Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Americans are prudes

Americans are prudes -- about money. It really is the last taboo in our culture. You can go on Dr Phil and spill all the details of your sex life, or discuss all your mental health problems. People go into great depth and detail about private medical procedures, what got cut where, added, nipped, tucked. But money? No way.

Think about it. You probably guess at what your colleagues and co-workers get paid. You thumbnail the neighbor's income in proportion to your own. But you don't know. Because it is the one private thing in our entire culture.

I wonder why? What's the big secret? Are we afraid of being seen as bragging? Or are we afraid we aren't measuring up? Do we fear envy? Do we think people will judge us harshly?

I was thinking about it the other day. We may try to apply for financial aid for our son's schooling. But I am uncomfortable with having to disclose our finances to strangers. And that's weird. I am, as people who know me will attest, not usually uncomfortable about ANY topic of discussion. And still, the idea bugs me more than if I let strangers rifle through my underwear drawer. How odd is that?

So, ideas? Why the cultural taboo? Are there good reasons for it?

1 comment:

Kitten Herder said...

I think part of the taboo is fear of judgement. In our culture many people judge a person's value by how much money they make or have. You are also judged by how you manage the money you have. Everyone has an opinion about everyone else's lives. Since so much of our societal worth is tied to our monetary worth, there is a real feel of being viewed as not making much money or not managing our money as well as others think that we should. This is just my take on it. Curious to see what others think.