Money. It's something that you just don't discuss. As a child, my parents taught me that you don't talk about money, and you especially don't ask people how much money they earn.
I do my best to honor this lesson, but occasionally, I find myself talking about money. Or, even worse, writing about it online.
It all started at the gym. I was on the treadmill, doing my little plodding jog, and the TV had one of those "Entertainment Hard Copy Inside Edition" shows on. They were talking about a company called The Platinum Tees. The company employs young girls who wear skimpy clothes and carry golf clubs for golfers. Serious golfers, I'm sure. They bend over slowly to pick things up and ask the golfers if "they need their balls shined up." They also use their vast knowledge of the game to suggest the appropriate type of club and the "proper stance".
The show reported that these girls make $35 dollars an hour. Thirty-five dollars an hour.
I have never made so much money per hour in my entire professional life. I have advanced degrees and experience. But, I lack certain...qualities....let's say, to make this my second career. The main qualities I lack include my right one and my left one.
But, I really would like the cash...
This morning, Paul was doing the bills. He finished up, and announced The Number that we have to live on for the next two weeks. My shoulders hunched up, knowing that we haven't bought most of the gifts on our paired-down list, and that we have run out of paychecks to spread out the shopping.
I know that people always recommend homemade gifts to reduce holiday expenses. That's good if you are talented or crafty. However, if I gave somebody a homemade gift, it would be like wrapping up one of my turds: "I hope you like it; I made it especially for you!"
We're thrifty to a fault, always paying our bills on time, always paying the credit card in full, avoiding extravagant clothing or indulgences. Our Achilles heel has always been coffee and going out to eat. We've cut back considerably, but we certainly feel it. Every time I deny myself a coffee, it stings.
With the holidays, we're spending more money. There's no way around it. Trees, gifts, holiday gatherings, scrapbooks, cards---they all cost money. So, when Paul said The Number, I sighed and thought about the various ways I could cook lentils.
I called a friend of mine to cancel our plans for dinner. I thought about saying the words: "We really can't afford it," and I felt defeated, constrained by the consequences of all those wasted lattes and throwaway pumpkin muffins.
I know, this is such whiny drivel, because there are people who worry about their next meal, their jobs, keeping their homes. There are people who have overwhelming medical expenses or expensive treatments that would love to worry about excess coffee and canceled dinner plans.
And so, as I sit in my kitchen, feeling sorry for myself, I need to remember two things:
1) I need to start shopping in August next year to avoid this situation.
2) Maybe it's good to feel this way, at least temporarily, so I can be more empathetic and helpful for those who feel this way more often.