09/18/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Can You Buy Happiness?

Last week I found myself at the house of a friend in her early forties whose boyfriend had just dropped the bomb that he was in love with someone else. When I entered her apartment, I thought Denise was trying to strangle herself with electrical cords. She was smoking a Marlboro and sobbing into the headsets of both her cell phone and her Blackberry, mascara running down her cheeks and staining her satin pillowcase. Those sheets were Armani; this had to be bad.

Denise is a woman who appears to have it all -- a successful jewelry business (which comes with a four-thousand-dollar-diamond-studded Rolex), the perfect body (okay, so the boobs and tanorexia are fake) and connections to everyone who's anyone from here to Milan. But as she guzzled the bottle of Prosecco I'd brought, she confessed that years ago she'd made a terrible life mistake. For too long she'd thought being your best self meant having the best of everything, and she realized too late in her life that it's really relationships and family that bring happiness. Now how would she recover from this mess in time to find someone new and have babies?

I untangled my friend from the cords and assured her the mascara on the shoulder of my favorite Old Navy t-shirt was nothing. Then I headed home to investigate whether it's love or money that brings permanent and unshakable happiness.

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