The Drinking Man's Guide to the Rotten Economy
Predictions vary, of course, but a quick look at the yield curve on Treasuries would lead you to believe that we are probably not going to dodge that recession like the optimists think. A bit grim, granted, but don’t lose yourself in a depressive funk. Chances are that it’s going to be a mild(ish) sort of recession that, if you play your cards right, won’t sting too much. The trick for the drinking man is to tighten the budget without your lifestyle knowing what you’ve done.
The first thing that you do is to go scrounging around in the wedding china and retrieve those Waterford old-fashioned glasses you haven’t seen since your first anniversary. If the wife hasn’t already left you for not keeping her in the manner accustomed, you’ll get brownie points for being a romantic at heart.
If the wife has already bolted, then she’s got the wedding swag and there is nothing you can do about it. Go have a drink at the swankest hotel in town and try to make off with the glass. Don’t worry about the china and cutlery: you won’t make it out alive. Do this twice and you have a cocktail set. Then cozy up to some divorcée, show her what a dashing rake you are, and eat off her finest. Either way, a plastic cup and the cash-strapped populism will not do. The point is to deny the sting of this temporary poverty by living like a pasha without incurring any further capital outlay.
Now, pour yourself a drink. The best thing investment bankers did during the low growth decade since the we got over that 2008 hangover was to switch from single malt scotch to bourbon. Well, I didn’t, but I’m a contrarian. Still, bad bourbon is much more drinkable than bad scotch. It will look cooler sitting in the glass as it comes - don’t do this. You aren’t in college anymore so you’ll want to cut the rot-gut with soda or branch.
If all this foolishness hasn’t alleviated the humiliating albatross of your reduced circumstances, then proceed to the de luxeplan. Start streaming classical music; you probably know Beethoven, but avoid Ludwig von as he comes on strong and finishes weak, and the point of this exercise is to have nothing remind you of the financial sector or your IRA. Wagner is famous but much too angry for our purposes. Get Vivaldi or Brahms. Now wander around the house, sipping bourbon and branch, something lovely tumbling through the background like an enormous furnished elevator with your boldly confused children in it. As owner of the house, or at least the legal target of the mortgage, you can and should forbid whatever two-cats-fighting-in-a-sack style music your pre-teens have dragged into the house.
Assuming that you haven’t been given a pink slip, and you have to go back to work, remember the maxim of a professional mentor of mine: “Dress British and Think Yiddish.” The man was on to something. The hitch is that a top-notch wardrobe will cost more money than your house will lose next year. And, like your house, if you have any ambition of keeping up with trends, you’ll never stop paying for it. Yes, clothes do man the man and all that, but what kind of man are we talking about? The utility of the aristocratic mien is that you don’t have to keep up with the smart set. It is acceptable – even preferred – to look like a slob. Provided, of course, that it’s the right kind of slob.
There is something of a class allowance at work here, but if the accident of your birth doesn’t enable you to take advantage of it, at least you can muddle things up bit. Forget the notion that a golf shirt with a logo is business casual. It’s not. Doctors, lawyers, senators and CEO’s who aren’t going to be part of the next tech wash-out all dress the way they do for one reason: It intimidates people in golf shirts with logos on them. The suited don’t get questioned by the masses, and they like it that way.
That having been said, don’t go out and buy a cheap suit to replace the one that’s worn out. Wear the worn-out one, it’s already paid for. The trick to pulling off the look is not brushing your hair. Not some kind of preening, gelled “dissheveled” look - just run your hand through your hair enough for you to see. The point isn’t to look cool because cool people are expected to do expensive things and who needs that kind of pressure? The point is to look like you don’t give a damn. That way you still look like you’ve got money, but no one expects you to send any of it. Not on them, at any rate.
If you are one of those psychotics who keep their desk neat or clean their coffee cups between one Christmas party and the next, well, stop. That sort of prissiness will blow your cover. People who don’t care how they look generally aren’t held in check by other social conventions. This will give you the aura of being either honest or mean. Don’t abuse your advantage here... don’t go doing anything mean, or for that matter, even remotely honest. Just let the idea simmer and people with logos on their golf shirts will start to get out of your way.
A word of caution here. This “might be mean” approach may not work with a female boss. You’ll need more bumbling charm that you’ve got to put it off. On the other hand, should she reach over and adjust your hair, consider yourself bullet-proof. Well done and carry on.