I had a vivid childhood flashback this morning.
I was reaching for a shirt to wear this morning and I chose the one I got from the Natural History Museum from our recent trip to DC. And I was thinking about how annoyingly long it took me to decide which shirt I wanted when I bought it.
I mean I was annoyed, so I can only imagine Rob was at least a little annoyed too.
It never fails, anytime I am trying to spend money on myself I agonize over it. Picking out a souvenir for the boys? No problem - this is perfect. Gift for anyone else? Easy peasy. Something for myself? All decision making ability leaves my body.
So while I am having this little moment in my closet this morning, I flash back to summer of 1982. We were in Texas visiting my grandparents for summer vacation (at this point we lived in South Carolina). And I remember my grandparents taking us to Valley View Mall and specifically Sanger Harris (or it might have already been known as Dillard's by then). Anyway, they offered to buy us ONE thing - anything we wanted - for back to school.
By this point in my life, most of my wardrobe was a combination of home made, garage sale finds, hand me downs, and whatever the equivalent of the dollar store was back then. So it's safe to assume, I was always on a very tight budget.
And here we are, in a real live department store and I have the opportunity to get anything I want? Keep in mind, this is 1982 - I'm about to enter the 6th grade. Middle school. It's a chance to reinvent myself (LOL as if that didn't happen practically every year with us moving all the time). But for once I could have something BRAND NEW and on trend and my brain just could not make a decision.
Cece picked out something quickly. I don't remember what it was or how often she wore it but I do remember being amazed with the speed with which she made her decision. Then everyone looked at me.
And there was So. Much. Pressure.
I suddenly both loved and hated everything I saw. What was the image I wanted to project going into the new school year? Who did I want to be? And I couldn't help but look at the price tags. I know I rejected items solely on price - even though I do not remember being given a budget. I was able to quickly decide that a shirt would be the most flexible since I would be able to pair it with pants or a skirt. A dress would be too limiting. But do you have any idea how many shirts there were to choose from?
Let's put it this way, I took so long making up my mind that my grandpa yelled at me to hurry up.
I adored my grandpa. I never felt any judgement coming from him. And once I realized I had upset him, man...that hurt. I was just trying to make sure that if he was going to spend money on me that it was going to be something I loved forever. I didn't want to regret my choice.
Well once he yelled at me, I think I probably took 30 seconds to grab a shirt I had been thinking about.
I loved this shirt and I remember being sad when I finally outgrew it. I think this was probably always the first thing I wore after laundry day. I remember ironing it to make sure the collar was perfect.
And my mom even made me matching ribbon barrettes. This was going to be a good year.
Can we take a moment to talk about how big those glasses are? LOL I remember wanting them so badly. Why?
Also I think this shirt began my love affair with plaid.
So yeah, I'm pretty certain you can trace my inability to freely spend money on myself to this moment in time. And even though I can mostly afford to buy whatever I want, I still keep myself on a pretty tight budget when it comes to buying things solely for me.
I can be very generous with literally everyone else in my life, except myself. That's a little fucked up isn't it?
Whenever I am gifted money or a gift card, I spend an inordinate amount of time contemplating how to spend it. What will get me the most use or enjoyment? Does anyone else do this?
I usually say I have a running list of 100 different ways I can spend $100 (or $10). And then when I actually find myself with a little extra cash, I cannot decide which way to spend it. And you know what usually happens? I end up buying something for the house. Or Rob. Or the kids. Because even now, 40 years later, I still have a hard time spending money on something only I will enjoy.
It doesn't help that when I was married to Dean he did not approve of me spending money on myself. If we had extra money, it should be spent on the boys. Or something the whole family would enjoy. And how could I argue that? We were living just above paycheck to paycheck - meaning we could pay our bills but there was never a lot leftover. And Dean saw no need for a savings because he knew he was going to inherit a very large sum of money some day.
I remember him talking me out of having a 401k when I had an opportunity to start one. He didn't exactly forbid it, but he did discourage it. Because we needed every penny - especially when we found out we were having twins - and why save for retirement when you know you are going to have this huge inheritance? Why do I need my own retirement money if we are forever?
I'll admit I was an easy sell because I certainly never thought we would split up. What he was saying made sense at the time. But when I left him and had to start over with zero dollars? Suddenly I felt incredibly stupid.
Which is why when Daniel and I were together I was adamant about having my own 401k. It was bad enough I was starting over at 35, I had to start thinking about me. But I've got to tell you - I will not be able to retire in 15 years. Not at this rate. But at least I have some savings. My big regret from that marriage - fiscally speaking - is not taking a larger role in our finances.
See, Dean never had to manage money. If he ever wanted something, he just got it. He wasn't spoiled so much as he just didn't want for anything. But he was terrible with budgeting and paying bills on time so I was the person in charge of that through out our marriage.
So when Daniel and I got together and he actually loved doing that, I was more than happy to let him assume that role. And I believe he was honest with me in the beginning. I don't know when it changed. But I have reason to believe he was withholding a significant amount of money from me. I didn't realize it until it was too late though. And I should have listened when my lawyer wanted to hire a forensic accountant but I was so SURE he wouldn't lie to me about that.
I know. I say it out loud and I am embarrassed. But that's the truth. I knew he had cheated and lied but I firmly believed it was only about her. What can I say? I was still in love with him and in a bit of denial. I knew it was over and I didn't want him back but I just couldn't allow myself to believe he was the full on shithole he was/is.
That's on me.
So this time around, Rob and I have our own accounts. We have our own 401ks. But we also have a joint account that we both dump money into in order to pay our shared expenses. We are both aware of what comes in and what goes out.
And he is aware of my need for my own savings account. And why. And that it doesn't mean I am planning to leave him anytime soon - it just means I have a security blanket.
It's 81 days until the wedding. And yes, I am excited about it. I'm also a little nervous. It was barely 3 years ago that I was heartbroken from my second divorce. But I refuse to live in fear. We are both committed to an honest relationship. And sure I've said that twice before, but I really do think this time is different.
I have to believe it.