Sunday, June 29, 2008

All about numbers

quan-ti-fy: (verb - used with object) to give quantity to (something regarded as having only quality).

Why are we so afraid of numbers?

Age. Weight. Income. Debt. Savings. We really don't talk about them.

When I say "we", I don't mean society on a larger global scale. After all, we know lots of numbers at that level: deaths in Afghanistan, murders in Toronto, flood victims in Myanmar, fetuses in Angelina Jolie. The "we" I mean is more the personal, friend-level "we". And we don't talk about numbers.

However, I have had many political debates with my Conservative friends; I've discussed religion on a personal level with many people; I've discussed my sex life over a few pints. Name anything that might seem personal and chances are, we've talked about it: family history, personal insecurities, inappropriate crushes, gossip about friends.

But do you know how much money your friends make? How about their weight? Or how much they contribute to their RRSP?

Is this a woman thing? Something that springs from our desire to not reveal our weight and has spilled over to the other numbers in our lives? Do guys talk frankly about salary and personal debt?

Or is it because it's easier to judge someone based on those numbers? Your job title could be "project manager", but that is so very ambiguous. Or you have a boyfriend, so therefore you must be having sex, like, eleven thousand times a week - or at least more than your single friends. You voted in the last election, therefore you take an active role in politics.

Maybe, maybe not.

But if I know how much you have in the bank and how much you owe on your credit card and how much you make in a year and how much you weigh and how old you are, I have something tangible, something quantified, to judge you on. And I probably will judge you, for better or for worse (for both you and me).

Perhaps that's why we're so afraid. Because one can pass a more accurate judgment on someone based on their financial and personal numbers and we don't want to make ourselves that vulnerable to anyone else.

Regardless of the rationale, I'm not about to break with tradition. My number stay just that - mine.

(For a notable exception to my thinking, check this out.)

1 comment:

Tammy said...

Thanks for the link!