Baby, Talk is(n’t) Cheap

Some become uncomfortable when others talk religion. Or politics. Or the birds-and-the-bees. These conversations rarely make me lose my train of thought and though others may not agree, I don’t sway my opinion to match what’s considered acceptable by whoever’s standards I’m discussing such topics with.

However, while money talks louder than sex, I’d much rather review every sexual encounter I’ve ever had than talk about cash flow.

For whatever reason, finances freak me the [insert foul word] the out. I come from a family that never struggled to make ends meet and my parents managed our assets smartly and strategically, giving me mostly anything I wanted – minus the pony in the backyard when I was six, but who remembers that? I’ve always been taught to value the dollar and that it is something that comes with hard work. Applying that mentality from the get-go, I started my own baby-sitting “business” at 13, after taking classes at the Red Cross for CPR and childcare, and my dad printed business cards for me, un-cleverly titled, “Lindsay’s Baby-Sitting.”

At 15, off the books and under the table, I earned an hourly wage at a privately owned hotel as a maid. My first day on the job, the head maid escorted me around the premises and I shadowed her cleaning skills and how to tuck the corners of the bedspread carefully. However, when we pulled off the sheets in the first room to discover whipped cream and strawberries, my virginal-self was a bit distracted during the rest of her lessons. Come to find out, it wouldn’t be the craziest thing I discovered at that job.

During high school and college, I worked at grocery and retail stores, restaurants, and daycares. On the side, I freelanced articles for next-to-nothing pay and for eight months, I wrote a weekly column for $10 a pop about worldly issues affecting local teens. I started a non-profit and I became a marketing machine of what I considered my greatest potential – my words. I was using MySpace to network before social networking was ever a topic of discussion. And through all of these odd jobs and while I developed an entrepreneurial spirit, I never stopped worrying about my mini un-wealth. It wasn’t – and maybe still isn’t – something I feel at ease talking about and while I believe in the freedom of speech, for me, that’s a talk that isn’t cheap.

To combat my woes, I’ve always been a saver and never one to really accept financial favors from anyone. After a certain age, it would churn my stomach to ask my parents for cash and I felt a sense of guilt that they were supporting me during school, while so many of my friends were already independent of their families. Men have often paid for my dinners and I almost always allow them to, but once I’m in a relationship, I feel more of a need to go 50/50. Mr. Possibility‘s bonus is more than my annual salary and while he can afford to cover me for every outing we take, I always make an effort to add in my literal two cents frequently. Because I’ve placed my savings where I can keep track of them, I know where I can spend money and where I can’t.

Even so, for years and even at points to this day, I’ve lost sleep stressing if I was making the right decisions with my income. Am I saving enough? Should I start investing? Am I getting the best deal? Do I really need that or can it wait? Have I gone out for drinks too often this week? Should I not get coffee this morning? Should I book that ticket or can I afford it?

And who the hell thought I was capable of maintaining my own financial stability when my idea of managing my money is logging onto BankofAmerica.com?

It took until I was truly on my own, without any financial support from mom and dad, paying my own bills and student loans, having only my name on a lease, and depending only on myself to eat, drink, and be merrily-with-money, that I started to relax. Within the first three weeks of moving many moons ago, I bought a plane ticket, transitioned myself into a new apartment where I had to fork over $1,600 for a deposit and first month’s rent, plus fed myself, and bought an unlimited Metro. I watched the stockpile of money I had been building for over six years quickly disassemble and realized that money was meant to be spent, not continuously counted and admired. I had not gone into banking because I couldn’t stand the thought of it – I had picked a career that no one pursues for the monetary pay-off, but almost all are satisfied with the print-out.

If the last few years attest to anything, it is that much of what we consider permanent is not as sturdy as we view it. Stocks and companies crash, bailouts aren’t always the best choice, and the lap of luxury we’d all like to lay in may never be an actual option. Their is no secret remedy to dismissing the fear of losing it all because no matter how much we make, how much we spend, or how much we save – there is no guarantee that what have today will be there tomorrow. Though I find myself mature with my finances and for the most part, I always make smart decisions – I’ve discovered the key to managing money is learning that to get, you have to give. Not just in charitable donations (as you should) but by enjoying your life instead of preparing for what could come or what may be inevitable.

I’m not to the point of frivilous spending or unplanned trips to exotic places, but if I want that Kate Spade bag or a pair of shoes half-off at Bloomingdales, I remember I’ve worked this hard and treating myself won’t destroy my accounts. Even so, if you ask me about it, I’ll won’t reveal my purchase. I’m just not one to spend and tell.

I Could Have Been Cinderella

Once upon a Tuesday morning in Manhattan, I was greeted by the angry call of my alarm clock, demanding I rise earlier than any darling cares to do. Irritated that my sweet dreams in slumber town had been interrupted, I groggily tiptoed across the wood floor of my studio, and submerged in a steady stream of almost-too-hot water.

A stubbed toe and curse word later, I found myself riding the downtown train to the Southern part of the island I hardly visit. But when your job demands you arrive on Fulton Street in the wee hours of the A.M. to listen to bloggers and agents discuss the healthcare reform, you have no choice but to oblige. Maybe free coffee and breakfast help make the trip worth the long haul and the bright-and-early start time.

Like anyone who lives anywhere, I’ve found myself set into a routine of taking the same trains to the same places during the same hours of the day – with a few crazy weeks, here and there. And even if I don’t recognize the reoccurring faces, there is some sort of energy that remains static with repetition, or maybe I just get used to the route. Nevertheless, the trip to the business threshold of New York had far different inhabitants than the subway I usually take.

Mainly, there was a fresh plethora of beautiful men. And not just attractive, but ones without wedding bands. (A single gal has to look out for the married ladies, in case their man is tempted by her fruit, and she must remind him the only place his low-hangers are welcome.)

Though I noticed their Armani suits, Cartier watches, and Burberry briefcases, I was busily preparing for the event I was heading toward and had little-to-no-time to pull out The Look or place energy into smiling cleverly. And truth be told, since the start of this journey, I’ve relaxed a bit on the ogling and let the gentlemen (and the jerks) come my way, all by themselves. I mean, they are big boys, grown men, with jobs that triple (or more) my salary – surely they can approach a lady in a black mini blazer and pencil skirt. Right?

Yep, they sure can. Kind of anyways.

As I’m sitting, writing away, looking at notes, and planning what I could suggest to my publisher to add to the conversation, a guy of my type shifted in front of me. With a packed train, I watched his bag go right above my notebook and since it disturbed my flow, I quickly looked up to give the glare I never had until I moved to the city. But when I met his eyes, I let go of a little of the sleepiness-induced temper, and grinned. He did too. And he had dimples.

With only a few stops to go, I began to pack up, and kindly asked him to move over if he could at all in the crowded tiny cart. He obliged and replied, “Anything for you.” Catching on to his sarcasm, I thanked him and threw my bag over my shoulder. Not willing to put a move on him (as I would have six months ago), I waited for him to say something, since he obviously had an easy-in to a conversation with me.

“So where do you work?” He finally asked matter-of-factly. A little thrown off by his harshness, I let him know my position at the magazine, and the moment “editor” can out of my mouth – his face went from concerned and nervous, to smugly assured. “A writer, eh?” He said with a smirk as he cut his eyes across the train before looking back down at me. I nodded and shortly defended my job title – though I wasn’t sure why it was in question. “Well, I’m a senior vice president, at 30, at Blah Blah Blah Bank. When is your event over?” Confused by what my morning committment had anything to do with his job, I blankly said, “It ends at 11.”

Out of some sort of misguided and overly arrogant sense of self, he offered, “If you’re interested, I can have my secretary buzz you up and I can show you a good time you’d love to write about. ” Stunned he would have the nerve to make such a proposition to a woman he’s known a measly three minutes – not to mention, he didn’t even know I was a dating blogger, or my name, I dropped my jaw without even moving. Then the train stopped. I excused myself to get around him and confidently hurried away from him and up the stairway.

A few steps away from daylight and complete freedom from the businessman who thought he was more bad ass than what he really is  – I literally stepped right out of my high heel. I was in such a rush that it took three steps for me to stop, turn around, and realize I had actually lost one of my Jimmy’s. Flustered and fearing I would be late because I was so irritated with the dude – I went to reach for it and there he was.

Both of us seeing the undeniable irony of the moment, he smirked that annoying little smirk that for a split-second, seconds ago, I had been blinded by the accessorized dimples. As he was leaning to retrieve my shoe and probably go back to the office calling himself a prince, I snatched it up before he had a second to think. Placing it back on my hosed-foot, I sharply looked into his eyes and said, “No, really. That’s okay.”

Maybe I’ve stopped looking for happily ever after and perhaps I’m not even sure what “after’ indicates, anyways. But when given the opportunity to be banker’s princess, instead of being crowned worthy for an afternoon of delight, I would have rather talked healthcare for the rest of my career than dignify anything he said, jokingly or not, with any sort of recognition.

Walking to meet my boss and dive into a discussion that was surprisingly engaging, I thought about how many times I had imagined that exact moment. How many times during college I had been criticized (in the newsroom, go figure) for believing in fairytales. How at one point, my ringtone was sadly and embarrassingly “Someday My Prince Would Come.” How much I had wondered if, with my love for high heels, and a dreamy population of men who look like my image of a prince, I would indeed, have a completely idealistic interaction just like that.

And then when it happened, when I could have been Cinderella, I didn’t want this so-called Charming to come in on his white ride, or with his bulky bank account and sweep me away to a penthouse on Wall Street looking over the river. Instead, I’d rather steal his horse and make a run for it – once I made sure he gave my shoe back, that is.