"If you won the lottery—"
"How much are we talking about here?"
"Just play the game, Jill."
I glare. "Are we talking big lottery? Like, more than $10 million?"
"Sure. Yeah. $10 million. Better, make it $50 million."
"Okay, go on."
"Let's say you won the lottery. Where would you go out to eat?"
I pause to think.
Boyfriend prods, "Top three restaurants in New York. Where would you go to celebrate?"
"I guess I'd start with Masa, but it's not like I could just go there."
"Sure you can! You just won the lottery!"
"Ha!" I laugh. "I'd need a month just to get the reservation! It's not like I could just go out to celebrate that day."
"For the sake of this conversation, you can. You just won the lottery, the money has cleared already, and you can go out to eat and celebrate wherever you want."
I get indignant. "You think you're going to call up the best restaurants in New York and tell them, 'I'm a rich guy and I want to eat at your restaurant tonight,' and they're not going to laugh in your face?"
"Just play the game."
"Oh," I open my mouth in a huge circle as I exhale the word. "I get what I'm doing wrong. In your imagination, winning the lottery means 'a perfect world.' In real life, if you win the lottery, the rest of the world is still the same. You want me to pretend like the whole world is different just because I now have millions of dollars. I get it now."
"Yes!" Boyfriend exclaims.
I never play this game correctly. I have a running answer to the question: "What is the first thing you would do if you won the lottery?" and it is, "Lie." I would lie and tell people I did not win any money. And to the people who would know that I won something, I'd like and tell them a much smaller amount.
Having a lot of money is not really a dream of mine. Money is stressful. It causes riffs between people. And the rest of the world doesn't change when you suddenly have more money. You may be able to buy whatever clothes you want, but you might also still have terrible sense of style. You may be able to take a vacation anywhere in the world, but you'll still feel horribly guilty when you get to that island get-away and see natives living in sheds with corrugated tin roofs.You may want to drop $1,200 on dinner for two at New York's most expensive restaurant, but you'll still doubt whether it was worth it. Was it wasteful? Could that money have been better spent?
With the exception of Masa and possibly Per Se, I could justify eating at all the other high-end restaurants in New York to celebrate something other than winning the lottery. I've had gorgeous meals at Eleven Madison, the now-closed Harbor (easily one of the top three meals of my life), Marea, Nougatine, and a few other less glorified restaurants. I've had five-star meals in Barcelona and London. I ate an unforgettable lunch at the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia of all places.
I don't need $50 million to eat well and enjoy myself.If anything, the anticipation of waiting for the day of the reservation to arrive after two weeks of being frugal with the grocery budget makes the splurge more enjoyable.