What Money, Sex, Time, and Food Tell You About Anyone

512px-Sexy_Mouth_transparentMany of us spend a fair amount of the day wondering what makes people tick. It is an amusing spectator sport, the stuff of daydreams, and hard to avoid in a world of inexplicable human behavior.

Here’s a little help in performing this pastime.

You capture a lot about his essence if you understand how a new acquaintance deals with money, sex, time, and food. The same is true of your boss, date, or co-worker. Anyone.

Let’s begin with MONEY. The dollar takes on layers of meaning beyond the commercial exchange.

I had a tall, thick-wristed uncle who quickly lifted and paid large bills on a restaurant table. He wanted to be the “big guy,” the successful man with a reputation for generosity. He had a wad of folding money in his pocket, as seen in a “man’s man” who wants to leave an impression. No pencil-necked, uncertain male need apply. Nor a “coupon-clipper” who, as Mike Ditka famously said about his boss, George Halas, “throws around nickles like (they are) manhole covers.”

Not coincidentally, Uncle Sam had been a poor kid during the Great Depression. I have a photo of him as a young man, banknotes pasted all over his body. Financial independence from his family must have been the making of him, his transformation from a boy to the man he wished to be.

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To this good guy, money was about more than money.

Money and security turn up in the same sentences; so do money and risk-taking. You won’t take many risks if you need a safety net woven out of greenbacks. At least about your finances.

Financial transactions tell you about trust. Will you repay a loan? Can I trust you to manage my money? If I buy your car, will it perform as well as you say?

Dollars are used to influence and control. Will money make you do what I want if your salary bonus depends on it? Might I purchase your vote by making big contributions to your campaign? May/December romances — one spouse younger and the other much older — are sometimes barely disguised financial transactions.

Money has been known to burn a hole in one’s pocket, or so my dad used to say. Can you delay gratification? Are you a spend-thrift or a miser? Money, money, money.

Then there is the question of whether you give any of it to the homeless, to charity, or even to others in your family. I’ve known parents who stole their kid’s college money and credit cards, the opposite of a giveaway. And then there are the mom and dad who fund a university odyssey long enough for the “child” to get two degrees, but without achieving one. The parents wanted the sheepskin more than their not-so-little lamb.

Currency tells you what you value: a big house, building a business, a vacation, and your children’s future. Or maybe a fast car and some nice clothes. Or making the world a better place. Money also tells you how much you weigh other things in comparison, especially the time it takes to earn it and the activities you prioritize above or below working for your wages, like moments with the kids.

Riches are a metric to gauge one’s relative standing in the world. We hear a famous athlete saying he is being “disrespected” when his team offers him a salary of only $12,000,000 annually. Objectively, there is no slight. But, if comparable sports heroes are getting $15,000,000 for the same work, perhaps he is on to something.

Money is a tease. At least in the USA, it promises happiness once you have enough of it. Yet most find there is never quite enough to reach this point. They keep looking for more, working for more. Perhaps money, then, is a kind of practical test of your wisdom and understanding of its real value. Johnny Carson said, “The only thing money gives you is the freedom of not worrying about money.” Happiness will take something else. Carson, by the way, was not a happy man.

Larry Adler, the 20th century’s most famous harmonica player (a contradiction in terms), said, “You should always have enough F… YOU money.” In other words, enough money to allow for the freedom to say what you please — end a relationship with a boss or anyone else, no looking back. Too little gelt and most of us experience constraint of our actions; too much, and we might believe we own the license to do things others won’t.

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SEX! Beyond the biological urge to procreate — pushing, dragging, and demanding we get naked — sex takes on much extraneous meaning. I’ve already implied some people marry as a thinly disguised exchange of beauty and passion for money and status. Kind of like trading baseball cards, isn’t it? Of course, an older man with a “drop-dead-gorgeous” younger woman also acquires higher standing from her presence in his company.

Perhaps this supports Wallace Stegner’s comment about romance not being of much concern to the “60s generation: “In their books, and perhaps in their lives too, love is about as romantic as a five-minute car wash.” Of course, those Boomers, no longer young, might have changed their opinion.

Now think about sexual allure as a measure of control. Some men envision sex as a test — an encounter to determine whether he can bend a woman’s will and dominate her — get her to do what he wants. At the extreme, such brutes seek humiliation, homage, and submission — sex that is in no way about love but something else entirely.

Just as well, for more than a few women, the allure of sexuality and the act are ways of manipulating men.

Victims of sexual abuse, once well past the violence, sometimes learn to use their attractiveness to control males. The goal is to dictate if, when, where, and how any physical contact will occur to avoid assaults. They are trying to master the terror of their history.

No wonder we read about “sexual politics,” the likeness between political negotiations in the non-sexual world and those in the sexual marketplace. Sometimes sex is about sex, sometimes love, but sometimes resembles two sides across the bargaining table, looking for an agreement — a social contract.

Then comes the matter of intimacy and adequacy. Are you comfortable and unselfconscious in a sexual encounter, or closed off, fearful, deadened, and inhibited?

There is a very old joke about the importance of sex in any relationship: if you put a coin into a jar every time you have sex in the first year of a match and then remove a coin each time you have sex thereafter, you will never empty the jar! An exaggeration, of course, but the sexual candle tends not to burn with the same intensity late as it did early.

Those who can’t imagine this need to spend a little more time on the planet. The process is called “hedonic adaptation,” meaning pleasure usually wanes, whether it is the delight of a new Christmas toy, a new car, or the consuming passion of lovers for whom the cellophane wrap of freshness has not yet been broken.

Withholding of conjugal relations is not unheard of in couples past the first several years, a passive-aggressive method of expressing anger; a way of conveying, “I’m unhappy,” slighted, or taken for granted.

Regarding adequacy, sex is a “performance” issue. We wonder if we are “good enough.” Too much focus on this, of course, makes performance impossible, especially for the man.

Sex*, like money, takes on a tape measure quality. Evaluations and comparisons betray insecurity and fear of rejection. In other words, self-esteem concerns are intermingled with the reproductive act.

There are people (women more often than men) who want intercourse daily to confirm their spouse still finds them attractive. Again, the fear of rejection or abandonment weighs on the sexual encounter.

Like money, sex morphs into things non-sexual. A shape-shifter.

I’m at a loss for TIME, which is a topic on my list of items that tell us about personality. I’ll address TIME, HOPE, and FOOD before long.

I HOPE you’ve got the TIME!

*For additional psychological forms sex takes on, please read this: Sex and Its Functions.

The first image is Sexy Mouth by Nyki m, sourced from Wikimedia Commons. The last is A Grain Elevator in Climax,  Saskatchewan, Canada. It was taken in mid-June 2022 and displayed here with the permission of Laura Hedien: Laura Hedien Official Website.

22 thoughts on “What Money, Sex, Time, and Food Tell You About Anyone

  1. Looking forward to your follow up article. This one is very much on point for me.

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  2. Dr. Stein, this is one instance that I’ll have to refrain from making a comment 🙂 Too many blunders and hangups.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ll be very interested in what you have to say about Time in particular. ….I’d have to disagree with you that pleasure wanes. I think in a positive relationship it doesn’t wane, rather it evolves. Interesting post Doc!

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    • Indeed, it does evolve, but the intensity is not the same (certainly past mid-life) and its importance to a healthy relationship diminishes, IMHO. The danger comes in a relationship being too dependent upon it and people believing everything will remain the same as it began. Many young people express surprise when the honeymoon inevitably ends, good relationships and bad alike, although the crash is obviously much bigger in the latter. As I’ve said before on this blog, I’ve seen just too many troubled mid-life couples (40+) who, when asked by me what brought them together, both state some version of “We had a lot of fun and he/she was hot.” They come to therapy with the fun only a memory and the physical changes a kind of betrayal. Certainly, hot it is not. P.S. I just read Darwin on the subject of evolution, something you mentioned in your most recent post. He anticipates every possible criticism and even leaves room for religion. I think you’d love it. Having said that, from an evolutionary perspective, sex is not required past the age of procreation, except to the extent that it keeps the family together to support the next generation in their battle to survive. Of course, there are other reasons to have sex! Thanks for your thoughts and your interest.

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  4. I can relate to much of this. Definitely gets one to think. Thanks for the time spent!

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  5. Reblogged this on Dr. Gerald Stein and commented:

    It is hard to get away from thinking about money. How about sex? Are these related to each other? Please read on for my thoughts on this ever-present subject.

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  6. I wonder if people get depressed when disability leads to loneliness and the inability to (a) not longer obtain those things you mentioned in the article, and (b) sometimes feel pleasure (anhedonia). I recall feeling way more depressed in my 20s, 30s, and early 40s because I couldn’t truly upwardly mobilize when my health was deteriorating. It was more than mere aging, though that is a variable in disabled life.

    I also wonder what cognitive explanations there are for people losing that interest or spark in a relationship, a new job, a new career, or anything new in their life. There are some people I’ve met who kept chasing for new relationships and experiences, as opposed to embracing the ones that they had. I like long-term relationships, even though it’s tough when trauma gets in the way.

    Anyway, as a disabled person, I have difficulty connecting with the things you mention above.

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    • PS: I’ve been struggling with chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, now an ongoing mixed urge-and-stress incontinence, as well as the same-o PTSD and dissociation. Oh, and also hypothyroidism. My medication works some of the time, but not all of the time. And the next step up in dosage is too much, so the dose I’m on right now is okay. It’s just my thyroid is no longer as functional as it was a few years ago. I’m tired most days, so it takes me longer to read and get online to socialize. But I miss everyone here. Hi! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Surely depression often follows from the loss of things, people, capacities, beauty, and more. Disability is particularly poignant, because it can be chronic and the adaptation can be more difficulty. And yet, that is what aging is, for many.

      Those who “keep chasing,” as you put it, are too often forever unsatisfied.

      Finally, I feel for you, Dragon Fly. I know your situation is very difficulty. Yet, I also admire your persistence and tenacity. You have learned things about the world, life, and grown in wisdom. The cost of these is always painful, but I stand in awe of you.

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      • Thank you, Dr. S! 🙂

        I’m still trying to find some pleasure in some things – like baking a potato with a different recipe today, and then making potato skins at the end. It’s like a 2-in-1 meal – baked potato insides plus the potato skins. It is yummy. (Gaining weight and dealing with hypothyroidism as well as chronic fatigue syndrome aren’t so enjoyable, but I’m trying to find some balance to my diet, exercise, and mobility limits.)

        I was wondering what you and your wife’s favorite meal together is, or if you have a family favorite for the holidays or other special events. I’m not that much of a foodie, but I am learning to cook late in life. Cooking is so much healthier than microwaving or eating out all time.

        Overall, I’m finding joy in the little things – things that bring us both joy and health.

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      • She is a wonderful cook. I am very lucky in that and many other things in my life. Your setting goals such as you’ve described as a good approach to life. And old friend told me when he was 16 that he wanted to do something “great” with his life. To me, that is a far too heavy lift for just about everyone. Taking the world as it comes and knowing that there are inevitable ups and downs is more realistic and generally leads to more satisfaction.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, and thanks for the additional comment, Dr. S! I miss everyone here, but I plan on reading past posts you’ve made and commenting on those when I can.

        In addition to your posts, I also admire your followers’ comments! I learn from others here, too! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Don’t knock yourself out, but I do appreciate your intention, Dragon Fly. The most important thing is your well being. We need more good people like you.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow, these are such great crib notes to the meaning underneath the surface! Thanks, Dr. Stein about making me think about my own deeper intentions as well as a way to gain insight into others!

    Liked by 1 person

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