As an investor, I’ve always seen value in contrarian strategies. The evening after Lehman fell, Mr. Fresh (then, Marshall) and I went out to buy a diamond. We were nearly the only shoppers in the mall and we’d had this conversation:
Mr. Fresh (PhD in economics): Now, about a ring. Do you want a diamond? You know the scarcity is strictly….
Me: Yeah, I wrote a 15 page paper on DeBeers in b-school. I know it’s all bullshit.
Mr. Fresh: Okay, so…
Me: Uh huh, I want a diamond.
Gavin and I had artsy, wonderful rings that alluded to his artwork, made by a friend, no stones. I was a breadwinner the first time. While Gavin’s job was to understand the newspaper, his naivete and poor math skills left me, delighted, holding the business pages.
Now Mr. Fresh and I are having money issues. The checking account is declining, his new job demands longer hours plus a ridiculous commute, and I’m not planning to go back to work anytime soon. And he’s stressed about applying for a mortgage in this environment despite our strengths.
It’s hard to give up my financial independence. This late in feminism, it’s hard to remember that my attitudes were formed in an era when it was surprising, some would overstate it as “revolutionary,” for a woman to pay her own expenses.
During Gavin’s illness I grew accustomed to taking my only breaks at Target, spending always $46.34. What a luxury to know you could afford anything in the entire store. In a way, this was what I’d always dreamed of: being able to ignore the price tag. Gavin would say “you’re spending money like there’s no tomorrow.” I knew we were spinning toward bigger disasters than money. I didn’t reply.
As an overwhelmed widowed single Mom heading toward bankruptcy, but sitting on a cool half-mil of home equity, I kept up those habits. What was another $50 when I was spending down savings to buy groceries anyway? The savings accounts I’d built up during my years studying the market, pre-kid, dwindled. And I woke up in the solution every morning anyway. It wasn’t ideal but I’m pragmatic.
But I also became careless about paying bills on time, something I’ve been fastidious about since my mid-20s.
I’m at the point in my new life when “I watched my husband die” is a pretty weak excuse. Even with my contempt for a million things, I respect the world’s numbers and values to know that at some point, the shit has to hit the fan.
We were told we had nearly perfect credit when Gavin was dying. I hated this contrast. I wonder if I’ve spent the last five years ruining my credit out of contempt.
I’m thinking a lot about my spending as a way of bleeding out the grief.
I’m realizing how much I used spending to shed responsibility.
It makes a terrific, inevitable story climax when a rich man finds money can’t prevent or cure a disease.
Someone loses their home and says, “At least I’ve got my health.”
Widows feel incredible guilt living off life insurance benefits (I was “lucky,” haha, he had just the barest bit,)
Bloggers can’t really feel too happy about getting loads of traffic after they lose a child or are hauled off to the nuthouse.
Neither prosperity nor health have any moral sense.
I suppose worst case is that the bank will ask us to reapply for the loan with just Mr. Fresh’s name on it. I imagine I might be embarrassed, and he might be disappointed. Not the end of the world.
But I’m not feeling happy about the uncertainty, and it’s ruining my post-feminist enjoyment that someone is buying me lots of “free” time. I mean, yeah, I’m a housewife and mother, and we’re moving, but I have the luxury of figuring out what’s next in a fairly relaxed way. It matters to me that for the first time, someone, other than Oprah, wishes I'll create my best self.
Cross your fingers.
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