Chapter 7: Life Behind Closed Bathroom Doors

“What is the meaning of life?” Mark asked last night.

“I don’t want to answer that question anymore.” I replied. 

“Why?”

“It’s so gasgas. [overused]. I think you have to be more original than that. It’s no different from asking ‘Nasaan ang CR’ [Where’s the bathroom].”

I actually think life could take a few cues from the bathroom.

Every time one steps into it, doing your business and  guilt-free relaxing is one and the same. 

Inside the bathroom, we rid ourselves of everything that is toxic; everything we can do without because it no longer has any good use for us. We come out feeling lighter; pleased by a smaller waistline and lesser baggage.

Emotions are welcome in the bathroom. You may not want to cry in public, but inside the shower, salty tears flow together with the sweet suds of your shea butter body wash. 

In the bathroom, everything is revealed: cellulite, glee, inner demons and a tight butt alongside an accurate measure of your vanity, quantified in rows of beauty creams and shampoo.

In the bathroom, you can be barefaced and naked, you can face the facts.

In the bathroom, you can get ready for a new day. 

– Punky

Published in: on March 21, 2010 at 5:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

Chapter 6: For Love and Money

I remember reading an article on Yahoo! a few years ago about the strong role that money plays in relationships as well as divorces. According to the writer, financial issues are a major cause for splits, whether it’s a case of the husband feeling insecure about his more successful wife or a lack of transparency when it comes to discussing family funds.

Dirty Money: During their very public divorce, Jon Gosselin accused ex-wife Kate of hiding their children's trust fund, while the latter accused her ex-husband of overspending on his new woman.

Dirty Money: During their very public divorce, Jon and Kate Gosselin fought hotly over hidden trust funds and excessive spending.

 

Even outside a marriage, money is not an easy topic to deal with. People have a difficult time accepting large amounts of money, usually accompanying the receipt of a check with a shy smile and a courteous “Ohh, I can’t accept this. You’re too generous. Thank you so much!” 

When I first started working, my superior informed me of my talent fee by writing it on a yellow post-it, which I accepted with a controlled grin. It was my first time to earn as a professional but I couldn’t show too much enthusiasm in a Starbucks branch full of people. Since then, there have been a few instances wherein a project manager placed bills in my palm as if we were secretly transacting drugs. Talent fees are discreetly distributed, especially when it’s given in cold cash, outside the safety of the accounting office.

As for money talks, these situations can easily result to agitation, nervousness and the occasional raised eyebrow as one awaits a delayed payment or browses through the bills, a proposed cost estimate (that is well outside budget) or even a wedding supplier’s unbelievable rates. The only people I know who are more comfortable and upfront about conversations on cash are finance officers, account executives and my mom. 

Devoid of restraint, sports agent, Jerry Maguire announces that he can show athlete, Rod Tidwell, the moneeeeeey!!

 

As an engaged person, money issues have begun to spring up–and it is not limited to wedding budgets.

I’m not the type of girlfriend who desires a boyfriend who constantly showers her with gifts of gold, beach vacations and expensive handbags. Even before getting together with Mark, I always felt that I should be liable for my own material vices; that women are not supposed to be dependent on their men for their hedonistic (read: fashion and beauty) cravings. 

However, after five years together, I feel a sudden surge of greed. While Mark has given me thoughtful birthday and Christmas gifts in the past including a slew of social science books–my preferred non-fiction reading–and even a Snare drum, I seem to have forgotten these gestures and started to demand for at least “one Balenciaga bag, pleeeeease!”

What happened to my independent woman ego? Is this the result of watching too much E! Forbes Top 100 Celebrity Cash Couples and marveling at the way Jay-Z bought Beyonce a large rock as an engagement ring? What resulted to this materialistic, if-you’re-a-man-shower-me-with-goodies thinking when it used to turn me off?

Save yourself for a rich man and you may never have to save another cent.

 

Money is a multifaceted, complex matter. In times of crisis, its arrival is a sweet sigh of relief. Too much cash harkens the green-eyed monster. Giving it away for free causes mass hysteria. Furthermore, it can make or break a relationship.

Money is instrumental in the power play among the sexes; and maybe a woman’s fantasies of receiving a souped-up Porsche Panamera (“It’s got four doors, hon. So it’s not just a useless sports car. We can drop off the kids with it!”) from her impossibly rich husband is a means of acquiring some of the other’s power. Maybe that’s why it’s so attractive. One may not earn as much as one’s spouse but she can still take advantage of his wealth in exchange for love and passion, which, if you’re the scheming, gold-digging type, can be easily feigned through fake orgasms and rehearsed sweet nothings. The bottom line is the barter.

Of course, a pre-nuptial agreement, joint bank account and other shared assets are other devices for guaranteeing some degree of power, now and in the future–especially if the future doesn’t look too rosy. Hmm, divorce can be good business in the technical sense. 

For some people, the marriage contract is not complete without the money talks that culminate in a pre-nuptial agreement. Photo credits: http://www.chicagomag.com

 

However the downside in this power play is the one who earns more is oftentimes awarded with the stronger voice. It’s easier to measure your authority with something tangible. The same goes for the the top tier of society, who is determined by their incomes. 

Moreover, you can’t doubt the ability of money to make people admire, envy or even suspect you. Monetary value may be the result of hard work, luck, a “trust fund baby” spouse, a generous dowry or the occasional shady business. However, net worth doesn’t always equate to having intelligence, charm, a very good soul or even, in the superficial sense, supermodel looks. These  characteristics do not co-exist all of the time, and when it does, consider yourself truly lucky. Thank God, there is justice in this world. 

However, because we are dignified individuals who are capable of seeing beyond hefty bank accounts and chiseled cheekbones, we choose partners with values that read like a grocery list of requirements for entering hitched heaven.

“My fiancee is not a rich man,” the enthusiastic bride may say. “But he’s an incredibly good guy! That ALONE is enough for me.” Phrases like these are in the same vein of “He’s not the hottest guy but he’s sweet and nice. And that’s what matters!”

Love or money? The late Anna Nicole Smith kisses her former husband, the late oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall, who was more than 60 years her senior.

 

But financial capability, either through a secure job or a trust fund is undoubtedly one of those things we also look for in a partner. Married life–like everything else–doesn’t come free. Hence, I’d like to think of money as something that need not compete with love. It’s never about love OR money. Love is the reason for being in a relationship. Money is a bare necessity.

Unfortunately, it’s always possible for the politics of money and the complexities of human sexuality to intertwine, complicating the social dynamic between husband and wife. However, this is the very challenge of a relationship. How do we deal with our finances without it affecting us emotionally? Maybe money is like casual sex in some way. It gives you an exhilarating feeling, like winning the coital lottery, but it’s only there to feed a primal need. 

I told Mark that our future financial health will not always be smooth-sailing. Almost every family I know has had to deal with an economic crunch at one time or the other–and it’s not exclusively based on social class. There are always factors outside the family unit that will affect its livelihood. When nature calls, large scale disaster affects the movement that makes an economy work. This was terribly illustrated by the Ondoy floods that hit the country last year. On a more global scale, we don’t even have to be finance majors to know that when the US economy crunches, the world follows. 

I believe that more than just a necessity for paying the bills and feeding the kids, money can be positively seen as a means of determining what our priorities in life are. 

Do you and your partner see face to face when it comes to your finances?

 

Are we content with a stable cash flow that will account for the usual payables–tuitions, mortgage, utilities? 

Do we utilize monetary power to help us voice out a genuine cause or a cunning scheme?

Can we live with ourselves, knowing our wealth is ill-gotten?

Do we desire a rich spouse to make us feel better about ourselves by taking advantage of his/her wealth to buy us some confidence?

Do we view excess funds as nice-to-haves rather than must-haves?

Yes, it would be nice if I could outdo my financial goals in life. However, my initial priority is to be comfortable and secure while my aspiration is to be strong enough for the cash-related challenges that will come our way. It pays to not only have a healthy bank account but to have a strong sense of principle; because principle will keep you grounded even amidst the worldly pleasures of life.

– Punky

Published in: on March 3, 2010 at 5:35 pm  Comments (2)  
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