Friends with Money

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I recently rented the movie Friends with Money. For those who haven’t seen this movie it’s about four girlfriends played by Jennifer Aniston, Joan Cusack, Catherine Keener and Frances McDormand. I found it a bit unrealistic that these four women would spend as much time with one another as they did considering how different their lives were.  Once I allowed myself to suspend disbelief about Jennifer Aniston being a maid I thought that the characters were very real and believable. The film did a really good job of capturing how our perceptions about what our friends have (money/relationships/happiness/etc) shape our views of ourselves and also the nature of our friendships.

I find it a bit disheartening to think that how much money one has dictates our friendships and yet I think it does to an extent. When I was younger I didn’t feel like I was aware of money and that I found my friends because of shared interests or sympathetic personalities but as I’ve been in the workforce longer and longer it feels like friendships are determined more by “lifestyle” which I feel is largely determined by one’s purchasing power.

Keep Old Friends — They’re Gold
In my own life I know that I’ve stayed closest to the college friend whose life most closely parallels my own — E and I both have kids, we’re both the main breadwinners in our homes and we are both trying to balance family and work. Two of my other college roomates, by contrast have children but one of them has never worked since she’s got a trust fund (didn’t realize this when we were in college because I was clueless) and the other one’s husband is very successful and she doesn’t work outside the home.

It makes sense to me that E and I have a stronger friendship because we have more in common. We can relate to each other. We also have such a long, rich history of friendship together. 

Circles of Friends — Lifestyle = Purchasing Power
Here in LA it feels as though friendships click if you’re in the same circle and that circle is largely determined by how you spend your money (what house can you afford, what restaurants do you go to, what schools can you afford, what recreations do you have time for and can afford, etc…)

Can people who have completely different values about money as well as varying levels of access to money be friends and truly accept one another without judgement or without thinking the grass is greener on the other side?

Again, an interesting thing about the movie was that the three married friends with more money felt sorry for the Jennifer Aniston character because she had no money and she didn’t have a man in her life. While they said they wanted to help her the three women were also envious of Jennifer Aniston’s freedom. Sure she was a bit of a loser but she also hadn’t yet limited herself in any way. By being broke she was in some ways more open and liberated than the women who had their lives “on track.”

Keeping up with the Joneses
I also notice that people don’t talk blatantly about money but people make assumptions. If you’re at a preschool for instance in which 40% of the class drives a Prius or god forbid (my pet peeve) pushes a $800 bugaboo stroller the parents assume that everyone has this kind of purchasing power and people make efforts to keep up. I’ve seen this first hand. I’ve been stunned at how much money has been spent at some of the kids’ birthday parties and all the adults in attendance act like it’s natural. Of course, if you’re friends with the parents, what can you say? So, would it be better if people said “geez, you guys spent a lot of money on your kids’ birthday party? are you really wealthy and are you planning to retire young?” or just act like it’s normal which then creates pressure on everyone else to “keep up.”

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