In the early 2000s, I would have been the dollar store, Paris Hilton, if it had been offered to me anyway. I had the low rider jeans, the silk scarf tee-shirt, and my knock-off Jessica Simpson lip gloss like a true tart. As tacky as those things are now, at the time the expense of it added up, especially for someone who was starting out. In that era shopping sprees and the "greed is good" mentality was as popular as spray tans and glitter eyeliner. The question is do these things take you anywhere meaningful? Does being at the height of the latest trends make you any better of a person or elevate your societal position? And what of the people who did make it to the top? Were the people who were the envy of all who knew them happier for it? In this post, let's examine the fictional version of being a trendsetter and the nonfiction example of the Hope Diamond owners and what became of them. Of course, this is a biased opinion, as I already lived this trope and found that outside of the tool that monetary means serve to aid in personal goals, it has little other purpose and should be treated as a drug to avoid a false sense of security.
Between me and the world, what relatable literary circumstance has stood the test of time as valid to back my theory? Maybe it's the Christmas-loving spirit in me from my many years on the east coast, but the book Little Women, specifically Amy's Valley of Humiliation (Chapter Seven) springs to my mind. A quick refresher is that in the story Amy, the youngest and most superficial of the March family gets in over her head at school with some frivolous clout chasing by using limes as a status symbol amongst her peers, who are all partaking of the trend themselves. Upon learning of Amy's predicament, Meg bails her out to ensure her debts are paid. The end result is that Amy's limes were not tolerated well by her haters and Meg's money went to waste. Ultimately the limes were representative of superfluous purchases and wearing your wealth culture, both of which have a volatile return on investment as we see in Amy's situation.
For any person who has ever felt cursed each time they have ever gotten ahead just a smidge, there is the real-life oddity of the Hope Diamond to vindicate their feelings of woe to look toward. The owners of it became famous lesser so for their wealth, but instead for meeting their ill-fated demise after purchasing the thing. Some might argue that the magnificent gem being stolen from India in 1666 would have been unsavory enough to inhibit the circulation of this item, yet, for reasons that I can only assume are a combination of vanity and impulse propelled, the diamond had quite the afterlife. I'll spare you the details on each of the diamond's owners who were decapitated or fell into personal ruin, but the individual stories are fascinating in a cruel, however tongue-wagging type of way. The overall theme though is not so much the curse, but more of the message; those who bought the diamond made the fatal error of confusing objects for stability.
By all means, I am not implying that wealth itself is dangerous, as anyone with medical bills or people who rely on them knows that cash can fix a great many problems, and quickly. No, I am instead putting out into the world the thought that the diamond represented neglect of holdings. Assets, holdings, and all that constitutes wealth in between are an almost living breathing liability that needs constant maintenance or it will become ballast to its affiliations. This is because the Hope Diamond owner's all prized the presumption of wealth to others than the responsible use of their means. Or in layman's terms; the fools were buying up the place without keeping an eye on their bank account.
The lesson of Amy being punished at school so terribly and the Hope Diamond owners all meeting a miserable end can be tied together as a timeless teaching regarding managing your means and not falling for flashy trivial wares. The issue where this becomes so hard to sort out is where the trivial and the personally enriching differ in a world in which advertising is a multi-billion dollar industry that is designed to make shoppers feel the need to buy useless junk as a part of their everyday lives has become normal. As in all things, avoid extremes and prioritizing needs over wants seem to be the best place to start. Overall it is important to remember not to become a miser who uses a tight wallet as a masochistic exercise in self-punishment. While I'll continue maintaining that avocado toast is not a crime unless you are homeless from it.