I grew up in New England, and was raised by New Englanders. And on top of that, one of my grandmothers was herself the daughter of immigrants, and the other was the grand-daughter of immigrants.
All of which means, I have more money issues than a subscription to Forbes.
It takes a lot for me to spend money on myself. I darn holes in socks I bought for only two dollars; I’m likely to go months without a haircut simply because of how much haircuts cost; and a lot of times I see something pretty that I would like, but then at the last minute I walk away from it, because “oh, it’s just so much money and I should save it.”
I’m working on that, though. You know how if someone’s on a diet and they’re being too obsessive about it, where they eat nothing but salad for a solid week, but then something snaps and they eat an entire cheesecake and a bag of Doritos and top it off with a huge banana split or something? I used to do that with money – I’ll starve myself of treats for so long that when I finally decided I should buy something, I’d go a little nuts and get into a kind of accumulating-things fugue state where I’d buy eight books instead of just one, or I’d go clothes shopping get the two shirts I really liked and then another three I sort of liked “just in case” or something. And then I’d be right back to the self-deprivation because “holy crap I just bought six shirts and I’m not even really going to wear one of them” or whatever.
The past few years have made my money anxiety even worse. My employment record has been…unconventional, and the past few years’ recession had me on something of a roller coaster, with a lot of temp jobs which would wind down after only a year or so, sending me back to being unemployed for a few weeks and thinking I had to pare down to a budget of ramen noodles and then suddenly getting more work, and then that term ending a year later and making myself pare down to wearing sackcloth and then I’d suddenly get more work, and…
And the past couple weeks, it was looking like the position I’m in now was gonna vanish on me again. Before my roommate Paul left town for the weekend, I joked to him that I was probably going to spend the weekend “in the fetal position in my room, afraid to spend money.” Paul just rolled his eyes at that and left.
But then I thought a bit about whether I was really going to do that.
The week before that, I’d had a, er, gentleman caller, and he’d brought flowers. They were just a couple of gerbera daisies, but it was sweet, and I’d tucked them into a couple of old soda bottles I use as bud vases and scattered them around the apartment. One of them had hung in for the week, and had a pride of place on one of my bedroom bookshelves. I was cleaning the other two bottles out on Saturday – and washing off a bunch of other vases in the process – and thought a bit about how my mood had lifted just a tiny bit each time I saw it sitting there. And not even just because of the gentleman himself (although, okay, maybe that was part of it), but because…they were flowers and they were pretty. And they weren’t even fancy flowers – it was just a cheap two-dollar gerbera that he could have gotten from a corner deli, but I still smiled just a tiny bit every time I saw it.
And that’s when I decided that instead of curling in the fetal position in my room, I was going to get defiant. Smart, but defiant.
I picked a dollar amount that felt large enough to feel like a splurge, but still small enough to feel like I could afford to spend it, and on Sunday I took that much cash out of my savings and bought a grand new tablecloth, a small platter that matched it, and a couple sample-size versions of luxury body lotions; and with the remaining $20 worth of my own deli flowers, a big armful of snapdragons and daffodils and some other white waxflower-looking things, and some blue things that looked like cheerleader pompoms. And then I went home, spread out the fancy new cloth and gathered all the vases and made six or seven different arrangements, enough to tuck into every room of my apartment – snapdragons on the kitchen table, tall stands of snapdragon and waxflower on the bar stand, daffodils and blue pompoms on the toilet tank and a small bouquet by my bed. And after I set all that around the house, I took a deep breath and looked; I was still in a bit of a tense place, but the money I’d spent wouldn’t break me, and there was now beauty everywhere in the house and it was just that much more that could keep me hanging in and calm.
…And then my money situation resolved for the better today, but still.