This piece in Toronto Life, written by a (purported) high-spending, globe-trotting 31-year-old pharmacist who lives with his parents, is so plainly framed to bait haters that it seems a shame to even go at it. There’s actually something bubbling under the surface of this piece, which I’ll get to, but it’s hard to ignore that it’s written in the general tone of a guy who was invited back as a guest speaker to his frat house and asked to publicly rationalize his decision to move back in with his folks. “Yo, guys I’m not lame, I’m actually sweet.....I still party hard as heck. I promise.” And, yes, the piece is cluttered with proper nouns and dollar signs, like a worldwide Yelp search filtered at the highest price and threaded together with some impressively joyless descriptions of two of mankind’s great pleasures, drinking and traveling. Go ahead and read it if you want to better empathize with an 11-year-old’s idea of what a rich guy does.
But that’s just the nominal theme of this piece. There’s a sad subtext, and you have to do slog through the thing to find it. The first detail that piqued my curiosity was this:
Making matters worse is that millennials, myself included, suck at saving.
Why is this presented as an unalterable fact of life and not a consequence of all the egregious spending described above? Maybe there’s something else going on. Let’s see how he condescends to a thriftier friend of his:
He’s a teacher who wants to own a house one day, and he gets anxious when we’re all out on a bender ... He tries to rein in some of our more excessive behaviour, but we tune him out.
Hmm....this guy seems a bit resistant to criticism. He moves on to disparaging some other friends because “most of their disposable income goes towards saving for their kid’s education,” as if that were more pathetic than modeling your lifestyle after The Hangover II (which he admits, explicitly, in this piece). Then he’s condescending to his homeowner friends whose purchase will “severely limit their ability to have any discernible amount of fun.”
What exactly is this guy’s idea of fun, and what motivates it? In the unusually self-aware personal history section, we get a hint. All I did was rearrange some sentences and you get a very different story:
In our culture, dining out was considered an extravagance. My parents raised us to understand that money was something to be guarded. They’d do funny little things like unscrew the light bulb in the microwave to save on the hydro bill.
By the time I was in third year, one cousin was running a nightclub on King Street West. We went every Friday I was in town—we walked in and were treated like royalty.
For a kid from a humble background, the feeling was intoxicating. People looked at us, wondering who we were. It was as if I’d found the key to an alternate reality where I could have whatever I wanted. I was hooked.
I went to the Keg with my brother and five friends, and I remember watching the waiters deliver baseball steaks and bottles of wine, my eyes growing wider and wider as the bill climbed to $600. I’d never seen anything like this. We were insane, I thought.
When I finished school, I moved back to Toronto and started making money. We went to Morton’s and had a blowout steak dinner, and I stepped up and covered a big chunk of the bill.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but after that, there was no turning back.
At first, it was funny how reckless we were. Wow, did we just do that? I’d think, until I found myself doing it three nights in a row.
Gradually, I became desensitized, except for the split second when the bill would arrive—that momentary twinge of guilt doesn’t ever totally go away. But [we] don’t judge or guilt-trip each other; we just do it.
I’m seeing the world, plunging into rich, diverse experiences head-first. Who am I hurting by living this way?
You could argue that I’m a much more responsible contributor to the economy by being such a conspicuous consumer.
Who is he “hurting by living this way”? There’s a little hint: maybe his parents, whose home, food, and laundry services he takes for granted, and whose devout Christian ethics he flouts with his partying, thus forcing his mother to “[keep] one eye open all night.” (He dismisses their concerns by saying “they’re from another era.”)
This has all the hallmarks of an addiction narrative—seduction, dependence, denial, rationalization—presented as a bold, brash essay about the perils of Toronto real estate. This anonymous manchild, if he exists and is not some composite character crafted for trolling purposes, is addicted to consumption. Whatever the case, nobody should celebrate anything that’s happening here.