The Other Side of the Game, Part 1
This happened: My boy, a different one, threw a brunch for his birthday a week after I got back from Miami. Me and three friends had gone down for a week—four of us in a double room at the “good” Marriott by Nikki Beach. We ate, drank, and partied well. We shopped too and I went goo gobs over budget acting like I had the ends of my friend with the inheritance.
The invite to my boy’s party listed the all-you-can-drink brunch at $70, including tax and tip. For brunch? I could cover the cost, but I didn’t have it. And by “have”, I mean I’d realized there was a certain number in my savings account that made me feel secure, and if I dipped below it—even further— I’d get more anxious.
I had a goal number I was trying to reach for the year, and Miami, though worth it, had put a severe dent in my plans. I wanted to go to the birthday brunch and I played with possibilities of how many extra hours I could spend fact-checking or what stories I could pitch to build my savings back up. But in the end, I just wasn’t willing to swing it, and even for my boy’s birthday, it wasn’t worth it. $70 for brunch?!
And because I couldn’t think of it as “pfft. What’s $70?” I felt like a loser. Everyone else seemed to be able to do everything they wanted, and I had to pick and choose. Life isn’t fair, but I wanted it to be anyway.
I tried to cheer myself by leaving my debit card at the office and window-shopping on my lunch break. I was wandering thru a maze of clothes I couldn’t afford when I was interrupted.
“Shopping for my party?” he asked.
It was the birthday boy, loaded down with bags from the expensive department store. I hadn’t sent the email telling him I wouldn’t make it because I was a loser because that made me feel more like one. This awkward confrontation was my fault.
“Actually, no,’” I told him meekly. “I’m not going to make it.”
It was his birthday and he was my friend, so of course, he glared at me and pointedly asked, “Why?” not bothering to hide his irritation.
MC Breed said there was no future in fronting, so I told the truth. “I can’t afford it. I’d have to buy a dress, and maybe shoes, and then there’s the cost of brunch…” I rambled.
He shrugged. “Don’t you have a credit card?”
I did. But it was for emergencies.
I don’t know what look I gave him, but whatever it was, it inspired him to tell me that was how he was paid for everything, including the new suit, and shoes, and tie(s) and socks he’d just purchased to be fly for his party.
“Just put it on your card, “ he advised, like it was that simple. And maybe it was for him. But it wasn’t for me. It was unfathomable for me to put a $70 brunch (!)on my credit card for two reasons:
1. I was proud of myself for financing my move to NYC without going into debt. I’d decided that debt was for school loans, buying property and getting out of major jams only. Or when I leave my debit card—never in my wallet—at home and find myself buying lunch at work with no other means to pay for it.
2. Upon moving back to NYC, I’d immediately developed this phobia of not being able to make it in New York and having to head back home. Again. I was – and am—terrified of going broke. There’s still a number—a much higher one—where I will become anxious (and unbearable) if one of my accounts falls below it, even for a “good” reason.
I’d gone out of my financial mind in Miami. I had to reel it in and be responsible again if wanted to make it to thirty without worry lines. I was saving money for… I dunno. But do you really need a reason to save?* I stuck to my decision to skip the brunch. He told me what an amazing time I’d be missing and all the people that I really wanted to get to know who would be there. I felt even more like a loser when I got back to my desk, but at least my friend knew I couldn't make it advance.
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