When my husband and I were engaged, we met for several pre-marital sessions of analysis and enrichment with the man who would eventually marry us. He wouldn’t marry us, he said, if we weren’t ready, and these meetings were his chance to gauge our level of preparedness. It was like a weird, endearing and beautifully challenging form of wedding boot camp.
We passed the tests, obviously; if we hadn’t, I wouldn’t refer to my husband as “my husband,” unless I was delusional and crazy. Which, well, I might be at times, but in this regard I’m flying straight.
Anyway, I was just thinking about our wedding boot camp because my husband and I, while we’re happy as little clams and otters holding hands, are going through a rough patch. This particular rough patch is caused solely and completely by one single source: money.
That’s right. The dreaded five-letter word that causes millennial college graduates to cringe and baby-boomer conservatives to salivate.
The problem is this: we’re broke. Broker than broke. We’re so broke, the possibility of foreseeing the fixing to our brokenness is so far off it is nearly unthinkable.
Part of the reason is this: I went to a very expensive, fancy-pants liberal arts college to earn my undergraduate degree. As do all young women who are in love with learning, I threw caution to the wind when it came time to declare a major. I would pursue my passions, I told myself, and devil may care where that led me! I would pursue scholarship for scholarships sake and be damned all thought of pensions and 401k’s and unemployment rates! I would major in the most obscure thing I could possibly major in:
I spent approximately $200,000 and four years of my life in pursuit of a language that no one even speaks.
But I couldn’t help it.
I really loved it.
And I still do – there will always be that part of me that gets the tingles when I see Cicero’s point, or feels giddy over Livy.
But that part is so wildly overshadowed by the part of me that wants to be able to buy new sheets and rent a movie every once in a while. The part that doesn’t want to have to plan car trips based on whether or not I’ve gotten paid that week. The part that wants a house, and kids, and a farm, and a bunch of foster puppies running around, licking my face and tripping over each other.
And the older I’ve gotten, the bigger that part of me has become and the smaller the Livy-loving piece has grown.
I would be perfectly happy and whole if I never translated a line of Latin ever again.
I can’t, however, imagine being perfectly happy and whole if I never share a home with my beloved. Or raise a family with him. Or enjoy another date night.
You see where I’m going with this: despite the fact that money is the root of all evil and love conquers all and money can’t buy happiness – despite all of that, which is decidedly and undoubtedly true – I really, really, really want more money.
I want to live like Scrooge McDuck and have a big vault of it where I can swan dive and splash around, the bills and coins popping out and wafting through the air as I wade in them. I want to be so rich that I actually have to make charitable donations in exorbitant amounts just to avoid taxation rape. I want to be so rich that I don’t have to decide what’s more important, face wash or tampons? Socks or shaving cream? Electricity or food?
I was thinking about our wedding boot camp because in our blissfully unaware and financially “okay” days as fiancés, my husband and I had no inkling of the amount of financial trouble we would face a couple of years down the road. So when the man who would eventually marry us told us that every married couple faces at least one Achille’s heel weak spot, and that the most common ones are debates over money, in-laws, sex and children, we laughed gleefully and haughtily, our blind optimism speaking for us, saying, “We get along with each other’s families perfectly, we have a lovely sex life, and we already know we want children, lots of them, whom we’ll raise with a balance of toughness but warmth. That only leaves money …”
Let me first interrupt my husband and I in the past to offer this token of experience-based insight: we were totally wrong about family being a piece of cake (it’s tough sometimes – families can be really weird), were wrong about sex being a non-issue (passing out on the couch at 7:00 pm and drooling on a throw pillow are some of the least sexy things a woman can do, I’ve learned), and we’re most likely set to be wrong about children (I can already foresee the many quibbles we’ll have over too-strict punishments or too-soft leniencies). So our lack of concern for money was at least naïve and at most stupidly arrogant.
Nonetheless, in our pre-marital Zen-state, we wisely and sedately resided to the fact that bills would always be our enemy. But money, we thought, would never be a problem because we won’t have any; and as any astute 90’s generation adolescent knows, in the words of Puff Daddy, Ma$e and the Notorious B.I.G., “Mo Money, Mo Problems.”
I remember being very impressed with us at the time. We were so smart, so united, so full of love and joy and hopefulness. And we still are, I think. We’re just a bit more jaded now.
Because it turns out, “Mo Money, Mo Problems” is only the credo of Walter White and crack addicts. For the rest of us, for the most part, the more money we have, the fewer problems. Because with money comes freedom, opportunity, peace of mind, flexibility, and the capital it takes to invest in the beauty of your dreams.
So where does that leave us?
We have no money, still. Writing this has not changed our situation one lick.
Maybe the only good thing that can come of this whole moneyless mess is that we learn to prioritize our lives. When we have so few resources, we must decide what is most worthy of our investment.
And that’s a hard decision sometimes, but in a way it’s liberating.
We’ll learn to live without much of what we thought we needed to live, my husband and I, and we’ll learn to be happy with very little.
At least I hope.
In the meantime, though, all charitable donations are welcome.