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$85

By Vivian Hoang


In calculating the percentage of inflation from the 1920s to 2023, you will find that there has been a cumulative price increase of 1,395.85%.


Translation: $1 in the 1920s is $14.96 today.


Further translation: my $85 joke of a prom ticket is actually worth $1271.60 according to Uncle Sam’s estranged and sometimes forgotten cousin, Papa Inflation.


Like many of the disgruntled students scraping the floor just to pay for a $5 varsity football ticket, I resigned myself to the fact that the only way I was going to get into my prom venue was in a suspiciously tall coat in which three other people may-or-may-not-be stacked below me.


This, I decided, was not ideal.


$85 dollars was a lot to ask. $85 dollars was a lot to ask from a year of pimply 17 year olds unable to file taxes, calculate mortgage, or make down payments for cars. $85 was a lot of money in general. Who did the student ASB cabinet think they were anyways, charging the lowly student peasantry the price of a monthly grocery run for a measly dance ticket? If we were about to pay 85 whole American dollars for prom, then we’d better have a fully decorated escort to the venue, 12 appointed footmen, a PR team awaiting us at the door, and a 12 course meal served to us by those little Disney rodents that sing and dance while wearing tiny tuxedos.


The ASB cabinet, of course, was quick to assure us that the cost of prom was solely to cover the costs of the food being served at the function as well as the venue they had booked. “Venue”, my left leg. The “venue” in question turned out to be a convention center vaguely reminiscent of a parking garage equipped with 12 dim-sum tables, three stage lights, and a broken stereo. For $85 a pop, the least they could’ve done was convince the masses that what we were paying for was a ticket to high school prom, and not an internment camp.


I bemoaned the inevitable loss of my hard-earned $85. I shook my fist at the sky, cursed the ASB name, and weeped at my soon-to-be empty wallet. At its core, I would not just be losing $85, but $1271.60 if inflation were to be considered. That kind of loss changes a woman. The grief nearly drove me insane, and to cope, I naturally began daydreaming about the possible wealth I had at the tips of my fingers— if only I had been alive during the 1920’s.


In the Jazz Age I, without a doubt, would have been rich. I would have wisely invested my humble $1271.60 in whatever business was booming at the time— probably hammers or something— and became a millionaire overnight. No longer would I have to grovel with my nose to the floor for a 5 dollar bill. Gone were the days of asking whether my debts could be repaid with physical labor or perhaps my first born child. I would simply be rich, and obnoxiously so.


As far as I was concerned, my finances were all laid out. The things I would purchase with my wealth (in no particular order) would consist of houses, yachts, cars, jewelry, expensive European clothing, expensive European cigars, expensive European wines, expensive European fruits to turn into wine, expensive European trees that bore fruit that could be turned into wine, expensive European soil that grew trees bearing fruit that could be turned into wine, and of course, a monkey.


That, to me, was miles more entertaining and worthwhile than slowly shuffling in a cement box to poorly remixed Rihanna. Who needs the American high school experience when you’ve got a surplus of imported French wines engraved with your date of birth? Even my pet monkey could attest to that. Simply put, my life would be one of opulence and splendor; my neighbors would consist of Jay Gatsby and Coco Chanel, and I would have regular luncheons with Charlie Chaplin in which I routinely dazzled him with my endless wit.


Sure, “missing out” on a night so ingrained within the teenager subconscious would nag me at the back of my head; but what was a night of an uncomfortable hormone potpourri compared to a lifetime of wealth in an era not yet aware of alcohol poisoning, STDs, and standardized testing? The answer was decidedly clear.


And what a happy life I would lead! While my simple minded counterparts pranced around in a dark parking garage wearing $90 heels and stifling bow ties at the price of their mortal souls, I, smoking a Guama 1876 while wearing my expensive European tippet and codpiece, would heartily chuckle– before going back to my expensive European wines, fruits, trees, and soil, complaining to my pet monkey about how susceptible the new generation has become to rampant materialism and commercialization.



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