I once had a music teacher, a professional concert musician, who told me that her doctor was concerned that she didn’t work out, that he thought she needed some kind of physical, aerobic, activity. Her response was, “Have you seen me play?”
“You should. You should see me perform.”
He did, and promptly retracted his statement that she was not active enough. After seeing the fervor with which she played the most complicated, extended, and beautiful music, witnessing the amount of control she exhibited to transition from flashy virtuosity causing her to angrily rise from her bench, to quiet, sweetly melodic passages Continue reading →
Deja vu. I have written about this guy four times before. Four times. And I admit that to begin this post I copied and pasted part of my last writings about him, because he just keeps coming back and it’s all the same damn thing, over and over again . . .
I ran into him again. But wait, please peruse the following to you can get the full picture. This has been going on for . . . years! YEARS!
1. The Landscaper Guy — Not Digging Him — I meet a man.
2. The Landscaper Guy and the Female Chandler Bing — I give him a shot. (I shouldn’t have.)
3. The Landscaper Guy and A Phone Smarter Than Me — I shoot him down, and miss. I have to take better aim and shoot again.
4. The Landscaper Guy, Freaking Part IV — I shoot him down, again. He expresses concern about my single status.
Are we all caught up? If not, that’s okay because it’s always the same.
Fast forward to now. It was very hot, and you know how they say to check in on older people in hot weather? Well I had to get my Mom out of her sweltering house, so we went for ice cream at an outdoor place. As I was looking at flavors, a man looked at me.
I smiled, because that’s what I do.
He said, “You look familiar.”
I replied, “Well, I’m from here, so you know . . .” It’s a smallish suburban town. You can’t swing a dick with running into someone you know. (I’m paraphrasing from Sex and the City because Anthony the Wedding Planner cracked me up with that line. I like funny. Note to men: Many women enjoy humor.)
And here’s where I can just cut and paste, because it’s all so familiar.
“You live on Maple Street, right?” He asked.
“Yes.” Oh geez. It was coming back to me, like a bad debt.
I should have known, the white t-shirt. He had on a white t-shirt . . .
I walked away. I was only there to check the flavors for my mom and report back to her. She was waiting in the car. So that’s what I did. I just walked away.
I hoped, I so hoped that he would be gone when I returned.
My hopes were dashed on the jagged rocks below.
Oh he had gotten his ice cream and was getting into his car — but his car was parked right next the the place. Just my luck.
“Still don’t want to go out with a brother?” He asked me.
Incredibly, he had asked me out again. As I mentioned before, this has been going on for years. Check the dates of my posts. Years.
And still the answer was, is, and will always be, “No.”
Though I clearly said “no” the man continued, just like he had many times before. As he sat in the driver’s seat he motioned to the empty space next to him, “I mean — ice cream. You can sit right here. What’s wrong with getting some ice cream with me? It doesn’t have to mean anything.”
(Except that it would mean that I wanted to get ice cream with him, which I did not.)
And again, I tell you, I tell him, “No.” But like a call and response, I added, without conscious effort to do so, “But thanks anyway.”
(Why am I so polite? Oh well. At least I didn’t attempt to give a reason this time.)
He shook his head as if to say, “What is wrong with this woman ( or bitch)?” He seemed genuinely baffled that I declined to take him up on his offer.
I walked away, again, thinking, “Well, I guess I have another blog post to write.”
I was seconds from a clean get-away, but the Landscaper Guy in the white T-shirt called after me,
“You’re still beautiful, though.”
Well shit. I can’t argue with the brother.
Just Me With . . . ice cream for two — Me and my Mom.
Somehow, while paying my bills — which takes so much longer than it would if I had more money — but I digress . . . I started thinking about debt and sexually transmitted diseases. Don’t ask me why. So, here, without further ado, is a list of how debt is like an STD.
1. You’d rather people not know about it.
Really, no one starts a date with reaching under the table to scratch and saying, “Sorry, but I really itch down there. It’s supposed to stop in a few days.”
“Can you pay if my card gets declined? I think I have enough left on this card, but if I don’t, they might confiscate it. But it’s probably cool.”
2. Both can, literally, drive you crazy.
Untreated Syphilis can lead to dementia.
Stress from debt can lead to depression, and even sometimes suicide.
Seriously, it’s not funny.
3. Both could have easily been avoided by a little self-control and pre-planning:
Don’t do it with anybody or everybody or buy anything or everything just because they are just sooo cute.
Use the available precautions, like stopping at the store to buy condoms before screwing, or checking your balance before swiping.
Ask a simple question, “How much is this?” or “What is that sore?”
4. Treatment can sometimes take a while
STDs may require a course of antibiotics, then retesting, sometimes a change in medications, and retesting, etc. Rinse, repeat.
It can takes weeks, months, or years to climb out of debt, one payment at a time. Pay, Rinse, repeat.
5. Both conditions require a period of abstinence.
Keep your pants on (and mouth closed) until further notice.
Keep your shopping cart empty and put your plastic away. Step away from the mall.
In other words, keep your ass home and offline and enjoy simple pursuits — like pain-free peeing and going to mailbox without breaking into a cold sweat.
6. You can get both from people you love.
You can make an informed decision to be intimate within a loving, monogamous, trusting relationship and SURPRISE! Your Bae has crabs!
You can, after careful consideration, co-sign on a loan with a trusted friend, lover, relative and SURPRISE your friend / lover relative never had the ability or intention to make the payments..
Bottom line: You can get screwed by your loved ones resulting in a rash or low credit score.
7. You can inherit both an STD and Debt.
Sadly, a baby can be born with an STD if the mother had one.
Sadly, a spouse can die and leave you with his or her debt.
8. STDs and Debt can force you to have uncomfortable conversations.
“Um, I tested positive for chlamydia and um, you should be tested too. Kthxbye.”
“Um, I didn’t make the payments and um, they took our car last night. I am so so sorry.”
9. I doesn’t matter how you got infected with an STD or fell into crippling debt,you have to do something about it or things could get uncomfortable, or downright ugly.
Antibiotics don’t judge. You might need them because you were a indiscriminate, stupid, dirty whore who decided that the open sores, puss, or little bugs on your lover you met in line at the clinic were cute, or, you could be a faithful husband or wife who got screwed (literally and figuratively) by your healthy looking spouse who happens to be infected with — something.
Same with debt. You might be in deep debt because you indulged a shoe fetish or like to hang out at the race track or casino, or, you could have gotten divorced, sick, fired, ripped off by a stranger or family, either way you have to do something about it to clear your record. Now.
I think that personal finance folks should back off the blame train and offer concrete ways to deal with a situation without too much talk about how you got there, because debt is like an STD, if you have it, you don’t like it, and you don’t want again. People are more likely to seek help or advice for lifestyle changes faster for personal credit card debt — or gonorrhea — if they don’t risk being reprimanded, scolded, or ridiculed for suffering from a condition they already do not enjoy. Sure, offer tips to avoid a repeat exposure, but do so with the assumption that the person doesn’t want to deal with this again.
Lesson has likely been learned once you experience that first itch or open sore in a private place, or get that first red letter in the mail.
Ignoring either problem can get ugly, trust me. Go ahead, Google Images for Syphillis, Gonorrhea, and Homelessness. I dare ya.
Just Me With . . . a debt comparison.
It’s winter again.
Where I live we get snow. Not every day. But we get it. At times a lot of it. It’s a pain in the ass. It’s the shoveling. The not being able to hop in your car and go somewhere without first moving pounds of snow. And then never knowing if your car will start or stop when you need it to or someone else’s car will slip and slide and crash into you. Snow means weather related cancellations which are inconvenient, and often cost me money. Snow means being stuck inside.
It’s snowing tonight.
But there are other reasons why snow is irksome to me. Snow brings back memories.
It was years ago, on a snowy night, back when I lived in a cool neighborhood with friendly social neighbors. Back when I was still married.
I have never really talked about this night. This is to be a shortened version, by emotional necessity.
My husband had been distant. He was never gregarious and often not engaging, but for weeks he could not seem to make eye contact with me at all.
And though I had made this Sex on Demand pledge, I realized that it had been a long time since there had been any demand, request, or suggestion requiring me to honor my pledge and when I did it wasn’t, well, how does one say, romantic? There was certainly no eye contact. And there were other things. Just little things that I don’t want to talk about now. (How could I have been so clueless?)
I mentioned my growing discomfort to a girlfriend, who said, of course, that I needed to talk to him. Duh. Obvious response, and I knew that’s what I needed to do, but I wasn’t sure if I was imagining it (or I knew I wasn’t). It’s like when there’s a funny smell — before you do anything about it, first you ask around, “Does anybody else smell that?”
So I hadn’t said anything to him. Not yet. I was going to, but I didn’t know how or when. And I wasn’t completely convinced of why — I mean everyone is entitled to be in a funk from time to time. Maybe it was just that. And winter.
Then there was a snowstorm. This meant that until the morning sun could break through clear skies and shine on our faces, signaling that it was time to begin the back straining process of digging out, we were housebound. No one could go anywhere. So my very cool neighborhood decided to have a snow party. Everyone was invited to walk to one neighbor’s house, bring whatever we had on hand to share, and just hang out. It was like college, where you didn’t need a car to go out and no one had to worry about being a designated driver and we could just walk home. Except it wasn’t like college, because I had all those kids and a brooding husband who could not look at me . . . but I digress.
My husband didn’t seem to want to go to the party. This was not unusual. He never liked to go to parties. Not with me, anyway. See My High School Self, My Vampire Boyfriend. Still, we went, with our kids.
I thought it was fun. It gave us something to do, I could be around adults and consume free food and it was better than being cooped up in the house with little kids watching TV. My husband seemed okay once he got to the party, chatting with the neighbors about travel and hobbies (his travel, his hobbies). But he didn’t talk to or make eye contact with me. I remember coming up to him while he was talking to someone and trying to join the conversation. He did not acknowledge my presence in any way. He’s tall. He looked over me, literally.
When the party was over, we walked home in the snow and put the five children to bed. He sat on our bed, his back to me, saying nothing.
Out of exasperation rather than anger or reason, I said — blurted out, really, “What is wrong? You’re acting like something’s wrong. What is it?”
Without looking at me,
he said, simply,
“I have to go.”
Those four words changed my life, his life, our children’s lives and set me on a course which landed me here talking via the interwebs to you fine people. (Channeling Jack from Titanic — oh wait, he died. Oops.)
Tragically, my initial response to him was, “Go where?”
I didn’t know what he was talking about. I mean, we were snowed in and all.
Where did he have to go in all this snow?
And that, as they say, was that. Well, a lot of stuff happened, but he did eventually, go. He had to, you see.
So, now, on this snowy night years later, almost to the exact day of that fateful snowy night when my husband said those four stinging words, I sit here, thinking . . . I really don’t like snow. It’s a lot of work. The shoveling and all.
Just Me With . . . snow.
My Cheating Husband Was Packing Viagra — Packing my husband’s things.
When I Needed a Helping Hand — Moving my husband’s things out.
My Worst Superbowl, Remembered — When I realized it was a lost cause.
It’s that time of year when singles of all ages and backgrounds lament about being alone. It’s holiday time, right? People tend to couple up and cuddle or enjoy family traditions. For many folks one tradition is being asked, “Are you seeing anyone?”
(My family never asks this, by the way, as if such an idea is just crazy talk.)
But there are things that are really cool about not having a significant other during the holidays.
Here comes a list.
- No splitting holidays!
How many have done the — “Okay, we’ll spend Christmas Eve with your parents, Christmas Day at my Grandma’s and Christmas dinner at your sister’s.
Or this year we’ll go to your family and next year we’ll visit mine — as if your respective families have some sort of court ordered visitation schedule forced upon you. Children of divorce have been during this for years. Once you are half of a grown up couple, you’ll find yourself doing it again.
Single? You can sit at your own mom’s house — or your own damn house.
“I ain’t going nowhere.”
2. Less Gifts To Buy
AKA save your money for something for yourself, charity, or pay off credit card debt you racked up when you had a honey to buy for, his/her family to buy for and back when you bought all the crap to make you look good 24/7. It makes sound financial sense to be single, particularly from Black Friday until right after President’s Day.
The money blogs tend not to encourage break ups, but they should, and say:
Ways to build wealth:
First, cut up your credit cards,
Second, cut loose your BAE.
(Yes, I said BAE, I’ll show myself out.)
3. Less Gifts to Receive
I’ve gotten some bad ones. When I was only a mere 19 year old a future brother-in-law gave us a gift card — to a hotel!
A HOTEL GIFT CARD AS A CHRISTMAS GIFT TO BE OPENED IN FRONT OF THE WHOLE FAMILY!
And then there was a time when slim, young,and I thought pretty damn cute me was given a pink nylon track suit.
The kind you see worn in nursing homes.
Wait, what? Have you seen me? I mean I’ve never been a slave to fashion, but I’m not completely devoid of .. of . . .giving a shit what I look like! C’mon, now!
And then I had to find a way never to wear it, or claim that it didn’t fit and return it. (I believe I returned it, although it was clearly a one size fits all situation.) And I still had to endure the disapproving looks from my husband.
Later on my my marriage we used to go to a white elephant Christmas party where everyone brought ugly, useless, yet nicely wrapped gifts to exchange for laughs. I had a seemingly endless supply of tacky items that had actually been given to me — lighted moving flowers in plastic cases — that was a crowd favorite.
Anyway, when you’re single you get less —- crap.
4. Your decor, or lack thereof,is your own
It doesn’t matter if somebody is allergic to real trees. You can get one. It doesn’t matter if you’d rather hang lights on your potted plant or toilet. It doesn’t matter if you would prefer not to decorate anything at all. It doesn’t matter if a lapsed Baptist girl wants a Menorah. You don’t have to start or maintain anyone else’s traditions or preferences. It’s all you, baby.
5. No work party discomfort
You don’t have to convince a significant other to go, and you don’t have to explain why your significant other is not there with you (“He’s working tonight.” This was my favorite work party lie.) But when you are single, you can show up on your schedule, make the rounds and leave whenever you damn well please. (All the big stars leave early. Look at the talk shows.)
Or, if you’re having fun you can stay until the bitter end without having your date do the raised eyebrow, tap the invisible watch, shoulder shrug combo which means,“You promised we wouldn’t have to stay long. I want to go home and watch Die Hard.”
6. And the best one?
You have no idea what things will be like next year.
Being uncoupled, you haven’t promised to honor the same — time-sharing, lame gift giving and receiving, fake tree, awkward party-duty, 24 hours of A Christmas Story — Christmas simply because that’s what you did with your partner last year, and every year.
Nope. You’re free.
Next year, you might try something different.
Next year, you might be someone different.
Next year, you might be with someone new, or not (remember to consider cleaning house mid-November, your bank account will thank you).
The possibilities are endless.
Just Me With . . . no one. And that’s alright with me.
See also Annual Holiday Christmas Party
I know how it happens, that little kid people have been buying gifts for over the years, and who used to jump up and down at a stuffed animal or fire truck or blocks or books, hits the double digits age. Adults know, from experience, that it is difficult to buy for teens and tweens, that they are probably chasing ever changing trends of which the non-parent is unaware, or that they have particular tastes that are as fiercely adhered to as some fundamental religions, “But I don’t like that. No one wears that.”
In the old days when adults got tired of trying to figure out what the kid will actually like an Aunt or Uncle would get one of those cool money cards and put cold hard cash in it for youngin’ to, “Buy yourself something.” No further instructions necessary. Now, when adults transition from giving the nicely wrapped and thoughtful shopped-for gifts, they skip the cash and pick up a gift card at the mall, or grocery store, or convenience store or almost anywhere these days, for a store that they’ve heard that teens like.
But I’m over it.
Here are the reasons why I will not give gift cards anymore, and why I will ask my loved ones not to give gift cards to my kids this holiday season.
Disclaimer: There may be some kids who do not have the issues I’m going to talk about below. My decision is based on what I’ve seen my kids and some of their friends do.
- They Don’t Use the Cards
The gift cards are sometimes not used for weeks, months, years, or not at all. Kids collect them, forget about them, take months to decide what to do with them, or lose them. Your hard earned money is doing nothing, except contributing to the bottom line of the store.
2. They Teach Kids to Spend Money Only at Expensive, Specialty Stores.
You are telling a kid that they must go into a certain store and buy something only from that store. And if they don’t have enough on their gift card, they have to find some way to make up the difference — Mom? This is all to buy a sweater that might cost $60.
Why, I ask you, are we encouraging kids — minors with no jobs — to buy a $60 sweater? Why are we normalizing it?
Because it benefits the stores.
It gets the kids in the stores where they play all the cool music (my sister calls it jeans-buying music) and then they want to come back. And, because many of these cards can be bought elsewhere, adults might not know that their $25 dollar gift card merely gives the kid a discount on a $60 sweater.
And even if the kids would consider buying elsewhere, where they might find the same or similar sweater for less — they can’t — because your gift card only allows them to go to the $60 sweater store.
So, if you want them to have a $60 sweater, buy it for them. You’ll be the favorite Aunt/Uncle and if they don’t like it, they can exchange it. But don’t get them used to buying it. Don’t let them feel entitled to it. Don’t normalize it.
3. Gift Cards to Discount Stores Aren’t Much Better
Giving them a card to a discount store doesn’t always help. See number 2, the kids have already been socialized that it’s cool to buy at the other stores. “I hate that [insert discount or department] store” and “I don’t like anything here” are words I’ve heard uttered when we are barely through the front doors. When a kid feels that way before even looking at the stuff I guarantee they won’t find anything there and your gift card will sit unused, see Number 1. Oddly enough, if I buy something from Marshall’s or TJMaxx and bring it home and put it in my closet, then it is suddenly wearable. They borrow it and I never see it again. (I have my own marketing tricks, thank you very much. . . heh heh heh). My girls are currently wearing two of my jackets — one from Kohls and another that I got from a Thrift store. But if they had a gift card to those stores it would sit unused.
The shopping experience at less expensive and more inclusive stores is quite different — there is merchandise not just for teens and gasp — they see people buying it that are not their age, or gender, or size, or their perceived economic group (teens tend to believe they are wealthy). They refuse to do it. The gift cards to the discount stores simple tell them that they aren’t allowed shop at their favorite stores, and that makes them angry.
My girls are sitting on Target and Old Navy cards that are almost a year old now.
4. It Normalizes Use of Plastic
I know, I know, we are in a paperless society. I use my credit, debit cards all the time. It’s convenient. But I’m grown. And I have other bills to pay and in every job I’ve ever had I got paid in money, not plastic. And if you look at any consumer debt article it will talk about people, largely Americans’, reliance on credit, specifically on credit cards to buy things they cannot afford.
Gift cards now look and feel just like credit cards. If that’s all your kid gets for birthdays or Christmas, he or she will start to normalize paying for things with plastic and without thinking about how much they spent, or what they are spending this money on. Instead, if they think at all, they ponder only,
“Do I have room on this card?”
Scary. This is not something kids should be conditioned to think.
When this kid is finally old enough to get a real credit card — and at stores they can get them at 18 years old, they have shopped for years with plastic without consequence. A recipe for disaster.
You have to learn how to manage money before you learn how to manage debt. Gift cards train kids to manage plastic.
Notably, people who have debt or spending problems are often encouraged to use cash exclusively even just as an exercise for a defined amount of time. This is so that they see where their money goes and it is obvious when it’s gone. I’ve also heard that people tend to spend less and more thoughtfully when they use cash and have to see it dwindle away. I think teens should be encouraged to spend with cash, just like the credit-challenged — so they have a visual of their spending habits — and limitations.
5. Gift Cards Discourage Saving
When you give that store gift card, the kid is unable to put money away for a rainy day, or plan to work to add to it in order to buy that big ticket item that is so important to him/her but that is only sold at a different store, or available on Craigslist or eBay.
In this sad economy the kid might only make a penny in interest if the money sits in a bank. But the gift cards? They make nothing at all and some even lose their value over time. And, again, see Number 1. They might sit unused or lost.
6. Gift Cards Take Away Spending Ability and Decisions
If the kid has gotten a handful of great store gift cards at Christmas and then their friends call them and ask if they want to go to the movies, or out to eat or — gag me — Starbucks — (again, the prices and marketing of Starbucks to people without jobs is a topic for another post), this kid has no money to do so. Then it’s all, “Mom, can I have $20?” while they are sitting on $200 worth of gift cards. Whether or not Mom or Dad pony up the money, the kid can’t pay his or her own way.
So what happens is, kids believe they are entitled to use or hoard their gift cards on speciality items of their choice and without regard to price, but all other expenses they incur are the obligation of parents.
Or, more importantly, the kid is not able to designate it for use toward a wonderful experience they hope to do — something small like being able to go to a game and buy food at the snack bar with friends or something big, like saving for that trip to Italy that is offered at the school. And, they can’t donate to charity or use any part of it to buy a gift for someone else.
Sure, if they received an actual gift they couldn’t put it in the bank, but they wouldn’t be told to shop without thought, either.
7. Visa/Mastercard Gift Cards Aren’t Much Better Either
See number 1 (they often aren’t used). See Number 4 (kids are encouraged to buy things with a credit card). See Number 5, they can’t save it, See number 6, though it gives them more spending decisions, they still can’t use it at a fair, or to buy something they are selling at school as a fundraiser or at a snack bar, and they probably can’t decide to use the money to pay for something themselves — like their prom tickets.
Plus, you’ve paid a fee of $4 or $5 dollars that goes to the company. This is for the privilege of giving a gift of plastic to a kid. Wouldn’t you rather give the full $30 to the kid rather than a $25 gift card plus a $4 surcharge to the company?
8. Giving Cash is Not Tacky
There are times when giving cash is a no-no — to a date, to a judge, to a addict. But to a kid? It’s perfectly okay. As I said in the beginning, this was the norm for years — Uncle Ben would hand out money envelopes. Grandpa would sneak a kid a $10. But that changed. I believe it was just a marketing thing. The stores want us to think we shouldn’t do it, and that the kids would rather get a $25 gift card to a store than $25 in cash. But see 1 and 2, that benefits the stores. When we have been convinced that giving cash is bad, but giving a gift card for the same amount is somehow better, we have directed business right where they want it — in their store. And, with their jeans-buying music and slick ads with gorgeous, young, thin models, they have created a loyalty to that store. If we gave cash, the kid could shop whereever he or she wants — even unwisely, or save, or use it for spending money.
9. Giving a Gift Card to a Store That Is Beyond Their Parents’ Means Can Cause Problems
Think about that. Using extremes, say you give a kid a gift card to a Luis Vuitton store. He/she buys some beautiful leather expensive thing. Loves the store, the service, how special he/she felt going in, the looks of approval when he/she carries the real LV bag. You’ve now trained a kid to only want real designer items, that may cost as much as her parents car and mortgage payments combined. But the kid doesn’t appreciate how much the thing costs, and when they need a new backpack or wallet, they aren’t going to want to go to Target or Marshalls, because they’ve now been trained, socialized to buy new designer items in specialty stores. This, even though they have no job and they are items that their parents could not or would not buy for them — or even for themselves.
It works the same with the $60 sweater from the trendy store. Let the kids save, combine cash they have received as a gift or earned babysitting and buy that sweater if they so choose, but don’t make them buy it, don’t train them to buy it, especially if it’s something their parents cannot afford. Teaching them that it is perfectly normal to to buy a $60 sweater when her parents can’t afford such items, or who have debt problems of their own, is kind of unfair. The next time the kid needs a new shirt, they will only want to shop at the designer stores, and it’s the parents that have to say no.
If you want to give an expensive, special present, please just buy the gift. Don’t gift the “shopping experience” that the parent cannot sustain.
10. A Word about Victoria’s Secret
Yes, the catalog has clothes. And some clothes are in stores. And they have very nice $60 bras that go on sale twice a year. And they have cute underwear and $75 bottles of perfume and also have the $10 lip gloss, and key chains, and body spray, etc. But unless you are comfortable with a 12 year old girl combing through panty bins looking through bejewelled thongs, crotchless or furred panties alongside grown ass women and sometimes men, you might want to skip sending a kid to that store. One of my daughters got a Victoria’s Secret Gift Card and I told her to to wait until the sale to use it. When she saw all the people digging through the bins of panties (all types of panties thrown in together — the regular ones and the sex clothes) she said, “This makes me uncomfortable,” and left the store. We ended up quickly buying perfume just to use the gift card. Of course, I have other daughters who got used to buying in there with their gift cards and don’t want to even look anywhere else. Sigh.
Call me old fashioned, but I think that when a woman is at a point in life when she needs or wants to buy sexy lingerie, she should be old enough to pay for it herself, not with a gift card from Uncle Bob.
In addition, somehow, the brilliant marketing people at Victoria’s Secret have convinced teen girls that paying twice as much for a T-shirt or sweatshirt that says PINK than they would for a T-shirt or sweatshirt that says literally anything else is perfectly normal.
Perhaps as adults, we shouldn’t encourage that.
I’ve decided that if I’m going to purchase an expensive sweatshirt or hoodie for my kids, it will be one with a college name or their high school spiritwear. The girls really like them also, and the inflated price is at least going to a good cause. Plus the girls are advertising something meaningful, rather than simply the word “PINK,” a brand for Victoria’s Secret.
Just to be clear . . .
I don’t mean to sound preachy, this is from experience. I’m frustrated.
I’m so tired of my kids not appreciating the cost of items, or their gifts, that a splurge is a splurge or special gift, not an entitlement, and that if someone thought enough of them to give them a gift card, they should use it. I’m tired of my kids complaining that they don’t have any clothes or money and asking me to buy them something, yet refusing to use their Target, Old Navy, or Macy’s Gift Cards because they don’t like those stores. I’m tired of the Christmas lists that simply list stores that the kids like to shop in but that I can’t afford. If they got cash they could still shop in those stores with cash, or window shop and choose to buy elsewhere.
Or, have actual presents to open on Christmas morning.
Just Me With . . . cold hard cash, but not enough.
And by way of full disclosure, I think all but one of my bras are from Victoria’s Secret. And I have one purple shirt that says, PINK, inexplicably. But I’m grown and know how to shop for sales, and, in past years have used gift cards to purchase my goodies. About two years ago I asked my family not to give them to me anymore. And I no longer wear the PINK tee. I do, however, wear t-shirts with my son’s college name on it and the names of my daughters’ championship sports teams.
So . . I was awakened by words no homeowner wants to hear,
“Mom, the refrigerator’s not working.”
Yes, sometime during the night my refrigerator just stopped. Slipped away quietly in our sleep. Peaceful, really. We should all go like that, except for that pesky spoiled food, two days after I’d gone grocery shopping for actual perishable food.
Oh there’s a chance of revival, of resurrection. But it will come at a cost. Possibly a deal with the devil, financed by American Express, or MasterCard, with a ridiculously high APR.
Now, I’ve made it clear how I feel about Open Floor Plans. And I don’t have one anymore, don’t want one. In my most popular post to date I only listed some of the reasons I don’t want one. There are more. And in many of my comments readers have pointed them out. But the reason that affects me right now is that because of HGTV and the Open Floor Plan we have all been conditioned — brainwashed — to desire and require fancy, shiny, state-of-the-art stainless steel appliances. Indeed, The Open Floor Plan, Granite Counter-Tops and Stainless Steel Appliances are the Holy Trinity of home improvement.
(I’ll wait for the moment of silence and for those religious folks to make the sign of the cross.)
But I just need a working refrigerator. The purpose of refrigerators is to keep some foods chilled and others frozen. That’s it. Now I know many refrigerators also serve as dispensers for water and ice. Okay, that’s cool (no pun intended). But other than that . . . we really just need them to keep food cold. The magic happens when the food comes out of these beasts and the chef, host, or hostess then does his or her thing.
Is it because so many of our kitchens and the ones showcased on TV are open for all to see that now we feel we must have costly granite counter-tops and state-of-the-art stainless steel appliances? And even worse, have we been conditioned to buy more than we need or spend more than we have even if we don’t have an open floor plan?
Now, it seems, we are supposed to want to show off our refrigerators, not just serve good food and make our guests feel welcome. We want to be the envy of our family and friends who should salivate over our appliances, not our dinner.
I get that some of the fancy refrigerators have neat features — don’t get me wrong — like keeping your drinks at a different temperature than your fruits or vegetables, or if there is easy access to the most used items . . . etc. But really? Those are amenities that happen inside a refrigerator.To show them off you have to have someone come into your kitchen –which happens automatically because the kitchen is now in the family, living, and dining room – open the refrigerator door and show off all the many ways that you can chill your stuff.
These days when someone walks in your home you don’t just offer them a comfortable seat and a beverage, you usher them to the appliance that chills the drink as if to say,
“Look at me, I’m getting your drink out of this beautiful thing. Pay no attention to my decor, artwork, hell my spouse or children. And for the love of all resale value do not sit down! Come here. Watch me get your drink. Only then will we perch on stools at the granite countertop island and later you can watch me put the bottle back in the stainless steel refrigerator! This thing cost me two thousand dollars so please show some respect. How is your juice?“
And then you close your refrigerator doors and immediately buff your thumbprint off the stainless steel shine of the thing while reading the digital display that gives you further information about how your refrigerator is doing its job — information that you, apparently, must have.
I mean, if you are a gourmet cook, having a six burner gas stove and two ovens, etc. those would be functions that directly lead to a desired result — a great meal. But a refrigerator? Its job is to keep the food cool so that when when take it out to cook, prepare, or serve it, it does not kill you. The refrigerator is a middle man.
It all seems a throw back doesn’t it — from a time before my time, when housewives of the 50’s would invite ladies over to show off their new washer dryer and yes, their Frigidaire?
Plus, gone is the Refrigerator Art of days long past — the report cards or prom pictures or “Things To Do” List that had traditionally been affixed to the refrigerator to give you a smile or a reminder. I wonder — Are kids these days getting dumbed down because no one would dare to put magnetic letters of the alphabet on a stainless steel appliance? Are little feelings hurt because Mommy no longer hangs a school drawing on the refrigerator?
It seems that the refrigerator itself, not the food that comes out of it, not the “Number One Best Mom” card your kid made you, not the latest picture of your new niece or nephew, is what is showcased. And let me tell you, the show does not come cheap. I have a (currently non-working) fancy, three door stainless steel refrigerator. I didn’t pick it out. I didn’t really pay for it. How I got it is a story for another post, but it’s legal, I assure you. Suffice it to say I had no idea how much this thing costs on the open market.
And guess what, these digital stainless steel refrigerators are quite expensive to repair, I’ve since found out, sadly. Hell, tragically. Something about a mother board. (I ask you, did I need a motherboard to keep my milk cold?) But . . . I digress . . .
The repair guy said that these high end refrigerators often break down and the repairs are neither cheap nor guaranteed. If I can live without the look and features of the current refrigerator, he suggested, I could buy a brand new one for only a little bit more than the cost of the repairs.
My first response in my head was — I don’t need another high end refrigerator. I don’t need to show it off – I don’t even have an open floor plan. The water dispenser hasn’t worked in a year anyway. I rarely consult the digital display.
But why, I ask, does it seem like a step down to purchase a large, white, two door refrigerator? The large, white, no frills, freezer on top models (which seem to hold more food) are now considered garage refrigerators suitable only to chill your beer. They are not to be seen by the general public, not ready for prime time, as they say. Maybe you’d have one at a beach house, or rental unit. But they are not presentable enough to chill any respectable homeowner’s milk, butter, and eggs. They are that cousin that gets seated way –WAY — in back at family weddings.
Right now, my beautiful large digital stainless steel refrigerator is useless, empty. Truth be told, it’s not even that pretty. It has two dents from two incidents with a bass drum (don’t ask). Dented Stainless Steel is like a pregnant prom queen– unfortunate, because there had been so much potential.
Also, my stainless steel is not even completely visible. I felt as though my children and I were not doing enough accidental or subliminal reading of things important to us, meaning important to me. Visually, we only see what is fed to us on TV and social media, we don’t hang up enough calendars or maps or pictures or words with which we should be familiar. Why can my teens spell Toshiba and Netflix? Because they see those words all the time. But they don’t see the months of the year or school announcements or reminders from me and reading a map is — unthinkable. They see what’s new on Netflix as soon as they turn on the TV, but when they went to the fridge to get a cheese stick they were met only with their distorted reflection. Oh, don’t get me started. Long story not really short, I defiled the gleam of my dented stainless steel and hung pictures and stuck word magnets on my refrigerator. One side English; the other side French. I mean it can’t hurt, right? And it made my kitchen feel like a family kitchen, the heart of the home like at my Mom’s house — where she has photos of all her grandchildren to enjoy on her refrigerator. It gives me the warm fuzzies to be able to look at vintage baby pictures of my kids as they scowl at me in real time. My kitchen was no longer a showroom of gleaming appliances.
(Oh, the HGTV people would have my head on a spike, a stainless steel spike).
Bottom line: I just don’t see spending my limited funds on a fancy refrigerator. It’s an appliance. It’s supposed to work for me. I’m not supposed to work for it. It should give me features that make my food maintenance and preparation easier. It does not define me; nor do I expect it to be beautiful, just functional.
We’re not going to hang out in it. We don’t sit on it. It doesn’t entertain us.
But . . . still . . .
It seems like such a step down, in defeat. Did I drink the HGTV Kool-Aid, the properly chilled inside a stainless steel appliance HGTV Kool-Aid? I wondered (well my Mom pointed out) — What about resale value of my home? Will people not buy my house if the refrigerator isn’t stainless steel? Will they walk away from my home — not because it only has one bathroom, or because it’s on a busy street, or because there are sofas on the side of the road — will the deal breaker be that the kitchen is not open and does not show off matching state-of-the-art stainless steel digital appliances?
These are questions I asked myself, as I ate canned soup for dinner, because my top-of-the-line stainless steel refrigerator stopped doing its job, making my job as head of this household much, much harder. You just don’t realize how few meals you can prepare without milk, butter, and eggs until you have nowhere to chill your milk butter and eggs.
But one to three grand to keep my milk butter and eggs cool in the matter to which I — we — Americans — HGTV –have become accustomed?
As my teens would say, “Can we just . . . not?”
Just Me With . . . warm bottles of Gatorade.
Postscript: During the preparation of this overly long post, my refrigerator was partially repaired. It keeps food cold now, but the digital display and the interior are dark. The controls do not work. I’m told the front board needs replacement. There are no small repairs on these types of appliances. While he was there I had the repairman look at my stainless steel top-of-the-line two drawer dishwasher because it hasn’t been feeling well. My dishes came out dirty, crusty and the inside of the thing is corroding. (But on the outside, it looks good.)
I received bad news and will have to replace that appliance. The repair would cost more than a new one. My fancy HGTV approved appliances (that I did not pick out) are turning on me, one by one.
The microwave, stove, and oven are still working like champs, though. (Knock wood. Actual wood.)
I’ve been in my former hoarders fixer house for a while now. And, as was always the plan, I will sell it — if the universe and my credit score allow– upon or just prior to or just after my youngest kids’ graduation from high school. I have a couple of years, but I’m thinking ahead. I probably won’t see a dime in return on investment for all the improvements I’ve made to my little hoarders home. There are a lot of reasons. But for this post I’ll focus here on my neighbors’ damn sofas sitting on the side of the road because that’s what’s bothering me today, every day.
Sofas, couches, easy chairs. Whatever you call them. Indoor furniture that is banished outside to publicly decompose for all to see — it’s the worst lawn decor ever.
It’s the modern day real estate equivalent to the head on a stick.
It’s crap like this that will lower my property value and keep it low — which is good for the contractors who want to buy low and rent or flip high — but bad for me. There are plenty of regular folks looking for an affordable houses in a nice neighborhood in a good school district, but because of the ever present sofas on the side of the road, it makes my neighborhood seem, well, not so nice.
Have you ever wondered why people put sofas outside which stay there for weeks, months, even years?
I have my theories.
1. They got a new couch. So they put the old one outside.
2. The old couch had something nasty happen to it — of the urine or vomit variety –that they just couldn’t get out.
3. The old couch had something smokey happen to it — the old cigarette in the cushions . . .
This only explains why the couch leaves the house, not why it stays outside.
Here are my theories on why they stay outside.
1. There is no (free) bulk trash pickup in the neighborhood.
2. Bulk trash pick-up is costly and low income (poor) people can’t or won’t allocate their money to pay for it.
Paying extra for trash removal can be a hard pill to swallow if you are having trouble paying regular bills (Query: How much money was shelled out on the new sofa? Perhaps the $25 bulk trash fee should be built into the cost of getting the new couch?) But regardless, there’s a solution. If you are able bodied you can save the $25 by breaking up the couch and putting it in the regular trash. I’ve done this. I’ve seen other people do this. It’s actually kind of fun it you want to get out some aggression. And another option is, if the sofa is old but not ruined, put it on Craigslist for free. Someone will take it. Craigslist people won’t pay a dollar for something, but if you say it’s free? They’ll take it. They’ll even take it from your house. If you don’t want strangers in your house, just plan to put the couch out on a sunny weekend, post the ad, and it will go away — for free. I’ve done this. More than once. If it’s truly trashed, this isn’t an option, but it’s worth a try.
3. I’m waiting for bulk trash pick-up.
But dude, how long are you going to wait?
Once a year, our Township provides dumpsters for people in my neighborhood to use free of charge for whatever they need to get rid of. But it’s once a year. In the Summer, I believe. It’s Winter now. Will the sofas sit here until July?
A variation on this excuse is: I put it out and wanted to see if the trash guys would take it. Okay, I get that. Because sometimes they might actually take it, or somebody might. This only justifies having an outdoor sofa for a week, though, tops. After a week has gone by of the regular trash people not picking up the sofa, it ain’t going nowhere.
4. Another reason proffered by well-meaning people is that the residents must not be physically able to get rid of the couch.
Well, I call bullshit on that one. If a person had the means and muscle to get the couch out of his or her house, they have the means and muscle to put it somewhere where it might get picked up. Obviously there are elderly or disabled (mentally or physically) who cannot maintain their property. I get that. But I’ve seen grown, strong, working men coming and going from these houses with the lawn couches. I call bullshit on them. I know people may have ailments that are not readily visible. I withdraw my calling of bullshit if that is the case. But if not, just putting indoor furniture in your yard and leaving it out in the rain, sleet, and snow until starts to stink, disintegrate, become the nesting ground for vermin and bugs, and just look plain old tacky — I just don’t get that.
Right now there are two couches I see every day. Every day.
Every damn day.
Couch Number One. It’s in a back yard, which backs onto my alley and my back yard. I see it from my kitchen window, as I said. Every day. As do at least four other houses and all cars that drive along this back alley. Lovely. This placement is curious to me, because their trash gets collected from their front yard. Why put the couch out back, inside their fence, on its side, cushions and all? Why? It won’t get picked up there by anyone. Maybe they are planning to have bulk trash pickup or somebody with a truck come later — but it’s been about a month now. And why leave the cushions? They could certainly go in the regular trash or recycling and this would cut down on the bulk of the sofa in the yard and also make it less inviting for bugs and rats. But no, the couch is outside.
Couch Number Two. This one is on the edge of a front yard of a house on the side of the road. Now this house has always had a messy porch. I don’t know the people, personally, but I’ve seen them come and go. Not elderly or infirm. Driving, working, healthy looking people. It appears as though they are doing some sort of home clean out now because there is more junk outside than usual. Again, having gone through extensive clean outs and renovations I understand that while work is in process, there will be debris, because — it’s a work in progress. But, the couch and cushions have been out there for again, about a month. I don’t see any evidence of home repairs or renovations going on. It appears as though someone decided to get some crap out of the house so — they just put it outside. Other large trash items have joined the sofa. These other items could have been put out in the regular trash. But, for some reason, the residents are just piling it up on and around the couch.
There’s a school bus stop nearby. Lovely.
These abandoned sofas are like announcements to people, whether they are passing through or coming home. It gives the appearance of,
“You have crossed over into a bad part of town.”
When people come to see me, or drop off my kids, they have to pass by one or both of the sofas. It’s far from inviting. It actually repels. And it seems that as soon as a rotting sofa is finally removed, another appears. I remember when we were still in the marital home when it was on the market, as we drove by what is now my neighborhood, my kid said,”I’m not moving over there.” She didn’t know that I had already purchased my little hoarders home. I told myself at the time, “I’ll make it nice.”
And I did.
I worked my butt off making our home as nice as I could, but I can’t do anything about the neighbors who allow upholstered furniture to rot outside their homes.
I think there’s a psychological reason why people do this. There are some people who are — interior. Most of their relaxation time is spent indoors. They only think of their yard, their porch, and front door as something to pass through to get inside. I guess then it becomes easy to make whatever changes you are making inside the house, and put the debris outside. After all, you’ve gotten it out of the house. It’s kind of like how an apartment dweller can throw things in a dumpster and go back inside, oblivious as to whether the dumpster is ever emptied.
But still . . .
These couches make me sad. It feels like people have just given up and don’t care. And what’s worse? It’s contagious. I would never do the couch thing, and I maintain my yard, but I’ve lost the will to garden or create an outdoor space for entertaining. I mean, why bother? I don’t want to sit outside and look at a rotting sofa while roasting marshmallows. I plan to garden and landscape more this year, to enhance curb appeal, but my heart’s not in it. I confess.
Just Me With . . . plenty of outdoor seating . . . on rotting couches . . . on the side of the road.
It just irks me. And it may cost me.
Related: Piss, Puke, and Porn — My Hoarder’s House
That Hoarder’s Smell — How to Get Rid of It
The sign is about to go up. The sign for the this year’s high school musical. This is significant to me, because, as I’ve written before — I remember things, so many things. It’s a gift — and a curse.
The local high school here has a very well-respected music and theater department. Going to see a play at the high school isn’t something that only a parent of a performer would put oneself through. It isn’t a painful two hours required by some familial connection to some pimply faced kid. No, it’s kind of like going to a “real” show. It is actually enjoyable, yet since it is still just a school production, the tickets are cheap. When my kids were little, I would take them to these shows and to other local high schools if they had a decent theater department. It’s a night out, and a way to introduce live theater to children without having to take out a second mortgage.
My kids’ high school usually alternates between a classic musical or one of the lesser known newer ones and they “recycle” ones they’ve done before when enough time has passed.
This brings me to the personal significance of the sign going up. Apparently, enough time has passed that the school has decided to repeat its production of the musical they did when my marriage ended. Let’s say it was The King and I — it wasn’t — but that’s the one I’m going with for purposes of this post.
Over the years I’ve only danced around the actual happenings surrounding my husband’s departure, dealing more with the fallout after he left than the painful process of his leaving. I tell myself I’m saving it for my memoir, but really — I’m extremely uncomfortable talking about it — still. For me, I guess, not enough time has passed for a revival.
Sometimes, though, you just have to raise the curtain — a little.
So here it is. It was about three weeks after he’d told me, “I have to go.” Those three weeks consisted largely of me begging him not to leave me, until one Friday night I finally said to him — “I guess I can’t force you to stay.”
That’s all he needed to hear.
By the next day, Saturday, he had booked a hotel room, and planned to sleep there that night. (Say what now?) That joker wasted no time. The plan was to tell the children on Sunday (aka the worst day of my life). After, he would officially move out.
So Saturday night? Separation Eve?
We went to see a play.
Our family was too big to get seats in one row. Musicals are a hot ticket in town. So I sat behind my husband, we each were flanked with kids. I remember thinking it was a mistake to sit behind him, because I’d have to see him, the back of his head, if I looked up at the play. And I didn’t want to cry. I remember trying very hard not to cry during the show, though there was comfort when the lights went down that my tears wouldn’t be noticed. Too bad it wasn’t really The King and I, I always cry at the end of The King and I. No matter, I had tissues to cover any escaping signs of my emotional turmoil. I always carried tissues with me from that time on. Trying not to cry or be seen crying in public became almost my vocation in the next year.
I remember during the play reaching out in front of me and caressing my husband’s shoulder. I just needed to touch him. I needed him to know I was there. Still. There. Hurting. I remember him acknowledging my touch without looking at me, as if he were saying, “Oh bless her heart.” I remember the awkward Intermission, when small talk with my soon to be ex-everything seemed so wrong and eye contact deemed so dangerous, as it might trigger the tears. I talked with someone I knew in the pit orchestra instead, I recall.
And I remember the play, “The King and I.” I remember thinking this would really be good, except for, you know, my life falling apart.
I was in a fog, a fog of shock, denial and accommodation. I’ve since had some clarity on the subject. And I don’t love him anymore. Haven’t for years. Still, I remember things.
The kids were oblivious. They enjoyed the play, having no idea that their world was going to be completely turned upside down — in a matter of hours.
When the show was over, we all went home and put the kids to bed.
Then my husband left our home to stay at a hotel. I knew that when he returned the next day it would be so that we could tell the kids he’d be moving out and he would, indeed, move out.
But that was then . . .
And enough time has passed (apparently) that it’s okay for the high school to put on the same musical. My kids aren’t little anymore. One is in college. The rest now go to this same high school, which means that I will see that sign every day, multiple times a day, until the show is over.
I used to hope that my kids would get involved in theater at the high school. None did. But, I think, this might be a blessing.
Because I don’t have to go to this show. Because if I did go to this particular production, I couldn’t help but relive that night, the beginning of the hardest days of my life and the long journey since.
If I had a kid performing in the 2015 production of The King and I ?
I don’t think I would handle that well. I remember things. It’s a gift and — oh hell — it’s a curse.
So, the sign will go up soon. Enough time has passed for a revival.
But no one asked me.
It will take all the restraint I have left in my being not to run the damn sign over.
Just Me With . . . a night at the theater. Too bad it isn’t Chicago, about famous murderesses . . . and their men — who had it comin.’
And I’m glad it wasn’t really The King and I, because that is a beautiful show and I would hate for it to be ruined.
Postscript: The damn sign is up now.
My Daddy Moved Out — What one kid said about it at school.
Happy Birthday to My Ex-Husband’s Ex-Girlfriend — Because I remember everything.
Worst Super Bowl, Remembered — Again, because I remember everything
My Cheating Husband was Packing Viagra — I helped him pack.
Six Days of Separation — I was a mess the next week.
I Don’t Love Him — self-explanatory.
When I Needed A Helping Hand — To move his stuff.
I recently had a vacation with the extended family. We rented a big house during the off-season at a resort area — so cheap. My family took pity on me because I had been unwell lately and because I currently live in a home with only one bathroom that I share with my five kids, though one is away at school.
So even though I don’t have a “Master,” per se (gag me), they let me have one of the master bedrooms. This meant I had my very own bathroom.
My very own bathroom. It was a thing of beauty. It had a jacuzzi tub and a separate shower, a private water closet and — space! I could dance in my bathroom. I briefly considered holding some sort of meeting there. It had more floor space than my current family room has. Plus, I didn’t have to make an announcement before I showered in case others had to use the bathroom first and I didn’t have to use the bathroom quickly before someone else took a shower. For a week, I didn’t have to wade my way through acne products on the sink and teen clothes left on the floor.
My glorious bathroom also had double sinks. I’ve discussed the double sink thing before, at Double Sinks in the Master Bath –Must We Have them, Really? One of the problematic issues about them being standard in new construction is the fact that not everyone is coupled up. The sinks are kind of a throw-back to the assumption that the heads of the households — the ones who deserve the best rooms — are always a couple.
Now, I loved having my own bathroom for a week. I am not complaining. It was an indulgence I’m sure many have on a daily basis, but for me? I was living like a queen, albeit temporarily. Still, I felt slightly silly in this bathroom. It may have been the double sinks. This was a bathroom built for two. Every time I went to wash my hands or brush my teeth or wash my face, it reminded me, ever so subtly, that I am single, occupying this space meant for a couple. The suite also had a king sized bed, and I have to admit that, after all these years, I’m still sleeping on “my side of the bed.”
I took turns using first one sink and then the other so that neither one would feel left out. (That’s my throw-back to having twins. Keep it equal as much as I can, in an effort to keep them out of therapy.) Inexplicably, I also locked the door to the water closet when I was in there. I guess I didn’t want my non-existent ghost husband to walk in on me when nature called as he breezed in to shave over “his” sink.
Oh wait, no one was going to use that other sink.
I was the master of my bathroom domain.
Oh well. I loved having this huge bathroom all to myself for a vacation, but if I had actually purchased a home with double sinks that I’d have to look at day in and out? That would kind of piss me off. Contractors, realtors, HGTV — take note.
The master bath also came with two sets of towels — I guess for my invisible ghost man.
I used those, too.
Just Me With . . . one shower, one bathtub, one toilet, TWO sinks and a bunch of towels — Just For Me.