Opinion: Tooth fairy economics


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Published: 02-20-2024 6:00 AM

Brian Adams of Andover, Mass., is a UNH alumnus originally from Londonderry. He was previously a sketch comedy writing instructor and staff writer at ImprovBoston and a founding contributor to satirical online newspaper Recyculus. He is a father to three girls ages 6 and under.

“Dad, watch this!”

It’s a common refrain from all three of my daughters these days, but this time it was coming from my oldest, Alexandra, who is 6. She raised her hand up to her mouth and daintily touched the tip of her finger to one of her teeth and wiggled it slightly.

“It’th looth!” she said, excitedly, refusing to remove her finger from her tooth while making the declaration. I touched the tooth myself and nodded in agreement. The Tooth Fairy would surely be paying her first visit to our house soon.

“Does the Tooth Fairy bring money and toys?” Alexandra asked, hopeful.

“There’s no toy workshop wherever it is that she comes from,” I explained. “Strictly a cash operation, as I understand it.”

“But maybe!” she said, disregarding my expertise as she ran away to share the exciting news with my wife.

I’m hoping there are no additional questions regarding the Tooth Fairy, because I don’t feel like this particular character has been afforded much of a backstory. Santa enters through the chimney, but how does she get in the house? Is she big like a human or are all fairies Tinkerbell-sized? And how much does she pay these days?

“Five dollars,” my wife said, without hesitation.

“You realize how many teeth she has left after this one, right?” I asked. “How is the Tooth Fairy supposed to contribute to her retirement plan at this rate?”

“She pays less as you go along,” my wife explained, highlighting the Tooth Fairy’s questionable policy of diminishing returns on investment.

I was surprised by all of this information and tried to recall how much a tooth was going for on the free market when I was six years old. If I’m being honest with myself, it’s a little too far back to remember the details, but that $5 amount had jogged a different memory for me. It was my exact hourly wage when I started working at Market Basket as a teenager. Sometimes I bagged groceries for a seemingly endless line of customers, while other times I battled the scorching summer heat and the brutal icy winter conditions of New Hampshire, wrangling shopping carts in the parking lot. All in exchange for $5 per hour.

There’s no faster way to sound ancient in an instant than referencing how much things used to cost when you were a kid. That said, it happens to the best of us. As a child, aging into high school years, not only do we start to develop our sense of style, personality, likes and dislikes, but we also create a reference of factual information, like how Pluto is the ninth planet, the Red Sox are cursed and incapable of winning the World Series, and gas costs $1.05 per gallon. As you get older, it can be tough to shake loose and separate yourself from these facts and figures that no longer apply to the world today.

Right around the time that I lost my first tooth, one of my biggest heroes (just behind Hulk Hogan and Mr. T) was Celtics legend Larry Bird. When Larry was a member of the Olympic Dream Team, he and his teammates were training in Monte Carlo. After one teammate bought a round of beers for the team after practice, Larry was shocked and said he would never consider paying that much for a beer. The cost of each beer? Eight dollars. Larry’s annual salary at the time? Just a hair over $7 million. I told you, it can happen to the best of us.

Just because a phenomenon like this happens naturally, it does not mean that it is in our best interest or the best interest of those around us. While it’s great to bring knowledge and wisdom gained through experience when mentoring a younger generation, it’s also important to let your perspective catch up to the present.

As of the publication of this column, the tooth has left my daughter’s mouth, the $5 bill has left the Tooth Fairy’s pocket, and my perspective has left the twentieth century, slowly but surely working its way toward 2024.