Category Archives: Dating and Relationships

The Value of Family and Strange Potential In-Laws

Seven years ago, I was dating a lawyer from the east coast who, was not only perfect from a textbook perspective, his family was perfect too. His parents were friendly and sociable, and, although we didn’t see them that often living first in the midwest and then the west coast, when I did see them they would be able to have conversations, and that made me feel welcome and at home. They truly loved their son, it was hard to ignore that love. His mother would sing “I’m proud of you,” a song she made up when he was young for his accomplishments, at his law school graduation. It was a little cheesy, but it provided a clear picture into how much love his family had to share and show.

I Broke Up with the Lawyer… and his Family
Never in a million years did I think I’d end up in a situation where this were not the case. That relationship didn’t work out for a number of reasons (quite frankly textbook perfection edited out some of the details.) Still, I’m not the most social person myself, and I’m very awkward in social situations, but when it comes to social awkwardness, my boyfriend’s family takes the cake and eats it too. They’re nice, don’t get me wrong, but when you’ve moved across the country away from your own family, and as you age, you start thinking how lovely it would be to have a new family to feel part of, especially if you grew up with a large family.

That isn’t and shouldn’t be why you end up deciding to spend the rest of your life with a guy — plenty of people have worse situations (ie deceased parents, no family at all), but I grew up with a really big distant family with big exciting holidays, and I’ve lately realized how sad it’s going to be to — one day — bring up kids into a world without those kinds of family gatherings to look forward to. Meanwhile, there will be no “mother in law” who I can turn to for parental advice, and no extended family to invite us to those family gatherings.

Thoughts on Family While at a Wedding
This all came to mind this weekend when we were at his cousin’s wedding in central California. His father’s family are filled with really nice people who I like a lot, and my boyfriend likes too. But, because his mother and father were never married, and his mother is very, very strange (ie doesn’t shower and wears thrift store clothes that don’t fit and still lives with her 90 year old parents and doesn’t talk to people at all strange — I try not to judge) my bf rarely gets invited to these events on his dad’s side. They used to invite him for Thanksgiving (I was even invited one year) but they just ran out of room with all the new kids being born, and we are the easiest to cut. Continue reading

I’m turning 28 and craving babies. Yes, I said craving.

Hello biological clock. I hear you loud and clear. Every time a family walks by with a little itty bitty one, you can’t help but smile and get that gooey feeling, like you really ought to be popping one of those out yourself any day now.

Lately, I can much picture myself as a mother much easier than I can envision myself a bride. Apparently, among Millennials, I’m not alone in this notion. We value parenthood more than marriage.

Today’s 18- to 29-year-olds value parenthood far more than marriage, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of attitudinal surveys. A 2010 Pew Research survey found that 52% of Millennials say being a good parent is “one of the most important things” in life. Just 30% say the same about having a successful marriage — meaning there is a 22-percentage-point gap in the way Millennials value parenthood over marriage.

What scares me is another report by Pew that finds the average age for U.S. mothers who had their first baby in 20062 was 25, a year older than the average first-time mother in 1990. Among all women who had a baby in 2006, the average age is 27, up from 26 in 1990. The prime child-bearing years remain 20-34 — three-quarters of mothers of newborns are in this age range.

I feel so far behind, even though I wasn’t ready to have kids until now, and really, a lot can be said about how I’m not ready now either. Now doesn’t mean this second anyway — it means in the next few years. Continue reading

She Wanted to Be Married with Kids By Now, Instead She Makes $12/hr.

My friend, I’ll call her Jessica, graduated high school with a plan. Well, she wasn’t sure exactly what she wanted to do with her life, but she knew she wanted to get married to a man who could provide for her, live in a big house, have kids, be a mother, and have a job that let her spend a lot of time with her kids.

Jessica grew up in a household where her parents worked multiple jobs to afford their middle class lifestyle, and was often left alone when she was young, so her goals were clearly aligned with having a family where the mother could afford to stay home and be around for her children’s lives. Continue reading

Love Life: Lessons from The Millionaire Matchmaker

I’m not ashamed to admit (ok, maybe I’m a little ashamed) that one of my (many) favorite reality shows on tv today is Millionaire Matchmaker. I haven’t seen every single episode, but amazingly enough the show teaches me a lot about myself, my relationship, and my goals in life. Patti Stanger & crew has a seemingly neverending flow of absolutely crazy, exhibistionist millionaires who want to display their crazy for all the world to see, and she has a never ending flow of offensive, sexist quips that tend to resonate in the modern dating world more than they should in 2011.

Maybe it’s the opinionated yenta inside of me, but — even when Patti offends feminists everywhere with her “girls should be girls” advice — I think she’s extremely smart about how relationships actually work, for better or worse. And, even despite often taking “logical, modern woman offense” against many of her most quotable, judgemental soundbytes, I have a bit of a girl crush on her because a lot of the time her stereotypes are right on. Granted, gender roles are less strict among us normal folk (vs the beautiful women who can chase after wealthy men, and the wealthy men that can attract beautiful women even though their looks may not be anywhere near as beautiful), but looking back on my dating life, I see how Patti would tell me I’ve gone about my relationships all wrong. I’ve been extremely lucky — my “man like” pursuit of a partner, while pushing plenty away, has landed me a guy that’s probably as close to a sole mate as I could find. Ok, so there are times I wish I had a chance to experience what it’s like to be pursued by a guy instead of being the pursuer, but as shy as I am, I never had anyone really hit on me or pursue me.

I’m not a supermodel, but I’m also not that terrible looking. I just haven’t had a “normal” dating life. And now that I’ve been in a monogmous relationship for 5.5 years, I never will — if anything, I wish i could play the “girl” role better in the relationship, but it’s too late for that. And I wouldn’t feel comfortable in that role over the long term either. If Patti had anything to say about my relationship, she’d roll her eyes. Her rule is one year of dating until a proposal, or else the girl should leave.

Well, I’m still in the relationship nearly six years later, and no ring. I’m not in a rush, but there are times I wonder if this will be the rest of my life. He says he wants to get married, so it’s not like he’s anti marriage and kids, but it’s also concerning that at this point my only control over when this happens is to leave, because I’m not allowed to propose (something both my boyfriend and Patti would agree on.) I don’t want to leave, so I’m just waiting. And I’m only a little worried that I am giving up the best dating years of my life in a dead-end relationship. But he seems to want to get married one day, and plenty of people date for many years before getting serious. For the record, if anyone proposed to me after one or two years of dating, I’d think it was too soon. It’s just now it seems like either this it, or it isn’t, and I think we both agree it is, so I don’t get why we are waiting.

One thing I know for sure, I wouldn’t be excited to be thrown back into the wild wild west of dating. I hate dating. I’ve been a bit of a serial monogomist with a few months of JDating thrown in, and I haven’t had any luck.

What is a normal dating life? I’m almost 28, and many of my friends are getting married, are married, or having kids. Clearly I’m on that path and it doesn’t look like I’ll be devating from it anytime soon. Here’s a list of all of my serious relationships in my life:

1) 6th grade. Dated a guy at Hebrew school. I’ve always liked smart guys, and smart guy he wasn’t. I don’t recall talking to him about anything in particular, and we barely hung out with each other. I recall him kissing me goodbye (just a peck) after temple, and tasting the few small cups of red wine he stuck from the onec. I was terribly insecure and disliked myself at this time (not that this has changed too much today, but I’ve come a long way given I’ve had such a long way to come). That “relationship” lasted a month or two… if you can call it a relationship.

2) 8th grade. Dated a guy who I met in the school play, he was in 6th grade. Although we didn’t speak about it at the time, he was clearly very gay. He dated me for a few weeks, then dated my friends, then dated me. We held hands and hugged. I never even kissed him. Next.

3) 8th grade summer. Dated a guy I met at the amusement park. My extroverted friend decided to flirt for me with a guy in the line for a ride. I was too scared to go on one of the bigger rollercoasters so while my friends went on it he walked around the amusement park with me and won me a prize. It was quite romantic. He later revealed to me, after we were “dating” for a few weeks, that he once had sex with a goat, or a dog. I can’t remember which. I wasn’t sure if he was joking, but the more I learned about him, the more I realized that was probably true. He was the first person I had a serious makeout session with. It was wet and sloppy and gross, and I never wanted to kiss anyone again. And he was a blonde, I’m not attracted to blondes. And, he was just not that intelligent. I mean, he fucked a goat. Or a dog. Ick.

4) 9th grade. Dated a guy my friend (same friend who set me up with the previous guy) decided I should date, who was in my drama class. He was cute, more of my type at the time, but after a month of dating, and having my friend send us letters about what to do “next” in our relationship, we realized it wasn’t working. Long term, it turns out he’s gay. I think I realized that from the start.

5) 10th grade. Briefly dated a guy who was friends with people in the alternative group at school that I quasi hung out with. He was a little geeky, but cute, and I really should have given him more of a chance, but at the time I was starting to discover my attraction to women, and thought I might be a lesbian (I’ve since determined I’m bisexual and am fine with that) — I just wasn’t interested in dating men at the time, nor did I have the self confidence needed to have a successful relationship. By the way, up until this point I was quite a prude, and hadn’t gotten very far around the bases.

6) 11th – 12th  grade. Started to date a girl who I met in chorus. She was really pretty, but the only reason we got so close in the beginning was because we both shared an infatuation with the same (female) teacher. Looking back on the whole situation, I was really looking for a strong, confident female role in my life, which was the root of my crush on the teacher, and this girl was just a hot mess. And, not to sound stuck up on the intellect issue, because I never was much of an academic, but she would rather sit around, smoke pot, and laugh at spongebob and watch cheesy horror films. We dated for two years, and it was fun and comfortable at the time. I always knew that we’d break up when I left for college (she was one year younger than me) but she was a hardcore serial monogomist and had no greater aspirations beyond finding a wife. I ran away from that as soon as I graduated. Sadly, she got into a car accident, and is now addicted to perscription pain killers (that she snorts) and, she’s an even hotter mess. It’s sad, but I’m glad we broke up. We even went to prom together, but it was never meant to be.

7) freshman year of college. Developed a crush on a female senior acting student, who was a lesbian. She was involved in the queer theater troupe that I got involved in, and eventually, through friends, it was communicated that we had a crush on each other. Our first date was quite romatic. She took me out for ice cream. Actually, this was the only time I ever really felt like the woman in a relationship. That relationship lasted for a summer and it was a fun, summer fling, but in the end we had nothing in common.

8 ) Met a guy sophomore year at a college party. He had piercing blue eyes and a very outgoing personality — one that he developed over the years as a professional magician in a family of magicians. I was attracted to him from the start — he was pretty close to my type, short, a bit nerdy, dimples, nice lips. His flirting style was cheesy but as I had never really been flirted with before I found it endearing. We dated six months, and things got serious quickly. But we never really made sense together. As much as I loved his adventerous, carefree personality, it also didn’t mesh with my more conservative, thought-out style. It was fun. He smoked, he drove fast, he had a waterbed and collected swords and owned a magic store. We dated for six months, he told me he loved me, I freaked out and broke up with him because I knew it wasn’t right.

9. Junior year of college, I decided to try out online dating. I was nervous about meeting guys in real life from online, but thought it was worth a shot. I posted an ad on craigslist that was long and completely honest. I recieved many respones from a wide variety of men, most of which were easy to put into the trash folder. One guy wrote to me, and I could tell immediately that we had a lot in common. He was also from New Jersey, enjoyed music (he sang in choirs), and — amazingly enough — was a law student in his final year at a top-tier law school in the same city where I was attending undergrad, and he went to an Ivy league for undergrad. And he was Jewish. He was older than me, but — for some reason — had never even kissed a girl yet. I fell in love with his story, but not quite with him right away. I felt comfortable with him, I just wasn’t sure we should date. I really enjoyed dating someone who was clearly more intelligent than I am — for the first time — though that came with a slew of issues from the start. The relationship went long distance when he moved for a year-long clerkship after graduating, and the year we were long distance was lovely. We had great visit weekends together. As we moved to another new city following that year, I realized our relationship was fun for what it was, but wasn’t something that made sense long term. I felt he needed to date other women before knowing what he really wanted, and could sense that although he was attracted to me, he saw me as too unmotivated and unsucessful, while his career was fast taking off. Meanwhile, he refused to pay for even a movie ticket when I was an intern and he was making a six figure salary. While I wasn’t a gold digger, his stinginess and lack of a giving nature, once I started to appreciate myself as a human being, made me want to not date him anymore. He’s a great guy for a friend, just extremely selfish. He couldn’t sleep with me in the bed, so made me sleep on the two-seater couch when I stayed over. His selfishness extended beyond our relationship, to not really caring about the problems of the world. Not that I’m an angel, but I wanted to be with someone who inspired me to be a better person, and I just felt like he was, well, a typical east coast Jew with a typical east coast Jew attitude. I kicked myself for breaking up with a jewish lawyer who liked to sing and enjoyed world travel (great on paper), it was a smart move for both of us. Last I heard, he found a woman who is much more independent than I am and a better fit for him, and I still love the guy as a friend and wish him the best. He was really my first serious relationship, and as wrong as it was for the long term, I’m glad I had the opportunity to date him. We both learned a lot about what we needed in our relationships from each other.

… this is when I had a short period of dating random guys. I didn’t want to be alone, but also really didn’t know how to date. Even before my prior relationship, despite getting dozens of responses to my craigslist ad, I didn’t end up meeting anyone else in person. This time, I went on JDate and Craigslist and went on a lot of first dates. That was an interesting experience. I was 21, fairly good looking at the time, at my thinnest, and had a handful of awkward dates. A French guy in the US for his MBA summer study  who made me an orgami paper flower the first time we met, and seemed to fall in love with me extremely quickly after I drew a picture of him. A guy who, on our second date, walked by another girl he was dating on the street on our way to dinner (awkward.) A guy who made fun of my driving on the first date, and seemed to make judgemental comments about everything I did. And a few more random men who had little in common with me, who weren’t that interested, or I wasn’t that interested. That got old fast.

10. Then, in the spring of 2006, I found my current boyfriend. I was depressed and lonely and realized that while intelligence mattered, I just wanted someone who was a good person, who would love me for who I am, who I could love in return. I threw all expectations out the window, and tried to see myself as an independant woman who didn’t need a relationship in my life. I noticed “D” during callbacks for the musical I decided to audition for, since I was feeling lonely and needed a fun, social hobby. He was tall, had a thick beard, and other than the dark hair, wasn’t exactly my type (short and clean shaven.) But something about him grabbed my attention. He looked intelligent, potentially pretentious, potentially gay, likely taken regardless; I just thought this guy is special. Throughout the rehearsal process we didn’t talk to each other. We’re both incredibly shy. I friended him on MySpace (the cool thing to do at the time) and he ended up attending a staged reading I was directing up in the city, without telling me he was coming. During rehearsals, whenever I did something silly, or made a funny comment, he always seemed to chuckle. It was adorable. We finally talked after a few drinks, and I found out that he was in a relationship with a girl he met at a party once, who lived in another state, who he never actually talked to in real life. After hearing more about this girl he was dating, it was clear to both of us that she was not right for him, and that we should be together. I heavily pursued this guy — I had to, because he was super shy, and he wouldn’t have pursued me — he’d probably still be in the relationship he was in at the time, or with another girl who was also pursuing him from the cast. So, we fairly quickly jumped into a serious relationship. We didn’t just date, neither of us could do that, we commited up front. A year or so in, I started to question the relationship, I loved that he was clearly a tender hearted, good person, with a brain to boot, but his lack of motivation (he graduated with high honors from one of the top undergraduate institutions in the country and, a year out of graduation, still hadn’t even looked for a job), and his severe introversion started to grate at me. I didn’t need a lawyer, but as I was starting to advance in my career, I thought it would be nice to date someone who was a little more motivated and career minded. Suddenly, I was in my ex’s shoes. He saw me as unmotivated and couldn’t deal. Now I had the career, and I wasn’t allowed to push him to get a job because he, like a typical guy, wanted to do everything on his own, in his own time. this hasn’t changed until this day. Now, nearly six years into the relationship, we are very much in love with each other, and nothing makes me happier than falling asleep in his arms. I can’t imagine my life without him. I can see growing old with him. Sure, we’ll never be rich, and we might not even be stably in the upper middle class where I grew up, but something tells me this is right… this is what life is about. It’s wonderful to feel loved for who I am, and to love that deeply and honestly in return.

Still, I’m scared. I don’t know what the future holds. While you can’t predict the future, one thing I feel strongly about is saving enough money to handle whatever life throws at you. So far, I’ve saved over $130k on salaries of $25k, $35k, $50k, $60k, and $90k. I could have saved more, but I’m proud of myself for putting that much money aside before turning 28. My goal is to have at least $200k in the bank by the time I turn 30. My boyfriend, on the other hand, doesn’t have a retirement account to speak of, or much in term of savings. He’s never had a full time job, though he’s worked on contract for a non-profit for a while now, and he hasn’t asked for a raise, he just got a small one when he asked to quit, and they didn’t want him to. I don’t know if it’s ok to care about this or not, or how much to care. He says he is going back to grad school to become a high school teacher, and he’s been talking about going back to school for years. I’d be happy with him being a teacher — he’s well suited for that job, he’d be great at it, and he’d never have to negotiate for a raise at a public school where the salary is set. Is it wrong to think about this and consider it when looking at who you’re going to spend your life with? Where is the line between being a gold digger and being a rational modern woman? I can’t tell.

My good friend, who I grew up with, dreamed of finding a wealthy guy who would buy her a large house, and give her the flexibility to be a school teacher and a full-time mother at a fairly young age. She found her man and she got her house and she had her beautiful diamond engagement ring and a date set for the wedding. She seemed set for life — then she found out her fiance cheated on her by finding closeup photos of another woman’s privates on his cell phone, and confronted him about this. She tried hard to deal with the jealously, to accept his apologizes, but she couldn’t forgive him. So she left him, and left the house, and left the life she had dreamed of, still dreaming of finding another man to fullfill this dream. She’s dated a few guys, a few long term, but her relationships since have not gone anywhere. I was talking to her this weekend, and she’s so sad. She’s gourgeous, and can get men easily, yet in her works she can’t “keep them.” She never thought of being a career-minded woman, as her income as a teacher would only be supplemental to her husband’s sizable six-figure salary.

I wouldn’t want to spend my life with a guy who is all about his career, so I really shouldn’t complain or even worry. My role in this relationship is clearly as the breadwinner, and although I may freak out over knowing that I can’t take a few years off to be a full-time mother, I’m not sure I’d even want to do that. I like making money. I like knowing that I can take care of myself. And when I have kids, making money will have even more significance when it is for my family. So what’s to worry about? Why do I need to be jealous of the women on Millionaire Matchmaker who don’t mind continuing to write the definition of gold digger, who want to have a life in a traditional “woman” role? Is that so wrong? Is that what I should want, or will want later in life, when it’s too late to go back?

Living in Silicon Valley, there are a lot of guys here, and while a lot of the good ones are taken, there are still quite a few eligible bachelors — engineers and entrepreneurs — who could, even without Patti’s help, put me in line for a more financially stable life. It’s not to say any of them would like me, or that I’d like them, or that I’d ever find a worthwhile relationship, it just leaves me wondering what life could be, should be, and will be — because you only have one life, and who you marry, or don’t marry, is no small decision in the story of one’s life.




Happy Mother’s Day — a Long Distance Family Relationship

2,797. That’s the number of miles between where I currently live and where my parents live. 6. That’s the number of hours it takes to fly from coast to coast to visit, not counting the 2+ hours on either end to get to and from the airport. $350. That’s the average cost of a RT ticket between each destination, on a non-holiday travel schedule.

On holidays, my family, including my parents, sister, cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents tend to gather together and spend the day talking and enjoying each others company. Even though I didn’t have a very close relationship with my family, I cherished the time spent together, the conversations had, and laughter shared between my relatives.

Then, 10 years ago I moved away from home. First, for college, I moved 814 miles away from home, and then, when I graduated, moved even further away.

In that time, my parents, cousins, grandparents, have all aged. I see them at most two or three times per year. Three years ago my father was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer and told he had two years to live. My grandfather, over the last ten years, has lost his sharpness due to Parkinson’s disease. I can barely recognize my mother, as she looks more and more like a “grandmother” every time I see her. My cousins have gone from elementary students to taller than me, and I missed everything in between. My sister is now a junior in college — I left home when she was seven.

10 years ago, I wanted nothing more than to run away from my childhood, to start a new life for myself, to prove that I could make it on my own. Had I stayed in New Jersey I might have maintained a more consistent relationship with my family, but I never would have grown up. I needed to get away. But looking back, I do feel a bit of regret. Of missing the time with my family.

On the other hand, seeing my family less frequently makes those times shared more valuable and appreciated. My parents drive me absolutely crazy, with their fighting and complaining about everything, so living at or very near home would probably be a poor decision. Still, I’m contemplating a move back east, maybe not in the very near future, but in the coming years — I still have more good friends in New Jersey and on the east coast than I do in California, and whenever I envision having a family (ie kids) I see myself raising them back on the east coast. California, as much as I love it, will never feel like “home” to me. That’s not a terrible thing — home can be boring, California, for what it’s worth, still makes me feel like I live on constant vacation, as the weather is always relatively nice, and the landscape is beautiful. But I miss my family and friends. And I think I’m getting more and more ready to go back.

Yesterday, my boyfriend asked me if I’d ever want to live on the east coast. He rarely discusses the future — he hates to think long term beyond next week — so it was a conversation I was not prepared for. I didn’t have an answer then, really. Yes? No? Could I leave California — a place that, just by being outside here, makes me happy — to go back to a place that is depressing for half of the year during those dark, cold winters? Maybe. Maybe I have to, at some point. Maybe California has given me the opportunities I needed to kick start my career, and perhaps my experience here will open doors for me in New York. Who knows. I just think that as I approach 30, and as I approach my 5th anniversary with my boyfriend, and likely marriage and settling down in the next few years, deep down I feel like that has to be in New Jersey or New York. I can’t imagine raising my children away from my family. I want them to grow up with that. But I’m not sure I’m ready to make the move just yet.

But one thing I’ve learned lately is that money doesn’t make me happy, relationships make me happy. It’s extremely hard for me to make friends, and I generally have trouble relating to people (esp people outside of the tri-state area) — my family will always be my family, but if I never see them, I’m throwing out the most priceless item in my life’s possession. The more pictures I see on Facebook of family gatherings, the more smiles of my family posing for a large group photo and I’m not there, the more I realize it’s time to rethink the whole “I don’t need family” thing. I mean, right now no one is dead, thank goodness, but I can’t imagine the guilt I’d feel if one day I get a call that anyone in my family has passed… or is in the hospital with only hours to live, and I missed the opportunity to see them, and to be there when they were healthy, and when they were ill. I think in that sense I need to move back, the question just is when.

What to do for my 5 Year Anniversary?

This May will be my 5 year anniversary with D. I can’t believe we’ve been together 5 years! And while I feel like we haven’t changed, in reality our faces are five years older, our hugs are five years tighter, our kisses are five years sweeter, and I still feel like the luckiest girl in the world to have this guy in my life.

So… how do we celebrate our five year anniversary? We have taken a few trips together — mostly back east to visit my family, and most recently a trip to the midwest for fun and to see my old college friends — but I feel like I need to do something big to celebrate five years together. Since we’re not getting married any time soon, it’s a good enough reason as any to do something special.

But what? I’ve bought my boyfriend some pretty nice gifts through the years — a Wii, a guitar, and even a bike, and then the Chicago trip (he paid for many of our meals so that may have ended up split 50/50 all said and done.) On one hand I LOVE to buy him gifts because when he is happy about his gifts it makes me happy. I guess I have spent a lot on his gifts… and besides the “things” we tend to go out to nice dinners that are expensive to celebrate, and we don’t want to go out to dinner anymore because we are trying to be fat.

Anyway, what can I do to surprise him for our five year anniversary? Perhaps a trip somewhere? I don’t really want to spend any extra money this year — after spending $4.5k on laser hair removal, it’s tough to spend anything else. Sometimes I wish I was dating a guy who would have a job with some excess income so he could surprise me with a five year anniversary trip somewhere… but I made the choice to date a guy who doesn’t care about money. There are plenty single nerdy men in Silicon Valley who might have the bank account to purchase romance, but when it comes down to it, I’d rather have the way D looks at me, and the feeling of his arms wrapped around me. Though sometimes I wish I could have both. Can you blame me?

I refuse to give up on the American Dream

My American Dream, like many others who grew up in the “upper middle class,” was to continue living that lifestyle — maybe better — as I grew into adulthood and beyond. That meant a house with a lawn, a few bedrooms (with at least one extra for guests), in a neighborhood where you felt safe and could go for a walk down the street without worrying about being shot or mugged. And in that dream was a family — 2 or 3 kids — and the ability to have them take dance classes or piano lessons or attend baseball camp over the summers. And all of this was going to be my reality before I turned 30 (pre birth of the kids).

At the age of 27, I’ve revised that dream slightly, though likely not enough. At 27, I have ~$120k saved. $109k in investments, $27k in cash & cds – what I owe in taxes this year ($10k?)

And still, that savings feels like nothing compared to what I need to give my future family the lifestyle I had as a kid. That amount is pennies towards owning even a 1br condo here.
Around this area, 1brs are going for $599k or $335k or $459k.

Meanwhile, I’m paying $635 per month, or about $7650 a year to live in a small-ish room in a nice-ish condo. I have two roommates (one of them is leaving this summer so we’re going to have to find another roommate, but that’s a tale for a diff post.)

It just seems unreasonable to dream of owning property ever. At least not here.

The American Dream seems out of reach mostly because of my choice in significant other, and maybe in my choice of career. I’m not quite hitting six figures yet, but I’ve saved a reasonable amount of money each year.

My boyfriend still lives at home, so any money he makes he can save. But at 28, he still isn’t working a full time job, he’s making $20 an hour on contract because he doesn’t want to look for a different job and he’s planning on maybe going to grad school next year. I am very supportive of his plans for grad school but with that come loans that will hit when we’re in our early 30s, exactly when we’ll want to have kids. And he has very little savings and no IRA. And he doesn’t want to talk about it. After all, we’re just dating now. But as I’m approaching my 30s, the money has to come into play, a little bit.

I look at my friends who are dating men who are more stable in their careers. I look at my friends who are dating older men who already can afford houses. Some of these friends also work full time, others are working at jobs they love that would never afford them a house on their own.

In my life — I see myself as the breadwinner. The one who will bring home the soy bacon. And I don’t see myself as having the ability to be the same kind of breadwinner my dad was — the kind that could afford the house, the summer camp, the suburban lifestyle. So sometimes I wonder if I should have been more picky in choosing a life partner. I could have targeted men with full-time jobs, already established in their careers. Instead, I fell in love with a guy who isn’t going to push to make a lot of money in his life. And while I admire that about him, it also scares me enough that I’m coming to terms with the possibility that I will rent for the rest of my life and never have children. I just cannot afford them.

Still, I don’t want to give up on the American Dream. It feels about 10 years away right now, but by then it will be too late to have kids. My having children will basically eat up my entire savings — I’m figuring $40k a kid due to my PCOS and need for various fertility treatments, so 2 kids (with no guarantees it will work) and I’m back to square one.

How much of the American Dream should I give up on? Should I strategically place myself somewhere I can earn more than $100k a year? The odds of my stock options ever being worth enough to get me where I need to be at 31 (when they’d vest) are slim to null — even if my company does well. So I get depressed about this… I can’t comprehend how to get to financial stability in my life. Or, I can’t comprehend it where I’m the breadwinner of the story… where I can’t count on a reasonable dual income household. And that really freaks me out. Well, it makes me, again, accept that I’ll be renting a tiny room in a shared space with no kids my entire life. Maybe that’s not so bad. But that’s certainly not my American Dream.

Clashing Long Term Fiscal Values in a Young Relationship

My boyfriend and I have been together four years. I quickly fell in love with his kindness and calm nature, which contrasted with my oft-anxious and somewhat self-centered relationship with the world. Mostly, though, I found that after dating a law student for two years I felt much more comfortable in a relationship with someone who had less motivation than I did than more. With the lawyer, who had an Ivy undergrad education and a JD from a top-10 school, I could never equal his level of success (or so I thought at the time) with my average schooling and internship salary.

Thus, dating a guy who wasn’t striving to become the next Joe Jamail was a refreshing relief. With the attorney, I always felt like he looked down on my choices and with that my depression over uncertainty, my 21-year-old lack of clarity. Enter my current boyfriend with his lack of concern over professional title or climbing up the corporate ladder, and I felt safe. With him, I felt comfortable moving up my own corporate ladder. It’s not that he is stupid or anything, he too has a degree from a top school with a high honors mark on his diploma to boot. So intelligence is not the factor here, more so, it’s the fundamentals of what motivates a person.

Four years later, my boyfriend and I still have little arguments about money. He doesn’t like discussing finances – which, fair enough, is not something two people dating oft discuss prior to marriage or at the very least engagement. After being unemployed for a year and not applying to jobs, he eventually landed a low-paid, part-time internship (one that I had completed earlier) and after that found an hourly editorial job at a non-profit that paid less than I made at my first non-profit job. It was obvious he hadn’t cared to negotiate for a better starting wage, but mostly I was proud of him for finally getting out of his funk and getting a job.

The years go by… and neither of us are by any means perfect. I manage to get fired from… a few jobs… because I lack motivation when I believe my contributions would be better contributed by a robot. As I learned to force myself to do my job no matter what, I got laid off because that job was no longer needed. To my credit, every time I lost my job I managed to practically double my salary in my next position. I moved across industries and tried out a lot of different things to figure out where I would be fulfilled. I realized that I am, to some extent, motivated by money – not by having nice, flashy things, but by watching my networth increase… my maxing out my 401k… by feeling that I may one day have enough to afford a house, even in the Bay Area.

My boyfriend, on the otherhand, spent those three years working at the non-profit. He did his job very well, followed orders, increased productivity in the company by making many of the processes more efficient. He never asked for a raise. His boss gave him a very small “raise” when he decided to work less hours and go 1099 contract instead of W2 hourly. He’s still making $20/hr, while I’m billing upwards of $80/hr on some of my projects.

This isn’t to say that I would judge anyone for working a job that makes $20/hr – there are plenty of jobs I respect out there that earn this. If you’re talking about $20/hr in Kansas, that’s also a very different income than $20/hr where the average small house costs over $1M. But this is where we always get into our little tiffs about money… I argue that before I have kids, I’d like to have an average yearly dual income of at least $150k. Long-term, I see no reason why that dual income can’t be $300k. And I would feel more comfortable in life, before deciding to have children, to know that we’d make that kind of income in our lifetimes.

My boyfriend thinks I’m crazy. Maybe I am. $150k for a family income is not unreasonable, but the majority of people in America live on much less than that – and many of them have healthy, happy families. I just look at my current spending – which could be more frugal, but is by no means extravagant – and wonder how I’d ever be able to save for retirement and pay for a house and potentially pay back graduate school loans, all while also affording children (I want two or three of them within the next 10 years.)

My boyfriend, who also wants to return for graduate school (either to become a teacher or psychology researcher) will never care about income above and beyond middle class. It’s not that he’d mind if his field paid more, he just will never be the type to push for raises or chose a job because it pays better. And as much as I admire that about him – as much as I feel safer in my own career journey knowing that my partner will accept me and love me if I make $30k a year or $200k a year, I still feel like sometime down the road this difference in fiscal values will start to hurt us a lot more than it does now.

There are times when I think of what it would be like to continue my search for my life partner, and I just can’t imagine being with anyone else. I love this guy to death, and again, I couldn’t be with someone who cared that much about money. If anything, I know that I’m most comfortable bringing home the bacon because then I feel I have more right to be in charge of the household finances. My mom is clueless when it comes to money and my entire life my parents have argued about how it should be spent. As my father was the one bringing home a single income (albeit over $200k by the time he retired) he never felt she had any right to be involved in financial decisions. If I was with a guy who understood finances more than I did… and made more money… then I might end up in that situation too. So I’d rather be the one in charge, making more money, and with a guy who maybe doesn’t care that much about his salary.

It just makes me nervous about limiting my choices later in life. What if I want to take a year off to spend time with my newborn child? What if I want to work part-time to be able to go to my child’s plays during the school day or drive them to soccer practice? On the whole other hand of this, I’m terrified of knowing I’m worth “$200/hr” or whatever my going rate would be at the time, and then deciding not work that hour because I want to spend it with my family. It would almost be easier to have less money, have a stable job, and never feel like my time is stamped with a dollar value. Or, at the least, have a partner who earns as much as I do, or around the same amount, so we could contribute to a goal income for the year… and enjoy the time we have off without the calculator in my head exploding over lost income opportunities.

Dating: Who Pays?

A few years back, I had just graduated from college and was a full-time intern (aka slave) with a decent amount of savings (savings=for grad school one day) and a boyfriend who had started his six-figure attorney job the same year (note: he graduated from law school with no student loans thanks to his mom and dad and some savings). At that point, we were together for over a year. I had spent hundreds of dollars on plane tickets flying around the country to see him, as we had met in one city, then spent a good chunk of our relationship long distance.

Given, I’m not the type of girl who expects men to pay for her, one of the reasons our relationship ended was that I could not stand his stinginess. I know I wasn’t broke, but it would have been nice for him to offer to pay for a movie ticket every once in a while. I felt like I was holding him back from the life he could have, since it wouldn’t kill his piggy bank to go wine tasting once a month, or enjoy a decadent meal every once in a while. There’s nothing wrong with avoiding pricier options, but at the time, well, every cent counted. Really.

Now I’m in the reverse situation. It’s kind of funny, actually. I’m dating a guy who is unemployed. He does have a savings (from my understanding of it, he has just about the amount I have in savings) and he lives at home (so no rent, whereas I pay $1050 a month in rent.) Supposedly his parents are footing the bill for grad school if he decides to go. (My parents are not, as far as I know, though my dad has mentioned that in 3 years when he can access his 401k, there will be some money available to help out if I can wait that long.)

(Anyway… the details are rather unimportant as a generic entry about who pays for things in a relationship, but as this is my personal finance blog, I’m writing details. Hope y’all don’t mind.)

So guy #2 loves to pay for me 75 percent of the time. We go out to dinner and he often offers. He let’s me pay occasionally. I don’t push him enough because in the back of my mind I’m always thinking, if he pays, that’s another $15 I can pocket for grad school… or a new shirt. It feels rather icky to be the stingy person in the relationship. Sometimes I feel like I should pay more frequently since I’m working and he’s not. Then again, it’s his personal choice to be unemployed (he has a degree from a top school, I doubt he’d have much trouble getting a job) and if he wants to pay for me than who am I to object? Plus he’s got his parent’s money for grad school and if I actually ever figure out what I want to do with my life for the long-term, I’ll need to foot most of my bill for all graduate school fees.

Obviously I’m not talking about the first couple of dates here. That’s the subject for a whole other entry because at that point there’s somewhat of a societal expectation for the man to offer, even if the woman ultimately is sane enough to grab the check and split the bill fairly. But for people in LTR’s, money is a whole other issue.

Sometimes, I admit, I dream of dating someone (*cough*gold digger*cough*) who takes me out to nice places and… takes me shopping. It’s ridiculous, as I’m NOT a gold digger. Really. I wouldn’t date someone just because they were rich. It’s just a nice thought, since life out here in Silicon Valley is so damn pricey and everyone else around here seems to be loaded.

To tell you the truth, I’d rather be the one making the big bucks. I doubt that will ever happen as a journalist, even though I’ve managed to do quite well for myself in the generally poor-paying profession. But I’m not going to kid myself into thinking I’d ever be looking at a six-figure salary. It might be possible if some day I make a name for myself and start my own website, but I’m not going to start dreaming about that now. Reality is I’m making an OK salary, but I’m living in one of the richest counties in the country…

[[The median income for a household in the county was $70,819, and the median income for a family was $80,737. Males had a median income of $51,342 versus $40,383 for females.]]

Ok, so in a few week’s I’ll be making more than the median income for females. That still means nothing (considering that my life involves interacting with venture capitalists and other well-to-do types)… and while I know money does not equal happiness, there’s always the underlying fear of taking out loans for grad school and having to deal with debt (the “good kind”) and then never being able to afford a house or any other form of stability in my life.

It’s all kind of hypocritical of me, since I’m terrible at saving, and I always end up spending too much each month. Why does it matter if I spend too much on a shirt versus a nice date with my boyfriend? It’s probably better to spend that $70 on a date.