Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Fiscal Anorexia

I got a new laptop yesterday. Well, it's not technically accurate to say I "got" a new laptop; more like a new laptop was forced down my throat yesterday by the person in the house (who is not me) who is willing to admit that once in a while we actually need to, oh, you know, buy something. That when laptops, however beloved, start locking up and require two to three restarts per session, it's probably time to get a new laptop. That ranges which occasionally explode are not acceptable in the kitchen, and when one starts pulling that sort of behavior you need to get rid of it and buy a new one. The same person who twisted my ear and got me to buy new athletic shoes last week, to replace the pair I've had since, oh, say, 2004, approximately. Yes, I know you're supposed to get new ones every six months. Don't nag me. Six years is actually doing pretty well, for me.

Okay, so I have fiscal anorexia. Can you blame me? I've lived on a shoestring budget for so many years it's just become kind of a habit. Ever since the Bataan Death March of Finance in 1991 (laid off from the State of Arizona; earning $7.61 an hour at Bank of America, 20 hours a week; my rent was $250, and my cat was eating better than me. Yes, of course I had a cat. I've always had a cat), I've just been accustomed to getting by on very little money. Rather, on spending very little money. How much I actually have in the bank is kind of irrelevant. And let's not forget I've done not one, not two, but three stints on unemployment since my arrival in the fine state of Texas, though admittedly this last one was so short I didn't even have time to collect any benefits (for which, thank God. Seriously, thank God.)

Now here's something really funny: My parents act exactly the same way I do about money. Ferexample: Last time they were in Dallas, they wanted to stay at the La Quinta next to the Denny's in Garland (which we fondly call the Bedbug Inn after this unfortunate incident where--actually, never mind, that's none of your business). After much arm twisting I got them booked at the Radisson Dallas East, which is a lot closer to the house and about a thousand percent nicer, and they pitched a fit because it was $20 more a night than the La Quinta. I about tore my hair out over this one. Luckily my sister cast the deciding vote. She rocks, just incidentally.

People, my parents are millionaires. I shit you not. They own some serious real estate, a scad of stocks, bonds, money market funds and a bunch of other stuff I know nothing about. They also drive old cars, order the cheapest things on the menu, and tip abysmally. So I come by this honestly. (Except for the tipping. I'm a very generous tipper. Especially when I eat with my parents; yep, that's me running back into the restaurant, finding the waitress, whispering, "I'm so sorry, here" and shoving more money into her hand.) No doubt my parents were not always millionaires. Hell, maybe they became millionaires by being so careful with their money for such a long time. And while I don't remember being particularly poor growing up (split-level home in suburbia, nice lawn, ski vacations every year, flying to see my cousins once in a while) I'm sure there must have been tough times, before I came along or maybe even after, to which I was cheerfully oblivious.

(Side note here: I remember one of the kids on the Cosby Show asked the dad, "Dad, are we rich?" and Bill Cosby said, "Your mother and I are rich. You have nothing." If one of us had ever had the nerve to ask, I expect we'd have gotten a similar answer.)

If not spending money was all it ever took to get rich, though, I'd be rolling in the dough, and I'm not. No, I'm just kind of your average middle class wage earner, and there's nothing particularly wrong with that. I imagine most average middle class wage earners don't feel like vomiting before they shell out money for a new laptop, though. In the case of the new printer some years ago, I actually did it. Well, I'd had a bottle of champagne the night before. (New Years Day sale.) I wonder if this is connected to those fits of anxiety and the feeling of being absolutely not-safe. In the case of money, it's the feeling of there being absolutely no more. This money will disappear and no more will arrive and we'll starve and we'll die. Which is, of course, ridiculous, but that doesn't stop me.

Anyway, it's a very good thing I hooked up with Joan, who knows when money needs to be spent. I'd say she has fiscal bulimia, but that's not fair, really. She's actually (gasp) a rather normal person where money's concerned. And I tell myself that over and over again while I follow her onto a slab of ice floating precariously in the North Sea, er, rather, while I follow her to purchase something. Sorry, but everything feels like a slab of ice right now because it's about twelve degrees outside. Must be time to buy a new winter coat. AAAAAAIGH!!!

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