September 24th, 2007
Last week I did a fun Q&A called “10 Money Questions” that Nina Smith of Queercents fame ran on BlogHer. (Nina also posted this fab review of my book.) Because Nina asked several provocative questions no other reporter has asked me, I thought I’d post a few highlights here:
Q: What is your most significant memory about money?
A: This is a bad one: In my late twenties, my credit card debt had come to eclipse my annual income, and I couldn’t afford the monthly minimum payments anymore. My interest rates went sky-high and the collectors started calling and calling. It was awful. I had this moment of truth where I realized I’d been in denial for the past couple years and was now going to have to pay the piper, so to speak. It wasn’t that I’d been hoarding shoes or jetsetting to Paris or anything; I was just living in a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco, working for myself, and too stubborn to downgrade to a studio or get a roommate (or perhaps, a day job, since my freelance salary wasn’t cutting it). Instead, I’d foolishly used my credit cards to make up the difference. I think I had about eight cards at the time.
The worst part was the shame, like I couldn’t take care of myself or something. My accountant advised me to declare bankruptcy and said I’d still be able to buy a home in a few years (in fact, he said, several of his other clients had!), but I was having none of that. I felt like, I made this mess, and I’m going to fix it myself. So I consolidated my debt through one of those nonprofit credit-card counseling services, moved to more affordable Seattle, went to work for the man for a year (at a large software company up here that you may have heard of), and paid off my debt in twelve months. It sucked big time, but in retrospect, I’m glad it happened. I felt proud about cleaning up my own mess — I don’t think I would have felt good about myself taking the easy way out. I have yet to live outside my means since, and it is such a huge load off.
Q: How does money play a role in your relationships, romantic or otherwise?
A: Other than ditching any date or “friend” who can’t pay their own way, I’m not sure how much it has. There is this though: I don’t expect my boyfriend to pick up every restaurant tab just because he has a penis, and frankly I don’t get women who still play this game when it comes to dating. (Hello, it’s not 1955!)
I’m also completely turned off by people who use the fact that they’re getting hitched or having a baby as an excuse to milk their friends for linens or onesies they could easily afford themselves. I’m not saying don’t register or don’t accept gifts (though I have the utmost respect for people who request that you instead make a donation to some noble cause or other). But don’t have a shower at which you rub your hands together like The Simpson‘s Smithers* the entire time and repeatedly ask if it’s time to open the presents yet. Your friends who have already shelled out hundreds on hideous bridesmaid dresses and an insufferable bachelorette weekend will not find this behavior endearing.
[*Post-interview thought: This would probably make more sense if I had said The Simpson's Mr. Burns. Ah well...]
Q: I read that you’ve given the baby thing a lot of thought lately. How would motherhood restrict your finances? Your career?
A: Honestly, I’ve never felt the ticking clock, baby lust, mommy gene, whatever you want to call it, and I still don’t. But biologically speaking, the window of opportunity is closing fast for me. (I just turned 40.) For that reason, I thought I’d better look long and hard at whether I’m really willing to close the door on conceiving. (I’m pretty sure I am.) And I felt like my beau and I had to get super-clear on where we both stood on this; guys don’t always realize that their sperm don’t have all the time in the world either. The upshot is, if I change my mind in five years, which seems unlikely at this point, I’m cool with adopting. I love my dog like my own, so why not a kid I didn’t hatch?
From a financial standpoint, I’d have to work the numbers if I ever got serious about being a mom to anything other than a four-legged child. When I was talking pros-cons with my boyfriend, I kept saying, “Yeah, but, how would I have the time to work, write, and be a mom?” I kind of neglected to look at the partnership part of the equation — like maybe one of us could work less and parent more, or maybe, with the power of freelancing, we both could. Maybe we could, like, live together, and get on the same health plan (duh). Maybe I could be the breadwinner and he could be my domestic diva. Stuff like that.
From a time management/balance standpoint, freelancing and telecommuting would be a boon, I’m sure. But I still worry about having to give up some writing time, and the quiet solitude I’ve come to rely on when working on a big writing project. I’m not sure I’ll ever be willing to let that go.
(You can read the rest of the interview here.)