Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Being Irresponsible

I grew up in a household with a father whose bipolarity showed in ways which I now realize read like a textbook--hell, like MY textbook--on the subject. He drank too much, he was hypersexual (and the fact that it was obvious even to me by the age of 12 or so tells you just HOW hypersexual he was). And he spent money like it was going out of style. Once, when I was a young adult, he made an offhand comment to me: "If I make a million dollars this year," he said with a laugh, "I'm going to spend a million and one." The sad thing? He probably did make close to a million dollars that year, and he spent way more than a million and one.

We all react differently to the traits we see in our parents. My father's profligate spending rubbed off on my sister, at least to some extent--she sometimes makes less-than-wise financial choices. Me? I went the other way; I'm the stereotypical Cheap Jew. I hated every minute of the financial lifestyle I saw my parents suffer through. I never found it "fun" to come home and play "let's see if the lights are still on." I thought it was humiliating to return to my newly divorced (and soon to be remarried) father's apartment and see an eviction notice pinned onto the door. There was no way...NO WAY...I was ever going to be like that.

And so I never have been. I've been careful. I've saved, sometimes obsessively. (I'll never forget the day the cashier at my bank--back in the days of old when one actually talked to the cashier at one's bank!--looking at me when I deposited another check and saying, "Honey, you really need to talk to a financial counselor. You have WAY too much money in your checking account. You need to be doing something with it!") Even after Baroy and I got married--he of the years of debt and collections people calling our house all the time and the nonexistent credit rating--I simply overwhelmed his profligacy with my penuriousness. We were not going to live paycheck to paycheck if I had anything to say about it.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. But still, I've soldiered on. I've kept the purse strings relatively tight, when I can. I've pared the budget. I've sacrificed and scrimped--at least with regards to myself. The kids? They're a different story.

Anyway, last weekend, my best girlfriends and their families--our gang, our posse--went up to Big Bear for what has become an annual weekend away, a chance for our little Angelenos to visit snow. We, in our current financial crisis, declined to join them. My lovely friends took Em with them, anyway, because they knew how sad she'd be, left behind with her best friends having all the fun.

It was an awful weekend for Baroy and me. He felt guilty; I felt resentful. We snapped at each other a lot. I found myself feeling jealous of my eight-year-old. Shouldn't she have to suffer with the rest of us?

It was, in a word, stupid.

And so, the day she was returning, I looked at Baroy and said, "I want to go on a cruise. For our tenth anniversary [in March], I want to go on a cruise, and I want to take the kids with us." After all, we never did have a honeymoon (too expensive, the trip to England we'd talked about), and our one and only family vacation thus far was when Em was 2 and N not yet even conceived.

And so, we're going. We have a HELOC, and we're just going to put it on that, close our eyes, and jump. We haven't actually booked it yet, but we will, in the next day or two. A trip, probably on the Love Boat (i.e., the Princess Cruise Line), to the "Mexican Riviera." (Yes, I know. Tacky. But I'm looking forward to it, so don't rain on my parade, please.) It's going to cost a lot of money that we don't have, way more than a trip to Big Bear would have. But it's our tenth anniversary, and I'm tired of being cheap me, and I want to do it. So I will, irresponsible or no. In a way, I'm proud of myself, for breaking free of my natural frugality and doing something that may be more than just a little bit stupid. Check me out! I'm fiscally irresponsible!

And the best part? My therapist gave me the big thumbs up when I mentioned the plan to her. So I'm being fiscally irresponsible, but I have *permission* to do so. Yep, that's me. A rebel without a cause, but only if someone tells me they approve, first.

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