to make eye contact with any of them.
I, who stand right next to you and have preceded your arrival at this oasis of alcoholic beverages by at least a half hour, feel the same way. I don’t know these people and I probably don’t like them. I may or may not be better than them but I am certain I have little in common with them. The couple getting married are not so closely related that I have to care, but not so distantly related that I could not attend without hearing about it at some point. So we have that misery in common.
My shirt and tie color combination make you blink, but the navy blazer and muted slacks compensate almost enough. My shoes may be the only thing you recognize as being really expensive.My hair is thin and grey. My eyes have dark circles around them. I’m not trying to be hip.
You realize that your parents have mentioned me, with the requisite roll of the eyes. “A snob.” “A little eccentric.” “Doesn’t care what people think.” “Doesn’t play well with others.” All true, I admit. I’ve made a couple of snarky remarks about the other guests, but I’ve also told you a story about your father’s incredible generosity to a family member in need–that you didn’t even know about– and you realize that I can be quite genuine, possibly generous, perhaps fun, and at least not as bad as I’ve been made out to be.
We discuss your plans for school and the future. I listen. I give you unvarnished advice about a couple of topics, and offer to keep in touch. The bride and groom head off for the honeymoon, and, gratefully, we can ‘blow this pop stand’ (as we used to say back in the day) without fear of social or familial retribution.
A couple of weeks later, you’re thinking about something. You don’t have an answer. You don’t want to ask your parents about it because they’re your parents. They’re in your head like a bad pop song all the time.
You send me an email. My reply is wicked, irreverent, but accurate and almost prescient. I’ve been there. I’ve heard it all, seen a lot of it, and done some of it. I’ve got my opinions but feel free to differ, and good luck with that. I’m not often wrong. But you can tell I care about you and I hope the best for you, whether it’s regarding love or money or whatever.
Who am I? I’m your Uncle Byron. This blog and my books are my correspondence to you.
Keep in touch.