Tag Archives: family

Why I Can’t Even With Small Talk… And Medium Talk Even.

What are you supposed to talk about with your family that isn’t god awful over the course of a normal dinner out? I don’t see my family all that often, so you’d think we’d have things to discuss. Yet the conversation usually goes something like this, in no particular order…

  • How is your job? Do you still have a job? (It’s ok. I still have a job.) There’s nothing really more to discuss about my job because no one understand what I do and it’s not interesting to them, so that’s pretty much the extend of that conversation.
  • Politics – whoever is in office is doing a good job or isn’t and everyone at the table will have an opinion but according to my dad his is the only right open
  • Did Mr. HECC apply to grad school yet? Is he going to get another job / figure out what he doing with his life? (*this comes up only when he is not in the room)
  • Other family issues du jour as long as it’s about “not our direct family” — cousin tried to attempt suicide? Let’s all solve her problem over dinner. Aunt and uncle about to get a divorce? Good idea or bad idea — it’s the perfect time to debate this.
  • Let’s gossip about whoever else we all know…
  • Complain about something else…
  • Be sad for a moment about someone who has passed away…
  • Return to complaining or gossiping.
  • Bonus – not yet, but you know they want to bring it up – when are you having kids / buying a house / growing up like a real adult now that you are married…?

Do other families talk about anything else over dinner conversation?  I guess all that’s left is entertainment and sports, and since I don’t talk about sports that leaves talking about television or movies or books or other productions. But that conversation is rather bland and again someone at the table has an opinion that must be right even if I hate the show clearly I’m in the wrong on that one.

What should families talk about? Or, for that matter, what should people talk about? I occasionally like to tell stories about things that have happened but most often I don’t know what to say. Even with friends / peers / coworkers this is an issue. I never know what to talk about.

 

Life Goes On: Thoughts on Entering My Mid 30s

On one hand, moments of my youth feel like just yesterday. On the other, I do feel a very real sense of the time that has passed over the course of my life. I don’t feel old quite yet, but I definitely don’t feel young either. My friends all are having or already have children, fashions are reverting to what was popular when I was in elementary school (the revival of the choker brings on all the feels), and I’m somehow – despite my mental illness – ready to have children. I know it’s going to be very hard, but I feel surprisingly ready. Maybe I’m not logistically ready, but I feel ready from a maturity level, which is an odd thing for me to say, but as I acknowledge that many parents are not actually that mature, I have found confidence in my own future parenting skills.

If all goes to plan, I’ll be pregnant and possibly already with child at this time next year. I have a not-so-secret hope for twins, which is probably the worst thing to wish for, but I have always wanted twins since I was a child and with infertility treatments to help induce fertility (which I need anyway) the odds of having twins are much higher. We don’t have any history of twins in our families so it would be extremely unlikely in the event of a completely unaided conception. but giving what the infertility doc said about my ovaries, natural pregnancy without the help of at least medicine is extremely unlikely. And I’m not getting any younger. Continue reading

Our American Dream: Two Sisters Losing the Middle Class

We grew up in a nice suburb of New York where you would run into a mall in 30 minutes any direction you drove unless you were to drive towards the ocean. Our dad went into the city daily for his job that kept him out late, mom stayed home and took care of us by trying to get me to do my homework and fighting the school system to ensure my learning-disabled sister got the access to the education she needed. Outside of my father’s raging temper and my mother’s relentless narcissism and hoarding disorder, life was pretty good. It was all we knew.

I definitely took my class status for granted, and my sister is now learning that she did too. My sister is seven years younger than I am, and with her learning disability also graduated college later than I did. Nonetheless, after going to a private school for special needs students, she managed to obtain a bachelor’s degree from a state school. Unfortunately, that degree didn’t help her much in terms of setting her up for the real world.

Continue reading

Pregnant-Woman

How Lack of Maternity Leave Hurts Working Women

I’m 32 going on 33 and my biological clock is tick-tock ticking. If I’m going to have at least one child, it’s most likely going to occur within the next 1-3 years of my life. I have significant savings so I can afford to take time off to have a kid, but that doesn’t make the whole lack of maternity leave situation any less stressful.

The US is still the only developed country that doesn’t guarantee paid maternity leave. In fact, the US is one of just two countries in the world that doesn’t ensure any paid time off for new moms, according to a report from the International Labor Organization. The other: Papua New Guinea. Continue reading

My Parents Are Actually Not That Great with Money

When I grew up I knew two things to be fact – my dad was talented at earning money and my mom was equally talented at spending it. My mother constantly complained about us not having a lot of nice things – and we indeed were upper middle class and not a millimeter over the upper class line – but we had it rather great. As my father worked a professional job requiring his math brain, the money kept rolling in. And my mom (and I) would keep spending it.

But despite the “every time we come back from the mall” fights on spending it never was  a “real” issue. We weren’t in danger of losing the house. My private college tuition was paid for outright. So was my sister’s private school for a learning disability and then college. Apparently at some point my father’s company was sold and he did fairly well for himself in his stock and income appreciation. My parents should be comfortably set for life and then some.

However my father (who was told he had two years to live about nine years ago, mind you) and my mother have spent and spent and spent post “earning” years and with the stock market underperforming all his estimates about his finances didn’t quite pan out. Shocking for a man who made a career out of calculating risk. Yet, here we are today, with my father looking at all the numbers involved in the family finances and he can’t make heads or tails of it. There’s a massive home equity loan out that has to be paid back fairly soon, and there’s little left on it to borrow at this point anyway. He wanted to spend a lot on my wedding but, now that I better understand their financial situation – I realize it was not a good idea. It’s not that they are broke – they have social security and pension money coming in… about $100k a year. But in order to afford not only my wedding but also a winter condo they bought in the southeast and renovations to that condo and fixing a bunch of things breaking around their main house there is the reality that my dad had to pull out a bunch of money from the IRA bumping him up into a higher tax bracket so most of the income they’re making goes to taxes.

So they have to in the next few years pay back about $200k in home equity. How? The idea seems to be either from a reverse mortgage (which as I learn more about I really don’t like) or taking more money out of the IRA and paying a lot of taxes on it or, well, there aren’t many other options. The money is there, but it isn’t. They’re so much more fortunate than most people their age (due to smart saving at least and the possibility of a one-working-parent household being able to afford a nice life and a decent retirement) but their spending is just out of control. It’s not just my wedding – which theoretically my father had budgeted “forever” for – it’s the lack of acceptance of 1 – what life really costs and 2 – what their life really costs.

My father keeps talking about how they’re going to have to “get frugal” and I can’t help but laugh. They aren’t exactly going on luxury vacations but my parents do spend. My mother has no concept of money and I worry she’s going to eventually spend every last cent of her retirement money leaving her with “just” the monthly income – which at some point may not be enough to pay for her care. I’ll help, of course, as much as I can – but I’m stuck in the reality of my world which = I cannot ever afford a house, I cannot figure out how to save enough for my own/my family’s retirement, even on my current substantial income (which will not last because I’m about to completely crack in my current career and my next step is something less profitable but more personally fulfilling, I hope) – in any case, I’ll need to help out of guilt knowing how much my own life has cost them, but it’s still frustrating that this didn’t have to happen… they were doing so well and then they had to put an addition on the house and had to buy too-nice further for the vacation property and had to get a new dress for every wedding-related event coming up (I’m glad I talked my mother out of purchasing a $2000 dress for my wedding when the $300 dress she got looked WAY better than the one the fancy store was trying to sell her.)

I just worry too because I know that in so many years my father’s cancer will eventually end his life (I hope this is a long time out but who knows) and my mother will – god willing – life a very long time. But as bad with money and gullible as she is she’s suceptable to all sorts of scams and con arts and just about any potential way for her money to disappear. My dad likes to talk to me (so awkwardly) about how he wants my sister and I to get an inheritance – and I can’t comment on that because on and hand I think inheritances are just plain awful and unfair and should not be allowed and on the other hand the world we live in is one where people can or can not afford to, say, buy a house or send their kids to college due to such mini dynasties. It’s not a topic I’m comfortable talking about and I certainly don’t want to be the person held responsible for convincing my mom not to, you know, spend that money that one day would possibly end up trickling down to me and my sister – even though I honestly don’t want it if she needs to spend it, I just don’t want to see her getting conned. I worry I’ll have to be the responsible one because my sister knows nothing about money and clearly I’m the best educated on the topic (I don’t know how that happened but anyway, it happened.)

My father was even asking my advice on how to repay the home equity. I have no idea. $200 is a lot of money. It took me a very long time to save $200. Now I have almost double that. But it’s all locked up in retirement funds and such. It’s about half of the cost of their actual house. I don’t understand home ownership and the whole taking loans out against your property. It seems like he has a really great rate (2 percent?) so maybe that’s a smart/good thing. But it’s only smart insofar as the needed to spend the money. It’s my wedding but it’s more than that for sure. It’s just this nature of spending and spending and spending and being delusional slash not wanting to deal with the time to come when they really do need to be “frugal” in their own middle class sort of way… not something my mother has known how to do for years. I worry they’ll lose their home – though my father said that will never happen – but I’m starting to doubt his ability to predict these things. He seems rather surprised about how much taxes he owes in general and how things add up and money keeps disappearing. He seems perplexed that the stock market didn’t perform strongly so his networth shrunk more than expected and he didn’t have a backup plan to deal with this. And this all has led me to the conclusion that my father – the math guy – the financial industry risk expert – is actually really bad with personal finances. I worry for them, and I also hope somehow I can do better with my own family and wealth. I’m beginning to think that all starts with NOT owning property – EVER. Rent is expensive but at least it’s not handcuffs.

When You Made It and You Haven’t Gotten Anywhere

This week, I’ve been reading a slew of posts about how women make less money than men, and why.  Mostly, the argument against this being an issue goes, that women tend to work less than men one they have kids, and they also and generally less competitive so of course they don’t make as much money. In every single job negotiation I feel the weight of this on my shoulder, and try my best to negotiate. I have no idea what a man would do in the same situation with my experience, but since my first couple of jobs when I took the starting salary with no negotiation at all, I’ve tried to ask for a little more, and I’ve gotten more ballsy over time. It helps now that I now have competition offers, and I seem to be fairly good at interviewing these days.

On paper, I sound qualified for a very particular type of role and particular type of company. I’m not sure at all how life has sculpted itself to this specific career path, but it has, and I’m locked and loaded into it, full speed ahead until retirement to gain more responsibility, earn more wages, and look back on a very successful professional career. It hit me this week that I’m nearly making $200k (which, even for one of the highest cost of living areas, is one of those numbers that I thought would never be possible — ten years ago I was making $20k.)

Yet as I look ahead to potentially having children / starting a family, I realize that if I have an opportunity to leave this profession and move into something that is more flexible and personally fulfilling, I would. As much as I like money, and as much as I’ve been driven by this random “$500k in networth before I have kids” goal for the entirety of my 20s and early 30s, I just can’t see myself, 10 years from now, in this same type of role. I don’t want to be a vice president or C-level executive. Even though the pay would be great, I have no desire to be that person. I could potentially figure out how to fake who I am enough to get there… given my success getting this far, I have to believe that someone out there would want to offer me such an opportunity one day.  And I feel very guilty, that as a woman — as a woman who has an actual chance of getting to the top – I don’t want it.

As I sprint full speed ahead towards my mid 30s and the next phase of my life, I wonder what to do about it. I’m so busy these days with just trying to do my job and do it well and planning my wedding that I don’t have a ton of time to ponder what’s next (which is probably a good thing.) But, as my rent has increased this year by $2040 for the year, and the cost of living in this area shows no signs of refraining its hockey-stick growth, I know that at some point soon, I either need to commit to this career or come up with an exit strategy. I’m leaning towards the exit.

I don’t want to “not work.” I LOVE working. I love collaborating with a team to create new products. I wish I could be a ux designer or product lead. I’ve said that now for 12 years. I’ve failed to make any progress in that direction. I tried to study for the GRE and even booked a test slot and then didn’t go because I hadn’t studied enough. I couldn’t focus. I gave up. I got a better job. I made more money. It became less fiscally responsible to go back to school anyway. I got older. I passed that age when people go to grad school into the age when some people do but they’re much older their classmates. I entered the age where you take online classes or executive programs but only in rare cases do you go back to school for an entirely new career. Sure, people do it, and I may eventually as well, but I’m really getting older now — not old, per se, but old in the sense of I have a career. I have a good career. I manage a department, small as it is, I’m still in a high-level role, and there is so much good in my life that I kick myself every time I want to start over.

At this point, I’m committed to another year or two in my current job. If I do get pregnant then that will certainly be an opportunity to think through what’s next. Of course, if I get pregnant, it will be even harder to change careers. If I opt to apply to grad school for 2017 I’ll be 33 when I start, and I may want to put having kids on hold, which means I likely won’t have kids, which is, at this point, out of the question unless nature says I can’t (also a possibility.) In any case, there has to be some major changes in the next 2-3 years of my life, which will likely include moving to another state, or at the least, finding another career path and opting for lower pay and a lower quality of life here. I know this isn’t something I can maintain. It will be hard to say goodbye to the near-$200k salary, but I know if I figure out how to do something I’m really passionate about, maybe I can get back there over time. Or maybe I can just make less money and live somewhere more affordable. Either way, there are options, and I’ll always feel guilty as a woman for throwing away a successful career, but I have to. I have to rethink my entire life, my goals, and the directed outcomes. I do finally feel ready for a change.

How to Not Get Divorced and Have a Happy Marriage

Sorry, folks. I don’t know the silver bullet to a long, happy marriage. I do know that while 50% of Americans end up in a divorce, a large chunk of those who remain married do so unhappily. While marriage isn’t a requirement of a fulfilled, happy life – for many of us, having a lifelong partner is a key factor in our emotional and even financial stability. I used to be opposed to marriage as an old-fashioned idea steeped in religion and generally designed to make women a property of a man. Today, engaged to be married, I’m looking forward to that next stage of commitment. After nearly 10 years of dating, it’s time to lock this in forever.

Unfortunately, for MANY people, marriage isn’t forever. I spent last week “hanging out” with my 50-years young aunt and her either unhappily married or divorced besties. These women, all in their late 40s/early 50s, were all uniquely depressed, and the conversation reminded me why, if I have anything to do about it, I won’t be alone at that age (knock on wood.) It intrigues me how everyone is selfish by nature, and that happy marriages are largely the result of two people willing to be aware of their selfish tendencies and to compromise around many things that, in single life, would not be acceptable. Furthermore, the stress on a marriage that having kids brings is immense, and if the parents do not see eye-to-eye about this, they may be doomed to crumble – as no one wants to think about an intimate evening post fighting about their child’s behavior and what to do about it.

I grew up in a very unhappy, abusive household. My parents, now in their 60s, are still married – but rarely go a day without my father telling my mother, in a not-so-nice tone, that she’s a, and I quote, “fucking idiot.” They are not the spitting image of a good marriage or even a decent one. And both of my mother’s sisters are divorced and not remarried. This tells me a lot about the mentality in that side of the family – one which lacks empathy for others. It makes sense since the three sisters grew up with a very narcissistic mother and each of them have pretty much ended up with narcissists because it’s the only relationship dynamic which feels comfortable to them – the youngest, dating a man who is infinity self-absorbed and incapable of commitment; the middle sister, committed, not married to a man who is not exactly the warm and fuzzy type in terms of being open to people who do not fit his limited view on an acceptable human being (but maybe that’s just because he’s French); and my mother, of course, with my “can do no wrong” father who blames the world for all the problems but never can blame himself for anything.

Without self awareness, I don’t know if it’s possible for people like this to have a sustainable happy marriage. What we’re attracted to is not always best for such arduous happiness. Marriage is work, they say, and it’s true. I see some young couples I worry are headed in the wrong direction. I look at friends who do not seem to be able to talk about serious matters to each other. Friends who are married to men who are mama’s boys and who are worried that when their child is born they will be left alone to do all the housework along with childcare and returning to work. I worry about my friends who don’t talk about their finances, where one partner is stressed about work and the other is firmly committed to not worry about money or how it is spent. I worry about a couple who fight all the time with two young children present, who no longer find time to love each other, who maybe will never be fully happy, at least due to the presence of each other.

And then I look at my own relationship — nine-and-a-half  years is almost like marriage in its own right. We live together and split some of our bills, so it definitely feels like more than just dating despite nothing legally tying us together just yet. And I love him more than anything and we get into little tiffs every now and again but generally we can have open conversations about important things and we get along pretty well as long as I don’t focus too much on the serious all the time and we can enjoy musing on absurdities of the world together. I know that for my own marriage to work, it will be a lot of work. I have to change my ways – the many things I don’t like about myself to begin with, so I’m ok with that. First, I need to keep my household clean, and uncluttered. Second, I need to find a job where I can not constantly worry about getting fired and be super depressed all the time (he isn’t so much worried about the loss of the income as he is my constant bad mood about 5-6 months into any new job.) And I need to focus on trying to feel like a woman who can be desirable instead of sabotaging myself with my very low self esteem and body image. If I could do all three of these things and not chew so loudly (he is very sensitive to food noises) and be ready on time when we’re going out instead of always 10-15 minutes late, I think he’ll be very happy with me in our marriage. That’s really ALL I have to focus on doing. The rest comes naturally. Being aware of these things doesn’t mean they  are easy to do, but I know they are flaws in my character and things I need to work on anyway.

But marriages can fall apart when one person is aware of the things that upset the other person and feels they are putting an effort in to resolving these things, when the other person doesn’t make an effort or a strong enough effort to show the other person they are doing the same. This pain point in marriages can be exacerbated by the fact that so married couples just don’t talk about things. Sure, it’s easy to ask someone to clean the house, but it’s less easy for a working parent to share with a stay-at-home parent that they are too stressed out in their job and want to move into a position with less pay and less expectations. Or – things as silly as I miss when we used to get dressed up and go on dates, and now I only see you in your crappy clothes that don’t fit well at home because you’re tired all the time and quite frankly so am I. This is why marriages fall apart. People stop putting in the effort. They start becoming passive aggressive to each other on purpose or accident. That once-novel romance story has turned into a nightmare. And so many men and women get past the point of no return. They can no longer look at each other and understand how they were attracted to the other person in the first place. They long to move on to something new, something where the weight of all the years of passive aggression, poof, disappears, and they can start fresh. They can look at another person and see them not as the man who forgot to take the garbage out or the woman who was too tired from her job to be the exciting, passionate woman she once was. Starting fresh is easier than mending a wounded relationship, in theory, at least.

Divorcees are usually not happy either. Few people can manage being happy and being alone, especially after being in a committed relationship for many years. In spending time with these 40-year-old and 50-year-old divorced or unhappily married women, I wonder if there is any piece of the failings of their marriage that they see as their own faults, or if all the blame is on their former partners, or both. The common thread of conversation is that “he’s awful,” “he’s lazy,” “he’s unhelpful around the house,” et al. Or maybe there were just huge fights about how to raise the children that were unexpected which led to two people who couldn’t manage to love each other let alone spend time together. There’s a musical with a song that asks “When was Dividing Day” that is about divorce. No one goes into marriage wanting to or expecting to get a divorce, or to fall out of love. I wonder if it’s possible for two people to be so aware of their own flaws and especially the ones that rub the other person the wrong way, and to just hyperfocus on changing these behaviors as to always show the other person that you care to be the best person you can be for them. And, the second part of that is for the other person to do the same, all while being verbally appreciative of those changes in behavior, not just accepting them as part of the status quo, when the other person is still working very hard to be a better man/woman for the other person. If two people can do that, I think that a happy marriage is possible. But it requires us to go from our selfish, childish ways to becoming real adults — giving up our wants for the better of someone else, as long as that someone else is doing the very same for us. It won’t always be perfect, but as long as expectations are reasonable and two people really love each other, I want to believe it’s possible, and I want to try. I want to be the old couple that celebrates their 50th wedding anniversary with the same sparkle in our eyes that we have now when we look at each other, and see the man who I fell in love with, and who I’ll always love.

Going to the Chapel and We’re Gonna Spend M-O-N-E-Y

Jewsus Crust, weddings are expensive. While my father has offered to pay for the entire thing up to $45k, that offer hasn’t been sitting well with me as I’ve shopped around for everything from venues to gowns. I’m a grown-ass woman and I should pay for my own g’damn wedding… or at least a reasonable, sizable chunk of it. And so, tonight I had a bit of a epiphany — I’m going to pay for my own wedding (catering/venue) for the guest list I feel comfortable with (100-120 attendees.) Any additional attendees my parents want to invite (their friends, distant family) they can invite but they would cover.

The whole bride’s family pays for the entire thing and the groom’s family pays nothing is completely outdated and actually offensive. Sure, most brides want a wedding that’s a bit bigger and grander than what a groom would select, but that doesn’t mean that the entire wedding is a bride-only affair.

My father is very traditional – to a fault. He expected to pay for his daughter’s weddings and has theoretically saved for the big day. However, that money should be kept for my father’s medical bills over his hopefully long life to come and my mother’s wellbeing throughout her retirement. Spending their money on five hours of my life at this age is a concept that makes me physically ill.

I feel really good about my latest idea — that I’ll pay at least for the venue and catering. It seems a little more stomachable to accept a gift of a dress or band for the event, vs having parents pay the whole thing. Really the gifts from people attending should partially repay for the actual cost of the reception, so if I pay for the reception then some of that cost would be recovered in gifts. It doesn’t make my sense for my parents to pay for the reception and then the gifts to go to us. I know that’s the traditional way of doing things but it’s all sorts of wrong.

Paying for my own wedding does mean that I won’t reach my networth goal of $500k before I have kids — but at this point I’m pretty much retracting that goal and just focused on having a happy, healthy life. I’ll probably move somewhere with a lower cost of living in the next few years and hopefully be able to start a family. My priorities have definitely changed since I went from being sad and single to part A of a happily home-bodied couplehood. Paying for my own wedding also makes it feel more real and meaningful, vs just a big fancy party.

I’m just not sure how I’m going to tell my parents yet that I plan to pay. I figure I can just put down a deposit somewhere and then let them know that the venue and food are taken care of. Will my dad be offended? Probably – but that’s because he’s always offended over anything that goes against anything he thinks or offers. But then he’ll probably be happy to see I’m no longer relying on him to pay for any part of my life. And if he wants to provide a gift towards the total cost of the remaining items in the wedding, I’ll gladly accept. That just feels way more right, and brings my stress levels back to moderate.

Introducing: Bridezilla

Reading articles about batshit brides who enamored over every detail of a wedding led me to pronouncing I would never, EVER earn the title “bridezilla.” And, yet, shortly thereafter my official engagement I’ve been called this at least two times – not yet once from my finance who surely has thought the term silently while watching me create a google spreadsheet of 20+ local venues to visit in order to find – THE ONE.

As a personal finance blogger, and someone who tends to toy around with compound interest calculators as a means to destress after a challenging day, weddings – as in, the modern American wedding with an average cost of $25k ($31k-$51k in my region) – are absolutely ridiculous.

$50,000 — over a 30 year period growing at 5% — amounts to $216k. Sure, that’s not enough to get one through retirement, but it’s an awful lot to spend on one 6-hour party. When down-payments for a starter home are $200k or more, spending any money on a wedding, no matter how high your income is (unless you already are financially independent) seems incredibly frivolous.

So far, we’ve done well to combat the frivolity of this phenomenon known as nuptials. I was verklempt when my man got down on one knee and, after going through a series of romantic gestures, asked me to marry him. When I noticed he had picked the $300 ring off my Pinterest, I took pride in being the type of future bride who didn’t buy into the “Three Months Salary” bullshit propagated by jewelry marketers – likely ones related to the same person who came up with “A Diamond is Forever.” The average cost of an engagement ring these days is $4000 — which is a lot considering most of America is in debt.

There was this little voice in the back of my mind, the little girl who dreamed of a fancier ring (not necessarily a diamond, but still, something above and beyond what I might purchase for myself) — and then I stopped that voice, told it to shut the fuck up, because the ring — beautiful, simple and unique — was perfect. And I wouldn’t want to be walking around with a $4000 sentimental target on my back for anyone who wanted to rob me. Ultimately, I’d rather have a house than a ring, so this was the right choice.

That doesn’t change the fact that the minute you tell people you are engaged the reflex of most Americans – male or female – is something along the lines of “let me see the rock.” Well, it’s a rock alright — a low-cost gemstone that may or may not be the one that we think it is. It was supposed to be peach but it’s actually clear which only bothers Bridezilla me because I feel like everyone “just knows” that it’s a fake diamond (which it wasn’t meant to be) and then I get nervous that others will look at it and think, oh god, does she not know it’s a fake? I was perfectly fine with a sapphire or alexandrite or something that didn’t look like a diamond, but when it almost looks like a diamond showing off your ring gets uncomfortable, so says Ms. Bridezilla.

The ring, however, is the least of the costs that go into having a wedding. Every ounce of my rational self is screaming ELOPE YOU DUMB IDIOT YOU! I’m definitely the type of girl that dreamed of having a large, fairytale wedding – but now that i’m nearly 32, I’m largely over that dream and much more practical. If I was paying for the entire thing myself, I’d be a whole lot of more practical – but with my parents wanting to foot the bill, I’m torn.

My dad – who worked his entire life in a job that he didn’t exactly love – was told eight years ago that he had two years to live from a very respectable doctor at Sloan Kettering in NYC. His late-stage prostate cancer had metastasized and while there were a number of treatments and trials to prolong his life, there was no cure. And, already dealing with numerous health issues, such as diabetes and morbid obesity, his prognosis wasn’t so optimistic.

Dad – as stubborn as he is – has lived much longer and is still kicking, knock on wood. Him and my mother purchased a condo in Boca which he’s now spending his days determining how to decorate – despite years of nagging me about getting married, he doesn’t seem to care too much about the wedding now. His response when I called to tell them I was engaged was “about time.”

My father has clearly stated, many times, that he has money put away for this shindig and that he’d cover the event. The budget, which was $30k, grew into $50k once I made a list of how much everything would cost (and this is with cutting out all of the items that would go into a dream wedding with a pricetag of about $100k.) He said $50k is fine.

I know he’s looking forward to his dream wedding. My mom’s mother made their wedding horrible, because she’s crazy. She wouldn’t let him invite most of his friends to the event because they needed to invite all of the Israeli relatives, and then not surprisingly those Israeli relatives didn’t show up leaving a lot of empty seats. If my finance had a large extended network of family and friends I’d almost  be ok with a large wedding, but it just doesn’t feel right to have a wedding with 30 people from his side and 150 from mine. That isn’t a wedding.

Meanwhile, I’m not sure someone like me where I am today in understanding finances can spend $50,000 on 5 hours – even if it’s not my money. To put perspective on that figure, for the last 5 years of my life I’ve been aiming to save $50,000 A YEAR after taxes, including interest from investments. It’s a lot of money, no matter how you slice it, and whose money it is.

Some of my friends say if your parents want to pay for the wedding, let them. But I’m almost ashamed of it. When I was 12 years old I had a lavish Bat Mitzvah which included custom-made t-shirts which I designed, musicians which included a band AND a dj, and a number of other items which led for one expensive coming of age ceremony. Back then I didn’t understand money at all. The party was fun and all, but it was ridiculous at the same time. How can a grown-ass woman rationally spend anywhere near $30k-$50k on one day? Well, this grown-ass woman might — but she’s still not sure.

I’m absolutely torn. The options seem to be accepting my parent’s gift and a world of compromise for throwing a party for 200 guests including many family friends/relatives who I don’t know that well, OR, paying for an event on our own which would be a lot smaller and cheaper. If we do an event on our own, most of the people I want to attend wouldn’t come, because it would be a smaller, less lavish affair. Maybe that’s not a terrible thing – but I feel like if you’re going to have a wedding to begin with, the point is introducing both families to each other – and with that, I would like to encourage a decent turnout from both of our sides. We have families across the country so a wine country venue with the promise of incredible dining and entertainment would do more to encourage an annual vacation vs a picnic in a park.

Yes, they say that whatever you do for a wedding, the people who want to be there will be. Those people don’t have tri-state area expectations. I definitely grew up in a culture where these fancy weddings are the norm. And, as privileged as I am to even be able to ponder what to do with a $30k+ budget, I should also just embrace the fact that my parents want to pay for this event – which will likely be a night that my finance and I will remember for the rest of our lives. So let’s just do this.

Even with a $50k budget (which is, again, ridiculous) there are still lots of cuts to be made. So a dream dress might be $10k. I looked on pre-owned wedding dress sites, where they sell one-night-worn dresses for 30% to 50% off. Well, buying a dress site-unseen for $5000 – even if it was a $10k dress – seems like a bad idea. Buying a used dress does intrigue me, however, since spending even $3000 on a dress to be worn one night is nuts, but spending $1500 on that same dress that was worn once makes a lot more sense (especially if you can resell it again, say, for $1000.)

At the moment, our decision du jour is the venue itself. Picking a venue and a date will make this a whole lot more real. My finance and I have similar ideas about what makes the perfect venue, but they aren’t always 100% aligned. We visited one venue yesterday that he adored – but it’s too expensive and honestly it was just not quite what I had in mind (paying $50k for a wedding which features fancy port-o-potties is not going to fly with my parents, and is also not on my preferred logistics list.) While we both love the idea of getting married outside in nature, I prefer a venue at the top of a hill with a view, he prefers one nestled in a valley. We both are hoping for some sort of water features — a lake, a stream, or ocean with dramatic cliffs. I prefer a venue where we are able to come set up in the morning, early, and he prefers one which enables late-night after partying well into the next day. We’re coming up empty handed.

All of this added stress should be fun, but planning a wedding is a lot of work. Yes, you can hire a planner (and I probably will) but that doesn’t solve everything – it doesn’t solve the issue of managing my parent’s expectations. If they are footing the bill, that will be another giant job on top of the FT job I already have, which doesn’t leave a whole lot of time to plan this shindig to begin with.

And I come back to thinking – isn’t this supposed to be a day about the joining of two people who are going to spend the rest of their lives together? Why should that cost $50,000?

 

 

Mother’s Day: Being Thankful for an Imperfect Mother

Now that I’m 31 and of age to be a mother, I acknowledge that age doesn’t actually poof make you mature enough to be a good mother. Mother’s are just little girls that grew up and made little creatures that they have to take care of – who then go on to become mothers (or fathers) more often than not before they have their own shit together.

I must be thankful that my mother was not a drug addict or alcoholic. She was not a thief, sex trafficker or Russian spy. For all this, I am grateful.

When I see a bunch of my friends post pictures of their mothers on mom’s day and say “thanks to my best friend” I have to wonder what it’s like to have that kind of figure in your life. Don’t get me wrong – my mom and I talk all the time. But we talk at each other. Not to each other. And, without a nurturing bone in her body, she never once was the type of mother who was “there” for me when I needed it most.

My mother embarrassed me time and again in my life in terms of oversharing my “accomplishments,” trials and tribulations to anyone who might be willing to listen – but the worst of it came from how she, along with my father, completely warped my world view and sense of self. I was trained from a young age that all that matters is being brag-worthy. That I’m inherently special and worthy of praise. Yet any shortcoming, any slight imperfection, was not something that I could work on and fix. It was just ignored. Replaced with some story of grandiosity which fueled my oft confused ego.

I’m grateful that despite my mother’s unyielding self-self-absorbtion, she doesn’t have an evil bone in her body. Her acts are just frustrating, inconvenient at best and nails-on-chalkboard annoying at worst. In the most meaningful moments of life, her only though is if she and the others posing around her look good in a photograph. She is just entirely void of the ability to empathize with others. Her own growth was stunted by her narcissistic mother, who is evil and selfish. My mother is selfish but not in the same way. She’ll put her needs above others but she won’t be angry at said others if their needs end up coming first. Her entire life since age 18 has been in an abusive relationship with my father. She’s never cried. Not even behind closed doors. Her emotions seem to have been stunted as a small child, and were never recovered.

There are worse mothers out there. Ones that go out of their way to use their own children. Ones who push their children to do things that they wouldn’t want to do otherwise. Even when I came out as bisexual she cringed but didn’t kick me out of the house (she hoped it was a phase.) And, in terms of being present versus not in my life, my mother was always there – I’m not sure if she was always there for me, but she was always there. Involved in the school PTA, all of my teachers and administrators knew her well. Everyone in the school knew my mother. Her entire identity, at least once I was born, was created by the accomplishments of her children. Without a sense of self, there became an impossible pressure on her kids to be special enough.

My mother did not teach me about love. My mother stayed when my father screamed and threw ice water in her face or when he grabbed her arm and threw her across the room. For all the effort my mother put into outside appearances in terms of dressing nicely and wearing makeup, she didn’t worry about my father’s repeated humiliation of her in public. After being out of the work force for so many years, she was too afraid to get divorced and have to return to the employed life. She enjoyed her life of shopping and lounging by the pool in the long summers and actively involved in her children’s schooling. She saw her own child getting beaten with a belt and said nothing, even though she knew this wasn’t right. She let her young child start to abuse her, because her child learned this was the only way to stop her chronic nagging. She was a victim, still is a victim, and was incapable of escaping the borderline personality disorder eggshells she walked on throughout her life – first with her own mother, and then her hot-tempered, violent husband.

I feel sorry for my mother. Sorry that she will always be incapable of having her own life. Sorry that she does not have the emotional depth to have a fulfilling adult relationship. Sorry that happiness in her life is defined by buying more and more things, even though she’s never actually happy. The normal state for her is anxious, constantly panicking about what needs to be done, yet never accomplishing much at all.

My great worry is that if I do have kids one day, I won’t be able to be a good mother. I know I will try to be more nurturing and caring, more there for them when they need it and out of the way when they don’t. I’d love to be the type of mother who one day, when my children are all grown up, is referred to as a close friend and confidant. I want to be a strong figure, with a satisfying career and sense of personal accomplishment, to show one example of a successful life and ideal, loving relationship.

And all the while I wonder who I’d be today if I was born to one of those mothers who – maybe is strict – but who knows what it means to love and care for her own children – to, outside of financial means, put her children’s needs ahead of her own, especially when they are young and most vulnerable. All of the crazy in my mind – the constant panicking – the inability to get things done without someone telling me I’m absolutely awful, and having to prove them otherwise – my recurring failure to lead a stable, normal life – or to stand up for myself when I should instead of burst into tears – is something that is so ingrained in me, I can’t shake it off. So much of that is due to my mother. My father had quite the influence as well, but since it’s mom’s day I’m writing about the female component of my parental pair specifically.

So as much as I miss my mother, I’m glad that I moved to the other side of the country. It makes me sad that as the years go by there will less and less time I can spend with her. It’s terribly upsetting that if I do have kids, she will barely ever see them – even though I imagine she’d be a better grandmother than parent, especially if my father isn’t around to scream and make for anxiety-ridden situations. I wish I could flip a switch and suddenly she’d know how to feel – how to care – how to understand that the world doesn’t revolve around her. I know that sounds awfully silly coming from someone such as myself who is also so self absorbed. But at least I have some awareness of the fact that this world isn’t all about me – or my future children – or my life. I’m just a speck in the infinite universe. I’m lucky and unlucky all at the same time, but more lucky than not all things considered. While some of what I have has been earned, most has been obtained through chance.

She would never be able to grasp that. She just doesn’t care about other people – or herself. She is driven by a relentless, all-encompassing need to have stories to tell about others who would want no part in the tale.