My relationship with money isn't terribly complicated. That's because I don't have any.
And that's where the complications come in. And this is a post on behalf of my fellow broke Washingtonians.
Being broke when you're in college isn't so bad, because nobody else has any money, either. But once you hit your thirties, everyone else is financially stable while you're still at the paycheck-to-paycheck kiddie table. (I call myself a P-to-P'er.) It ain't easy, and this is an absurdly expensive town full of marginally affluent, possibly overextended people.
(It's especially fun when you're a P-to-P'er because you dropped your career to get married to a virtual stranger and move overseas for a while, then had to come back and start over, which is what I did. So I really only have myself to blame. Oh, and the fact that the job market is really tough. Because it is. But, this post isn't specifically about me, it's about all of us broke folks.)
So you look at money-in vs. money-out, gasp at the discrepancy, devise a budget, and mercilessly chop out any form of frippery. Lunch is from a Tupperware, sodas have names like Dr. Skipper, and socializing revolves around half-price cheeseburgers and horrifically watery beer.
When you're broke, big group dinners are best avoided. Friendships can get strained when you order a salad, and everyone else orders the entirety of page 3 of the menu. Plus wine and dessert. Then they want to split the bill evenly, which is more efficient. This makes the P-to-P crowd want to scream and throw things (yes, it's an overreaction, but you try spending $10 and getting told to chip in $65, which is your food budget for the week, and see how you feel). Or when you can't make an event because it's too expensive, or you simply can't go anywhere at all for a while.
Dating is complicated, too, because if you always want to go to a museum or cook dinner at home, eventually someone is going to call your bluff. And who wants to look like a pauper in front of someone you want to impress?
Which brings us to the whole issue of pride: we're all supposed to have fabulous jobs and steady incomes and be able to go wherever we want. It's no fun to look like a tightwad because you're holding potlucks instead of dinner parties or dropping completely off the social map. And the deeper fear, of looking like you're incompetent at adulthood. And the deepest fear of all: that you may actually be incompetent at adulthood.
Which brings us to the anxiety. Don't read the business section of the Post, because you'll start hoarding rubber bands like a Depression survivor. Any reports on unemployment rates make me want to hide under my bed. But there's no room, that's where I've been stashing all of my economic Doomsday canned goods and penny jars. The recession isn't coming, folks, it's already here. Any of your unemployed and underemployed friends could have told you that months ago.
So maybe all of us will be in the same boat soon enough. And this entire post will be a moot point, because all of Washington will be at 15-cent Wing Night, tossing back discount beers together in a heartwarming moment of economic unity.
So, affluent Washingtonians, next time you think someone's a cheapskate, maybe they're just broke. And remember that it can happen to anyone, including you.