Pupper and The Dandy both pissed me off recently in sorta similar ways. They both apologized after (it may have been the first time The Dandy has ever said the word “sorry” to me, for real) but I’m just so baffled by how they could be that dumb in the first place that I have to rant a tiny bit.
So…I’ve mentioned before that I’m cheap. Or like…more than that. Paranoid about money. Lots of fear wrapped up in spending. And The Dandy is…not plagued by these sorts of problems at all. One time when I was talking about wanting to buy something for myself and doing my usual white-knuckled “I probably shouldn’t. But I want it. But I shouldn’t. Should I?” thing, he said “Money is for spending.” Stupid though this sounds, this hadn’t occurred to me before. To me, money is for security – it’s for having, just in case, but never actually using. But The Dandy is right: money is for spending. That is its literal purpose. If you never use it then you might as well not even have it.
The Dandy continued: “What’s the point of spending a huge chunk of your life at work if you don’t get to have nice things? You could die tomorrow or the bank could go under or who knows what, and then what? You’d’ve lived your whole life denying yourself for no reason.”
His words struck a chord with me and made me realize that my ideas around money are pretty deeply fucked up. I don’t want to be like this anymore. I was trying to explain to Pupper the other day via text:
I’m trying to reformulate my attitudes about money.
When I lived alone I took as many model shifts as humanly possible (more, really) because if I blow out a knee or something, I can’t work and won’t get sick days. So I needed to try to build a nest egg, AND pay my ridiculous rent, AND save up enough to get me through the slow season.
So pretty much my whole goal in life was to make as much money as possible so it could sit in the bank. Which did make sense at the time.*
But now I’m not in that scary situation anymore. I don’t need to take every job AND I don’t need to save every extra penny I make.
So now I’m experimenting with the idea of taking gigs because it’ll allow me to buy myself stuff.
I know that concept is normal and obvious to most people.
Maybe I didn’t articulate the depth of my issues that well or something but Pupper responded by saying “But you should still save money!”
I said “I’m gonna, but I really need to have a better balance than what I had.”
And he responded again urging me to be cautious and not jump into anything, at which point I said “I know you’re trying to be helpful but it’s kind of upsetting me instead. Please stop.”
Because…okay. Let’s say you’re anorexic. You’re terrified of getting fat, so you mostly don’t eat, and when you do it’s because you snapped from self-denial and finally had something you’d been craving for ages, and then afterward you screamed at yourself for being a weak piece of shit. Say this had been going on for long enough that you’re pretty dangerously underweight.
Then let’s say you realize that your food habits are fucked up. The slide to anorexia had been so slow that everything seemed to make sense at the time, but you’ve realized that you are Not Okay. And you tell your friend or partner “Y’know…I’ve realized I can’t go on the way I have been. I think I really need to get to a place where I can eat when I’m hungry, like other people do, and like be able to properly sustain myself and stuff.”
And your friend or partner says: “Be careful though! You don’t wanna get fat!” Like OH DOES EATING FOOD MAKE YOU FAT I HAD NO IDEA. I DEFINITELY HAVEN’T BEEN LIVING MY ENTIRE LIFE AROUND THAT ONE CENTRAL FACT FOR MONTHS TO A POINT WHERE IT’S HURTING ME.
That’s what it felt like Pupper was doing. For shit’s sake I told him I was trying to get over being afraid to spend money on myself. Who thinks it’s a good idea to react by plugging straight into my fears?
The Dandy came home at that point, and I told him what had just gone down (and made the anorexia comparison to him). He seemed to understand.
In case he didn’t understand, though, I gave him some info he might not have known before about just how fucked up my spending habits were/are.
I told The Dandy that when I first left my husband and lived on my own – so, supporting myself entirely for the first time in almost a decade – any time I ate or drank anything, my brain automatically tallied up how much it cost. “That was about a bucks’ worth of orange juice you just guzzled. You could’ve had tap water instead if you were thirsty, but noooo, you had to have juice. Why don’t you just flush your money down the fucking toilet!?”
…Yeah. I wanted to not eat or drink in order to save money. It took a pretty long time and some concerted effort to break the groceries-money connection in my brain and be able to eat and drink at home without telling myself what a wasteful piece of shit I was being. (I’m still not quite there yet with restaurant food.)
I told The Dandy that one of my big rules for myself is that “outside food” (restaurant/cafe/etc products) costs more than groceries so I should never, ever buy any. I have a stupid high metabolism and/or hypoglycemia or I don’t fucking know, but I get hungry like every hour or two and it fucks my shit up. My self-imposed “no outside food” rule means that I often get hungry (or thirsty) while running errands or whatever, and refuse to get anything to tide me over. “Don’t be stupid, that package of convenience store peanuts is three bucks and if you just wait another hour you’ll be home anyway. Suck it up, wait til you get home, and eat something from the kitchen.” And I’ll finish up my errands with stomach cramps and the shakes and my energy so low that I can barely lift my feet to trudge back to the bus stop. I have seriously spent so much time dragging myself around feeling like shit when I didn’t need to.
I told The Dandy that my whole purpose in life for about as long as I can remember has been to save up a nest egg for emergencies, which is all well and good, but my brain overfocuses on the “YOU NEED TO SAVE UP YOUR MONEY” part and thus refuses to acknowledge anything as an emergency. I’ve been postponing dental work for the past year, not because I can’t afford it, but because it would stress me out to see my bank balance fall by $950. A few times in the past I’ve put dental work and vet bills on my credit card, even though I had more than enough money saved up, for the same reason: saving up a nest egg was my entire reason for being and I couldn’t bear to see the amount drop by hundreds of dollars. That’s all my hard work gone to waste! Except it’s not, it’s my nest egg being used for its stated purpose, and I’m just fucked in the head.
I told The Dandy that for years now I basically haven’t gone to any social thing that cost more than a cup of hot chocolate. I skipped a bunch of events I would like to have gone to and lost several friends because I kept saying no to their various invites and they gave up on me.
“Tell me I’m not being a drama queen by comparing my money issues to an eating disorder,” I said. The Dandy paused and then said “You’re not being dramatic. The evidence…would suggest that there are similarities.” The pause, for the record, didn’t feel like an “I disagree but I’d better just say what she wants to hear” pause. It felt like a “how can I say ‘you’re seriously messed up’ in a tactful way” pause. Which means he’s taking me seriously, which is what I want.
And then Pupper texted his apology so all’s well that ends well.
Today it was The Dandy’s turn to be sort of awful.
I feel like I look fatter than usual, lately. But I get randomly bloaty so there have been lots of times I thought my belly looked huge and then at some point I had a continuous 45min fart attack and was thin again afterward. So I don’t panic much about the size of my waist anymore. This morning, though, after a resounding poop, I decided to weigh myself just to see. Usually I’m 207lbs or less but today I’m 211lbs, which is mildly distressing (is it a response to all the junk food I’ve been eating lately or is it my body deciding to gain weight for no other reason than middle age? Is this a controllable thing, in other words, or is my body slipping even further out of my grasp?)
Anyway, I remarked to The Dandy “I’m getting fatter.” I wasn’t actually looking for, or expecting, any response but “huh.”
But his actual response was “Time to throw out all the ice cream and mayo!”
Which, first off…I’ve been poor and in bad health for long periods in my life, often simultaneously, and it’s left me a bit of a food hoarder – like, I need there to be a base amount of particular staple foods in the kitchen or I start to get really, really antsy. I’m unwilling ever to order in, remember, and even if I were I have some pretty big dietary restrictions so I don’t have a lot of options. Which means that when I lived alone, if there was nothing in the fridge I needed to either haul my ass to the store (and maybe I’ve worked a long shift and can barely move) or starve. I’ve been living with The Dandy for a couple of years now and my hoarding tendencies are starting to fade – he has a car, he has money, there will be food if we need it – but his joking threat to take the most delicious foods away from me kinda stirred up some baggage. And btw it’s not the first time he’s said stuff like that in response to me talking about (not asking him to help with, mind you, just making observations about) my weight.
When he did it this time I sarcastically said (pretending I was him talking) “‘She made a factual statement! Take away everything she loves!'”
It’s not clear if The Dandy heard me or understood what I was getting at. He didn’t reply at all.
Later, on the bus to go see a friend, another layer of baggage floated to the forefront of my brain, so I texted The Dandy the following:
So, for about twenty years now I’ve been living my life around one group of food restrictions or another. Including adhering pretty rock-solidly, for YEARS, to a low-carb diet even though it was robbing me of energy and starving my brain.
This running joke where you need to throw out the fattening foods – presumably because I can’t be trusted to monitor my own intake – is spectacularly tone deaf.
Coincidentally, it’s also a creepy-ass echo of how my dad reacted when I was a kid and trying to change what I felt were damaging food habits**. So there’s that.
The Dandy texted back “Sorry. I’ll stop.” And I was flabbergasted because, like I said, He’s never used that word with me. I don’t know if it’s easier for him to say it via text than face-to-face or what.
But yeah. I’m a control freak with iron willpower and a tendency toward disordered eating. My big challenge, if I decide to try to lose some weight sometime soon, is to do it without denying myself everything delicious in life. I don’t need The Dandy to propose cutting out all ice cream and mayo – that’s usually the first conclusion I come to on my own. No ice cream! No chocolate! No mayo! No peanut butter! No salad dressing! No full-fat dairy products! Nothing but piles of dry, leafy greens with grilled chicken on top…forever!!!! Actually wait how many carbs are in salad greens? I should probably measure them out to make sure I’m not having too much. Also I should switch from chicken thighs to chicken breasts so there’s less fat.
So in a weird way The Dandy did the same stupid thing Pupper did a day or two before: played directly into my disordered thinking. Odd coincidence.
*As I typed this to him I started feeling teary and realized that I was, in part, comforting myself and trying to convince myself that I’m not stupid for being as fucked up about money as I am. I am reminded of a meme I saw on Facebook, aimed at people who have PTSD from abusive situations, telling those people that their hypervigilance etc makes sense – that it was a legitimate survival strategy. It wasn’t stupid to do those things. It’s just not useful anymore, now that the situation is different. That would seem to apply here, too. But I feel stupid anyway.
**So, I’ve always, my entire life, had this big paranoia about addiction. I hated the idea of being addicted to anything. And when I was a kid (ten years old, maybe? Eleven?) I got the idea that I was addicted to chocolate. Not sugar in general; for whatever reason I felt the problem was only with chocolate. (What kills me is, I know now that I had celiac disease preventing me from properly absorbing the nutrients in my food, so glucose would have been the main place I got my energy from – like, even more so than someone with a properly functioning digestive system. It seems harsh to label my craving for sugar an “addiction” under the circumstances. But anyway.) I was aware that I craved chocolate powerfully and often, and I decided to quit chocolate cold turkey to free myself of the addiction. Shortly after that, my dad and I were at the mall and the Laura Secord kiosk had some free samples out and I ate one totally without thinking. They almost never have free samples so I guess I just automatically had an “oooh I gotta take advantage of this!” response and forgot about my whole “no more chocolate” thing. A few minutes later I suddenly realized my mistake, and I lamented to my dad: “Oh noooo! I was trying to not eat chocolate anymore and I just screwed up. I guess I’ve probably set myself back, now.” I don’t know why this made my father angry; perhaps he just hated my slightly whiny tone and figured he could shut me up by rectifying the underlying issue. At any rate he put on an ominous tone and snarled “maybe I should just forbid you from having chocolate.” And I was gobsmacked that he would threaten to shove his parental authority into this thing that was my personal goal and that I’d been actually handling quite well aside from that one totally accidental lapse.