Everyone has a pre-existing relationship with money that came to you whenever ago, even before your innocence was cracked like a coconut, the two halves rocking away from each other, the tender meat (gross?) exposed. (Science has told me that this happens at 11-ish for girls, and dating has told me that this happens literally never for so many guys who turn 45 and still haven’t demonstrated emotional curiosity about another human being.)
This is called, seriously, a “money story,” or, the received wisdom from a life informed by family, community, and whatever band of the socioeconomic spectrum, and it’s as true and not true as any tale we tell about ourselves (including all those gnarlies like “I’m bad” and “I’m worthless” and “I’m ridiculous” and “I’m weird in a way that will never go unpunished”), and eventually that story comes up against the values-quadrants you develop in adulthood, your poetics, whatever definable stuff you lead yourself around by, and that’s not even including Instagram metrics.
Having money of my own via my first and only salaried job was the most intoxicating feeling that I’ve probably ever encountered and I really make it my business to encounter every feeling. After university (Canadian for “college”) and a short internship (me for “Lived in my sister’s basement for three months and blasted into the ceiling every day because I was so excited to go to the morning editorial meeting”) with a three-hour daily commute but who cared, I got a job, also a three-hour daily commute but who cared, and when they called me with an offer of something in the high-30s, I thought to myself, I am so rich. Beyond, beyond, beyond!
The question of what to do with all of that money (not pay back any debt, obviously!!!!!! I mean!!!!!!) ended up as follows: paying about 11 percent of my income for what might have been a squat that someone was scamming rent on? and then comic books, mid-range heels, whisky, and the one, huge meal a day that I ate, always out, because even entering the kitchen of that apartment was an impossibility. That this scene is now basically a period piece, an unlikely or impossible scenario for anyone who isn’t super-soaked in privilege is a fact that I both know all about and absolutely do not know what to do with. Then I quit a year later to vibrate with anxiety every night instead of sleeping, adding up what I was earning freelance, the same forty dollars being assigned to a multitude of different expenses. (I got a job a year after that and spent every available dollar paying off the debt I created while I was jitterbugging around inside of my own, totally unsustainable idea of what I was doing.)
Here is a thing that I dug up that I wrote in my email newsletter in November that was part of a sanctimonious little list about all the things I do right: “I don’t buy something just to have it, complete something, experience an idea of something. I have a high bar for actually purchasing, for PAYING, because so much of what we want out of buying and owning is as easily achieved in the store, or, by borrowing it, or, by forgetting about it. OR, hello, fantasizing” and also “[I] realized, like Tyler Durden but in velvet overalls and a satin hair bow, that this was the rest of my life and I won’t spend it (ha) seeking to fill up its physical manifestations with anything other than what is so beautiful it makes my palms sweat cocaine and my eyes bleed roses, or what is so useful I’ll give it a quick, tight, approving nod every time I walk by.” We have moved from the hair bows and into barrettes and are now moving past those into bobbles and elaborate ponytail-ties, yes, but otherwise. I also wrote: “Interest on a credit card accumulates like trauma in the body,” nice, like, low-five me.
I have made the obsie, and perhaps it is an obvi obsie, that for a lot of women who are naturally or demographically susceptible to cultural expectations, by which I guess I mean having their bodies, choices, behaviors and labors panopticonned, acclimating to the idea that money is for you to keep, whenever possible, or spend, but just for you and your very own purposes and priorities, and not to fulfill other people’s expectations and just, ideas, of you and your life, can be a tough one. Every Chanel classic flap bag (a good example here because I do not crave one, I crave the Givenchy whip bag so bad though, give it to me, “7 Rings” it to me, givitame) feels (not is: feels!) like willing prostration to an ideal laid out by someone else, someone who is not interested in, who is contemptuous of, your happiness. I mean, that said, that Chanel bag with a great white t-shirt and cut-offs and whatever heel we’re into is, I mean, I mean, I mean, a chef’s kiss that can be seen and sensed backwards and forwards in time.
Here is what to do instead: be informed by your own value-quadrants, and only yours, when it comes to non-compulsory-money. Like, I don’t know that I’m any kind of “example” buuuut the most important thing for me to spend some-version-of-optional money on is “health” (and I live in Canada, so this is unfair as an example), which includes high-qual organic food, or seeing my massage therapist on a flight of Wednesday-night whimsery because my shoulders feel like bowls of Crunchberries, and so so so much therapy, and choosing this kind of thing instead of alcohol, instead of going to the movies, instead of clothes and shoes and makeup and furniture and vacations and about 85% of the fun stuff my demographically similar Grown and Sexies seem to buy; then the next-most-important is “function,” so, having everything I need to move through the day and week and month without stopping (my best example is a fucktonnage of good pens); then “staying ready” which is how I recast saving money because when I called it “saving” I didn’t do it, and had emergencies I couldn’t afford; then “big desire” (traveling; down payment; whatever busts yer nuts) and then very last is “little desire” (Drunk Elephant instead of less-cute dupes; store-bought food treats and treasures; for me, this is clothes, because I love clothes but never buy any, because all clothes including cheap clothes are very expensive, for what they offer, but anyway the point is that they are on-purpose, last-place spendings, and not regular line-items).
My other little self-advice is what I think of, cornily, as “Fleeting or Forever.” The “right now” and the “always” stuff tends to be both few and important; if it’s in-between, it will fuck you. So, like right now I really want new outdoor furniture (outdoor furniture is only sort of “furniture”) because what I own is trash from having left it outside for a winter because I had nowhere to store it, inside, but it’s not fleeting, like an apple, or forever, like my wallet, which I plan to clean and repair onward into eternity, even though it is decorated with tiny stars, the motif of my late adolescence, and what appealed to me a decade ago when I bought it. So I probably won’t buy any new outdoor furniture and will sit on a towel on the ground, which is fine, a fine-ness that my butt and soul knows is fine, even if my head has been pacing on the hedonic treadmill and tracking the lifestyle purchases of my friends and neighbors and absorbing the person that Instagram is so excited for me to become.
A nice, smooth effect/affect of gender being smoked down to roach is that money inside of dating and relationships has to shift, and will probably (???!!!) shift into something more equitable. Howeves, it is important to note the ways in which money plays out for heteronormative (wowzie — doesn’t even that, that sanctioned use of “normative,” suddenly feel super-played??? 2019!) couples, like: men are expected to kind of show up, be clean or clean-ish or pheromone-soaked and filthy, depending on their particular vibration, and women are (mostly) expected to have emerged from a heroine’s journey through the maintenance of their skin, hair, body hair, makeup, scent and style. It is more expensive than you think, unless you know. (If you’re sober but want to get high, ask me how much my regular course of blonde highlights costs when I get them done at my special place in L.A.)
Women also tend to produce the fruits of emotional labour, buy sexual paraphernalia and the stuff of more interesting dates and experiences, have nicer apartments and bedrooms and sheets and laundry scenarios, and have to pay more to get safely in and out of dicey and late-night situations, and for unplanned sexual outcomes. This isn’t about boys are gross, honestly. This is about a rational understanding of who is socioculturally responsible for what, and how guys who don’t want to pay for first dates because of equality are, simply, playing themselves.
I don’t know, dude, what’s your value-quadrants, you know?
Takeout, mediocre restaurants, well drinks, furniture (unless you’re rich, because then furniture gets, like, sexually perverse, the textures and turns an agonizingly pleasurable ride), the newest version of a phone, Anxiety Tax (late fees; taking a car service across town because you changed outfits a bunch of times), two decks of blueberries because they’re on sale (just buy one, they’ll get moldy!), novelties of any variety, cars, haircuts.
Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.