It started as an experiment.
And everybody experiments, right?
It was just a little thing, you know, so I can hang with the cool kids. But now I fear it’s gotten out of hand.
It was last year. You see, I’d started a new job, a new assignment, along with about 80 to 100 other people. We were in a huge conference room, seated randomly at round tables. Some people knew each other from other projects, but most, like me, were amongst strangers.
We were a room full of attorneys in professional attire. The women outnumbered the men, slightly, as I noted when I conducted the unofficial scan of the room. This isn’t necessarily a function of progress. These assignments are, shall we say — upward mobility challenged? The ages in the room spanned from about 25 to maybe 65 years old. There was a respectable sprinkling of people of color, mostly women of color, but it was a predominately white crowd. None of this is particularly important, except I want you to experience the look and feel of the room, so maybe you can understand how I got all caught up.
I uttered the normal hellos, introductions, and Have you done this work before? –yadda yadda yadda– but then, as I often do –and I think it’s the writer in me — I shut up, watched, and listened.
Before and after our training sessions, and during every break, many of my new colleagues talked about about babies, toddlers, school aged kids, teens applying to colleges, school schedules, dance classes, sporting events, husbands, meal planning, diets, vacations, grown kids, daughters’ weddings, sons who just got engaged, etc. You know, personal stuff, family talk.
But most of this talk was by the women. Even the childfree women asked the other women about their kids.
My male brethren? Not so much.They were largely quiet, or spoke of the commute and past work experience.
Considering the age range of the group — these dudes were in prime dad years. All years are prime dad years for men, but I digress . . . .
And, I couldn’t help but notice the golden glint of a fair share of wedding rings on these men. Alas, in my single state the hunt for wedding rings (or lack thereof) is a commonplace activity for me, but I digress, again . . . . My point is, it stands to reason and probability and you know, math, that many of these men must have had wives and kids — that they just weren’t talking about.
And me? Having had all the kids I could have jumped right into the mom talk. But I wondered, what would it be like to be one of the guys? I’d still love the fruit of my loins, I’d still be ridiculously proud of them, but I knew — or perhaps I wanted to prove — that I was capable of making small talk that’s not about them.
Just like the guys.
Now, let the record reflect that I’m content with my gender, and I’m not one of those women who hate other women or moms, and I’m not trying to be a guy, I just wanted to be like them. Just for a minute. And to be honest, be like myself, the archived self I was before I had all the babies, two at a time, before the nasty divorce, crippling depression, and crushing debt, before the struggle to maintain normalcy for the kids while the mom was decidedly not all right. I wanted to conjure up the time where, in similar professional situations, I managed to talk the talk without all the baby talk.
Admittedly, having been through all the stuff I’ve been through — peruse old posts if you are not familiar– I just wanted to get away from it. You know, for a minute. Because discussing the kids always leads to questions about the ex. Always. It also leads to comments about my shape (and weight), and to my tutorial on fertility and heredity.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with talking about family at work. Nothing at all. But I couldn’t help but notice the gender divide and I thought . . . I’m gonna jump to the other side.
For a minute.
So, I opted out. I told myself that I would never deny the existence of my offspring, but I would make a conscious effort not to voluntarily talk about them, unless or until I felt like it.
For a minute.
But that was well OVER A YEAR AGO!
During this time I have worked side by side with both men and women, gotten to know them, like (some of) them, bonded with many of them, laughed and bitched with most of them. But I haven’t mentioned to them that I have almost half a dozen children, those young adult humans that I grew in my body, birthed and raised. And no ex-husband either. Nothing. Just me (ironically).
Like a fucking psychopath.
And now I’m in too deep.
What have I done? What kind of mother doesn’t talk about her children? — for over a year?
Just Me With . . . no children — to speak of, anyway. Are you kidding me?
There were a couple of times when I kinda broke my rules, which I’ll talk about later, because now — it’s a problem.
And I guess at some point I should report on the results of my experiment — how it felt.
To be continued . . .
Full closure: My kids are, in fact, AWESOME. The younger ones are still in college, happy and healthy, my oldest kid graduated from college, got a full-time job in his field, an apartment, and a roommate. They are crushing it. And by extension, so am I.
And, if I can be completely superficial for a moment, they are freaking gorgeous, objectively, like people stop and stare. I don’t post pictures of them. Just take my word for it.
Now. I accept the fact that I could be over sensitive. I admit that I can get hung up on semantics at times, and I understand people mean well. So I’m going to dial it back a bit and not correct people when they say the following to me:
How’s it feel to have an empty nest?
But right here and now I’m going to explain why that question makes my skin crawl.
You see, to me the concept of empty next is like this. A couple creates a home in order to raise their family there. And they do raise their family there, together. Nothing’s perfect. Everybody has issues and ups and downs but for the most part things went according to plan. The Empty Nest Syndrome is a term that describes a sadness and emptiness parents feel when their kids move out.
That is not my situation.
This was never a nest.
If you’ve read some of my other posts you know that when I acquired this home it was basically a hoarders’ house. And I bought it because I could not afford to stay in my other nicer home in a friendlier neighborhood because of divorce. From the get-go it wasn’t me happily building a nest for my baby chicks.
We were in survival mode. I built this home for the purpose of fleeing it.
It was never a nest. What I have here is a foxhole. Yeah. Think about it. We left what would have been the nest and were set off to war conditions — divorce. We dug a hole and survived. Made do with whatever rations and provisions we could find. My little soldiers were sent out for small battles (various life functions) and came back to the foxhole. And now? They finally made it out long enough to have somewhere else to lay their heads (A dorm can be a lot like a barracks — also temporary housing — but safe).
During these past years in our foxhole I have lived one step ahead of bill collectors while my career took a big hit. The only thing about the foxhole that makes me sad is that I still owe money on it and have not built enough equity to flee. I weep because I need a new heater and a sump pump.
I feel like a sergeant screaming — Go Go Go Go! Whilst I hunker down and try to figure out which bill gets paid next.
I know we are blessed to have had a roof over our heads. We have had some happy memories here. Soldiers will tell you of good old war stories and lifelong friendships –But they don’t want to go back to the front lines! The kids and I have funny stories. Remember when we didn’t have a toilet? Good times, good times.
Also, I’m a divorced, custodial parent. This is the kids’ only home and all their stuff has always been here, but they did visit their father. This ain’t my first time alone in my house surrounded by reminders of the children while they are somewhere else. I have already felt that pain and emptiness. Been there. Done that. Over it.
For the record, most people have it backwards. Back then people assumed I was happily enjoying a “break” from my kids when they visited their father. No, that separation was gut wrenching, because they were just kids, I missed them, they missed activities, and none of us had any choice in the matter.
Now people assume that because the kids aren’t home with me full-time, I must be sad. No, this separation means I did my job, and the kids are somewhere they chose to be.
Empty nest? No. It’s completely different for me.
Now I just need to plan my escape.
Just Me With . . . a college graduate and four college students, a mortgage, a various other forms of growing mountainous debt, water in my basement, a heater and water heater on their last legs. And no one to combine income or share expenses with.
P.S. I promise to dial it back when people ask about the empty nest, though. I really do.
I’ve been at it again. Cleaning out my house. My therapy. And also, kind of a strategic get out of jail plan. In the next year to 18 months I plan to move, and sell or rent out my home — the former hoarder’s house to which I fled upon the demise of my marital bliss — just one half step ahead of the hot flaming lava chasing me from my volcano of debt. Dramatic, I know.
So might as well start the pre-listing clean out now, right? Plus the kids are not here and I need to alter my surroundings. Again. And, it’s freee entertainment, which is a necessity right now, the free part.
I needed to seriously clean. Things are dirty. Even though I always felt like I was cleaning all the time, I wasn’t really cleaning. I was straightening up and clearing and cleaning around things — and those people I made — and dogs — but I never had all the stuff out of the way long enough to get to the really deep cleaning.
We had downsized already when we moved here and got rid of around 2/3 of our possessions. Many other belongings were removed along the way as I realized I still didn’t have room for them. My parents got my formal sofa and chairs (and I got rid of their outdated stuff) some other casual furniture purchased for the house just didn’t fit. I get rid of things all the time. But as the kids grew in our modestly sized home, we have been stepping over each other. Literally. We’re all relatively and objectively tall and have large feet and long legs. We take up a lot of room. And the sprints to be the first one to get the only bathroom in the house were getting serious, and a bit dangerous. But now the kids are gone for a while — a college thing — to be discussed in another post — it’s time for me to, as a good friend I recently reconnected with said, “reset.”
“Reset.” I like that.
As part of my clean out, clean up, and just clean, I went through an ottoman that doubles for “storage” of our miscellaneous electronics. I’d throw any cord I couldn’t identify, or those I could identify but did not need at that moment, old phones, parts of video games, remote controls, etc. in there. Some of these electronics were even in baggies to keep them from tangling around each other. I was proud of that and that at least most of the stuff in there was part of the same category. But I hadn’t taken out everything in years.
And at the bottom of the cords, games, adapters, phones, remote controls, and extension cords, there was a cassette tape. (For those of you who are not familiar, cassettes were used to store audio information before CDs, and CDS were and are used when music cannot be accessed from phones, or there is an absence of wifi or available data.)
This particular cassette was an audio recording of my wedding.
The church where I married recorded everything that happened there. The good, the bad, and the ugly. I assume this was to preserve sermons and music. In my case it preserved our voices stating our now defunct wedding vows, along with some really good music (I had a brass quartet at my wedding. It was beautiful . . . but I digress) and it recorded the reading of probably the saddest poem ever read at a wedding, “The People Who Never Say Goodbye.” This was a cry for help. As I’ve said before, ladies, your job as bridesmaids is not limited to showers, bachelorette parties, and shopping for dresses. Your job is to read the room, the bride, and call the whole thing off if necessary. Almost a Runaway Bride
My first thought was just to throw the cassette away, like my husband did with our vows. No fuss, no muss, no pomp, no circumstance. A Twitter friend suggested that I burn the tape. I’m no stranger to the burn. This ain’t my first rodeo. My Wedding Album. In response I joked that if I was a guy I’d whip “it” out and pee on it. The same Twitter friend reminded me — “You could squat.” Smiling about that, I put it on the table while I finished going through the electronics. Maybe, I thought, I’ll just listen to the music.
My next find wasn’t really a find.
I knew they were there. While cleaning out the medicine cabinet, I saw my old friends Mr. Xanax and Ms. Ambien – relics of my clinical major depression, anxiety, and insomnia following that pesky time when my husband of many years and father of our many children broke up with me. The pills were expired of course, but I kept them. Weird, because I never really liked them much and used them very sparingly. If I took a sleeping pill I couldn’t properly wake up in the morning. If I took a Xanax I was just a little bit off, out of it. But I tell ya, this was very helpful in certain situations. Very helpful indeed. It was my pharmaceutical prophylactic in difficult, awkward, or painful situations. Sharing Celebrations .
Still, having the pills in the house gave me comfort. I think I kept these old meds, you know, just in case . . .
After the scrub down and disinfecting of the cabinet (you’d be amazed at the mess that old razors for four girls leave), I found that the added space in my cabinet was far more calming than presence the old pills.
So — I chucked them. I brought them downstairs, opened the bottles, destroyed the labels and trashed the pills so no one could find them and sell them (it would be wrong for someone else to profit from my misery). And then? I casually dropped the wedding cassette — the audio proof of the “till death do us part” fallacy — in the same trash bin. I don’t want any of those particular reminders of the good, the bad, the ugly or the pharmaceutically numbed in my house.
And that was that.
There has been a slight shift in the universe. Did you feel it?
Just Me With . . . space, and some peace. Oh, and I found the remote control to the actual TV! Now I don’t have to get up to change the input from cable to Netflix. Not too shabby. Plus, I already own a CD of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and am blessed to have access to a classical music station, wifi, and a smartphone. There is no reason to listen to a cassette recording of my wedding music. Nope. No reason at all.
Plus, one of the brass players was this asshole, I Don’t Go to Weddings.
Let me set the scene.
Well even before the scene, a little background. Things are a little tight at home. So I’ve been looking for some side work. Don’t worry, it’s legal. I mean literally — legal side work. A little per diem. It’s a thing. And, it is necessary, because submitting applications into the great black hole of the Internet hasn’t been working out for me.
Internet job search, if you aren’t familiar — that’s when, in response to an advertised position for which you are qualified, you put the digital best version of yourself out there — you enter information about your past, your hopes and dreams, your goals, your abilities, your salary requirements and references — you put it all out there. Raw.
You click “Submit.”
But if you listen carefully you can hear it, the whoosh as your qualifications are flushed down the Internet toilet . . . “because in space, no one can hear you scream . . .”
But I digress, and I turned to Craigslist and answered an ad.
Admittedly, I had reason to be skeptical. The ad was barebones. No details, at all, not even the crappy stock language about working in a fast paced professional environment blah blah blah. The ad was only clear about one thing: The pay was not high. (Huh, what does that mean?) But as I said, things are as tight as a Kardashian dress so I replied anyway and attached my resume. (Accidental rhyme)
Lo and behold — a response!
However, no information.The email said that “they” have “someone” in my area the next day and asked if I could be at a local diner at 1:30. You know how when anyone says “long story short” they have already gone on for far too long? Well, long story short, I said I would be there. After not getting a confirmation of the meeting, or any details at all — like the name of the business, who I’m meeting with, his or her contact information or even their gender, I finally received a weak apology via email, “Sorry, I was in a meeting” and “Someone will be there a little after 2:00pm.” I replied, confirming I would be there at 2:05pm.
I went to the diner, dressed nicely and actually with some makeup on. It wasn’t a busy part of the day so as soon as I walked in the manager offered to seat me. I replied, “Well I’m meeting someone,” and looked around like I was looking for him —or her. The manager asked, “Do you see them?”
“No.” (But how would I know?)
So I sat at a booth facing the door. The waitstaff must have been just really bored because the server pounced on me,
“Can I get you something?”
“Not yet, I’m waiting for someone.” So . . . she brought me two menus.
The second time she asked me if I wanted something I ordered coffee.
The waitress brought the coffee and two glasses of water, because, well, I had said, repeatedly,
“I was meeting someone.” (Who? Who was I meeting? I didn’t know.)
Now, if you’ve read some of my other blog posts you know I often go out alone. Always have. Not a big deal. But the two water glasses — they threw me. Those glasses were evidence that I was not really eating alone. I was expecting someone. And that someone was not there.
Then — hope! A professional looking man with a briefcase came in alone and sat in the booth next to me and opened his laptop.
I asked him, “Are you here to meet someone for an interview?”
“No, I’m not.” He looked at me and shook his head. I can’t be sure, but the threesome in the booth next to him looked fleetingly in my direction.
I crawled under the table and assumed the fetal position. Well, I wanted to.
I had no computer. No reading material. Just my phone. But that was useless.You see I was never given a phone number of the person I was to meet or of the business, for that matter. I had no one to call or text to say, “Um — are you still coming?”
I finished my coffee. I told myself I would wait a half hour, which was way too long. No one emailed me.
The attentive waitress asked, again, “Are you ready to order?” To which I replied, as I was fishing for cash to pay for my coffee,“No . . . I think I’m just going to go.” The waitress said, “Okay,” but didn’t look particularly surprised. I left the money on the table, got up, and quickly walked out. I must have looked upset, because I was. I was murmuring inaudibly . . . Shady ass Craiglist lawyers wasting my time . . . I don’t have to stand for this shit, I’m out . . .
And then I realized– to the restaurant staff and patrons it would appear that I was some unfortunate woman on a date who just got stood up! Like I was rejected in my quest for love instead of just rejected in my search for some extra money.
I wanted to go back in and scream . . .
IT WAS NOT A DATE!!!!!!!
But, that would invite more pity.
And that would be a shame.
And there was already enough shame going around.
Just Me With . . . . one coffee, two menus, two water glasses, no food, no money.
Alone posts. Wait, why are there so many?
Pissed: Parking and Dining Alone Fun fact. This was the same diner.
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.