Ex, money

The latest, lowdown methods of grifting from friends and relatives…

Well, here we are, folks… the last week before Christmas. I’m amazed by how quickly the year has flown by. I’ve probably helped a few retailers make their sales goals this year. Last night, our neighbor hosted an outdoor gathering in her driveway, passing out Gluhwein for people in our cul-de-sac. It was really fun, except Arran threw a fit because he’s become so averse to being separated from us, even if we’re just outside the house.

As we were enjoying hot mulled wine, I realized that I hate my five year old parka. I’d been toying with the idea of buying a new one, but the one I liked was very expensive. I bought my current parka from Eddie Bauer some years ago, when we still lived near Stuttgart, and I needed it more. I never bothered to replace it, because it doesn’t often get that cold up here. This past week has been an exception. So, after getting pretty cold last night, we said goodnight to our neighbors and went into our house, where I promptly ordered a new parka from Woolrich. Woolrich used to be an American company, but it got sold a few years ago. Now, most of its physical stores are in Europe, and the US only has a few. I found a coat that, for me, was very expensive, but wasn’t anywhere near the most expensive parka on the site.

I felt a slight twinge as I put in my order, as it wasn’t so long ago that we were climbing out of what seemed to be insurmountable debt. But then I realized that I currently have plenty of money to pay the credit card bill. In fact, even if I’d chosen the most expensive parka on the site, I’d have more than enough money to pay for it. And it’s time I got a new coat. Bill really needs one, too. Maybe after Christmas, he’ll pull the trigger. I think he’s been wearing his coat for about ten years.

We’re still feeling the effects of having once been “poor”. When Bill and I first got married, we had little money. He was recovering from divorcing Ex, and the horrifying financial situations that resulted from that marriage. I was just out of graduate school, for which I’d taken out federal student loans. We both also had credit card debt, and Bill had child support to pay. Thankfully, our cars were mostly paid for. Still, there were months when we had just a few dollars in the bank before payday. I remember when Bill used to freak out when we’d spend $100 at the grocery store. And now, he doesn’t bat an eye when I spend $900 on a new coat.

Bill and I have worked very hard and diligently to secure our finances. From 2007 until 2014, we gradually chipped away from our debts. Then we moved to Germany, lived in a relatively inexpensive house, and Bill started getting military retirement pay, along with a salary. We knocked out our debts as quickly as possible. When we moved to Germany, I still owed about $40,000 on my student loans (originally about $57,000 for all three degrees), in spite of paying more than the minimum for years. But for the four years we lived in Stuttgart, we kept throwing money at that debt until it was finally gone, nine years ahead of time. I was shocked we were able to do that. I certainly wasn’t expecting it when we moved here.

We both know that the future is uncertain, and even though we’re now in a good place, there could be “rainy days” ahead. So I squirrel away money every month, and make a concerted effort to pay off debt as soon as possible. It’s a GREAT feeling to no longer owe anyone… especially Nelnet, the student loan servicer that bought my loans just a few months before I finished paying them off.

Yesterday, it became very obvious, yet again, that I am very different from Ex. I have an eye toward the future. Ex, on the other hand, lives in the present. And while I’m not sure exactly what is going on with her right now, I strongly suspect that she’s about to be a “free agent” again. Why do I suspect this? First off, she’s been making comments about her marriage on Twitter. She’s tweeted a couple of quips to the actors on The Outlander on how their characters’ examples could “save” her marriage. Secondly, she approached Bill’s stepmother for financial help, asked her to give her items that she might want to “pass down”, and even suggested that she move in with her in New Hampshire. We know that Ex has “hosted” other seniors in her house– her late mother (whom she apparently despised) and #3’s mother have both lived with her. Bill’s stepmom owns a home and has retirement income. Ex would no doubt love to get her hands on that money/equity. And now, something new has come to light…

Yesterday, Bill heard from his younger daughter, who told him that older daughter has now enrolled in graduate school. Older daughter is 31 years old and still lives with Ex. She doesn’t have a job, but spends her time taking care of her severely autistic younger brother. Ex doesn’t have a job, either, and in a recent crowdfunding plea, mentioned that she lives in a “one paycheck” household. It’s no doubt earned by #3, who gets paid by the hour.

Now… I happen to know that student loans can be a temporary lifesaver in terms of living expenses. When I was a graduate student, I got federal loans. I was also a graduate assistant for all but one semester of my time in school. Being a G.A. drastically knocked my tuition costs down, which allowed me to pay rent and other bills with my loans. I also had a part time job, and got paid a very small stipend for being a G.A. It was a Godsend to have that assistantship. If I hadn’t had it, I don’t know how I would have survived, since I was an out of state student. I probably would have had to become a South Carolina resident. I also would have needed private loans.

Older daughter went to a private college for her bachelor’s degree. Younger daughter has told us that both she and older daughter went to college, and Ex would siphon the extra money from their student loans into the household… and her many impulses to buy junk on the Internet, food that would rot in the fridge, or anything else that struck her fancy and might “fill the void”. Younger daughter eventually dropped out of college and paid back her loans. Older daughter, on the other hand, seems to be following her mother’s lead.

The program older daughter is pursuing actually sounds very interesting. I don’t know how employable she’ll be at the end of it, or even if she intends to find employment. Ex supposedly got a graduate degree, but she doesn’t use it. She has claimed that her loans have been “paid off”. My guess is that she used money from her children’s loans to take care of that debt, if, in fact, she’s being truthful about paying off her loans. We also happen to know that Ex doesn’t have a great record of paying off debts. She has declared bankruptcy more than once.

Last night, Bill looked up the program older daughter is studying. We don’t know which school she’s attending, but the one closest to where she lives is at a private university, takes about three years to complete, and costs about $75,000 (total, not per year). But it does offer a “low residency” option, which means she can do a lot of it online, which will suit Ex just fine. Ex doesn’t care if older daughter actually finishes the degree, after all. She just wants the influx of loan money to keep her going. And she definitely needs older daughter around to take care of Ex’s son… and do the housework. Younger daughter has said that her older sister struggles in school. She has dyslexia, doesn’t drive much, and has other challenges that make school difficult for her. So there’s a good chance that this stab at higher education may do nothing more than plunge her further into debt.

Now… none of this is any of my business. And, for all I know, this could turn out to be a great thing for older daughter. Maybe she’ll meet someone special in school… either a love interest, or a mentor who can help her escape Ex’s clutches. Maybe she’ll succeed beyond her wildest dreams. She legitimately is a very talented artist, and this graduate program would use those talents. But… I have my doubts about this plan, and since I’m not LDS, I don’t subscribe to the “doubt your doubts” mindset. Common sense is telling me that this graduate school plan is likely going to explode in their faces. Or, it will not be so good for older daughter, anyway… since the loans it will take to pay for school will be in her name, not Ex’s. Student loans, by and large, can’t be discharged in a bankruptcy.

I was fortunate in that all of my loans were Stafford or Perkins. When I got out of school in 2002, I took advantage of a very low fixed interest rate of about 3% and consolidated all of my loans at that rate. I see that currently, Stafford loans for graduate students is at 6.54%. I’m pretty sure older daughter still has loans to repay, although COVID has stalled payments and Joe Biden has been trying to give students a break. She wouldn’t have to pay on any government loans when she’s in school, although I have no idea if she took out any private loans to fund her undergrad education. I know from personal experience that even with a low interest rate, paying back big loans is onerous. And even if she just gets government loans, it’s going to be hard to retire that debt.

Now that I think about it… I kind of wonder if Ex has taken out life insurance on anyone in her sphere… Seriously, I wouldn’t put it past her. Well, it’s not my problem. But it’s sure sad to observe. I hope it works out for older daughter. And I wish Ex would get the karma she so richly deserves.

Standard
communication, condescending twatbags, Ex, narcissists, Twitter

“More! I want MORE!” The tragedy of wanting everything NOW…

Like my title? It was inspired by Police Academy. I was thinking about the scene in that 1984 film, when all the hapless new police academy recruits are doing physical training, and the busty blonde Callahan is counting sit ups as she wails, “More! I want MORE!” The cadets all groan in unison as they heave their bodies on the upward count, another painful sit up done. I probably should have rethought that, though… Given today’s topic, maybe Veruca Salt would be a better inspiration for a title. It’s too late to change the title, though.

Some people are never satisfied with what they have…

This morning at about 3:00, Arran woke up and wanted to be fed. I think the combination of taking Prednisolone and being a beagle mix has made him ravenous and insatiable. He’s eager for his meals, and he’s eager to help us eat our meals. Although it’s obvious to us that he’s feeling a lot better than he was a month ago, I wonder if it’s a special kind of torture for him to always want to eat. But then he jumps up on the bed and snuggles with us, begs for a walk, and kisses me. Of course, I came to the rather sick realization yesterday, that one of the reasons he was licking me was because it happens to be my special time of the month. To a beagle mix, I probably smell like a rare steak right now. Sorry… I know that’s gross, but it’s probably the truth.

This theme of excess and never being satisfied with what one has is on my mind again today. Last year, I reposted an article I wrote about the Duggar family back in 2012. At the time, they were still talking about having more babies, and I wondered why they couldn’t just enjoy what they had. I mean, 19 children is quite a quiver full, right? They’ve done their part to repopulate the world with Republicans. Why not just enjoy the children and grandchildren, instead of trying to have more? In that post, I remembered how, when I was a small child, I would ask my mom for more food when I hadn’t finished what was on my plate. My mom, being ever the grouch, would say “Why don’t you eat what you’ve got?” Then I would try to enjoy what I had, and that would frequently be enough for me.

As I listened to Mrs. Duggar talk about “gifts from God” coming in the form of more children, I began to think she was sounding very unsatisfied. If I were to follow her reasoning about wanting more children, I would think she was pretty ungrateful to God, who had already “blessed” her with 19 precious “gifts”. Why not enjoy those children, most of whom were still under 18 at the time, instead of begging for more? More gifts that, by the way, she wouldn’t be taking care of… because we all know the daughters raise the Duggar children. But, thankfully, Mrs. Duggar’s womb finally cried “uncle”, and she’s now done birthing babies. Hopefully, she’s enjoying being a grandmother, because it appears that the “gifts from God” are no long forthcoming from her womb.

According to Twitter, Ex, like Mrs. Duggar, is unsatisfied with what she has. There she is, a woman who supposedly has so much, if you go by her tweets on Twitter. She still seems to think she is entitled to more than what she has. This is how she describes herself on Twitter.

Mom: 5+2 amazing people, 3 autistic, 1 nonverbal, 5 grands! Autism advocate, writer, seaglass lover & fibro warrior! I VOTE; you?

But then she has this very idealized view of what love should be. And even though she is a mother of five and a grandmother, she feels the need to promote an image on social media, interacting with strangers instead of tending to her own family. They apparently aren’t enough for her, if I’m to assess her latest comments. Lately, she’s been going off about student loans. I saw that she recently commented that she no longer owes them. But I also know that she made her daughters take out loans and used the extra money on herself. Then she posts this:

Me: M.Ed. Specializing in Educational Leadership with years of experience working in global higher ed and k-12 special education, about to embark on a PhD. You: ? I do not consider myself above others; rather, I’m grateful for the “Liberation of an Education”©, which all deserve.

Ex dropped out of high school and got a GED, then took about twenty years to finish a bachelor’s degree, which she finally did seemingly because, years ago, I wrote an email to her. I pointed out that she lacked the education and experience to diagnose my husband with mental health issues, which she had been doing for too long. Next thing we knew, she was back in college, then supposedly getting a master’s degree, which we’ve been told she doesn’t use professionally. Even back then, she was talking about going for a doctorate someday, but if you know the truth about her, it doesn’t seem feasible. Now… she DID work for a university, but not in any high level capacity. We were told she was released from that position for doing something “inappropriate” with funds. So, I think the above statement is a liberal stretch of the truth. Yes, she has worked in “higher education”, but it was as a glorified clerk. And yes, she has experience with special ed, but it’s only because she has a son with autism and has done some volunteer work with local organizations.

It’s not that I think Ex is dumb. She isn’t. There’s nothing wrong with her intellect, and if she put her mind to it, maybe she could earn a doctorate, although it probably wouldn’t come from a top school. However, doing that would mean several years of sacrifice, paying lots of money, and submitting to peer review, which I know would be very difficult for her. Then, what would she do with that degree? Does she want to teach or do research? Or is she just after a few initials after her name that she can flaunt on Twitter, or whatever follows it when it inevitably collapses? Isn’t there a smarter way to get that regard she’s obviously seeking? One that doesn’t involve years of study, high tuition bills, and more debt?

One thing I learned when I was in my graduate program– which was full time and took three solid years– is that I am capable of getting a doctorate if I want one. I took many classes with people who were either doctoral candidates or already had terminal degrees. They were my peers. For me, the knowledge that I’m smart enough, and capable of higher education, is sufficient. I’m satisfied. Graduate school, in my case, was in some ways a waste of time and money, because I don’t use the degrees in the way I expected to. In other ways, the time and money were very well spent, if only because I proved to myself that I could do it, and I learned skills and knowledge that are applicable in everyday life.

But I know I don’t need to earn a Ph.D. I’m fifty fucking years old, and I have nothing to prove. I also realize that I don’t have talents for either science or business (public health), nor do I particularly want to work with people (social work), nor do I want to analyze literature (English). So pursuing a Ph.D. would be a true waste of time for me. It would simply be for vanity’s sake, and people in the military community already dislike me enough for being an “uppity liberal woman.” (I’m sort of kidding… because at this point, I don’t care what people in the military think of me.)

Ex seems to think that having a doctorate will make her a more lovable, interesting, important person. I think that if she did get a Ph.D., she would become more insufferable, obnoxious, and arrogant. See this related tweet:

You cannot degrade the value of higher education, that implies exactly what I referred to… privilege, value, social standing! Every human being has their own capacity for learning; education should be based on ability to succeed rather than one’s ability to pay for it. 1/2

This woman denied her three eldest children the typical high school experience. All three of them dropped out and got GEDs, like her. Her eldest got a degree from the university where she was working before she was fired. Older daughter got a degree from a very expensive private art college, which she no doubt had to get huge loans to fund. Younger daughter didn’t finish college, but had to pay back loans she got at her mother’s behest. I don’t know about #3’s kids. I think their daughter is in college. Ex has made many comments about her desire for her daughter with #3 to study acting… as she apparently also hoped for former stepson and younger daughter. I think she has a dream that one of them will be rich and famous, so she can ride their coattails. She doesn’t seem to realize that a career as an actor, particularly a famous one, is fraught with pitfalls. One only has to read Jennette McCurdy’s recent book to understand that reality. But, on the other hand, her kids are at least used to being around narcissists, because they have apparently been raised by one.

Even though she seems to hope her children will someday be rich and famous, Ex is presuming to be an expert on education, a field where making a lot of money isn’t really a thing for most. And Ex is not a teacher. Younger daughter has told us that she was frequently told to “figure it out”, when she needed to know something. Her mother, who is trying to make people believe that she’s this benevolent, open-minded, intelligent person, denied her and her siblings the right to normal childhoods.

This next bit is truly ridiculous, as my husband still has an aversion to any kind of boxed convenience foods, thanks to his years of living with Ex… I don’t see her growing her own food. She doesn’t cook or clean; those duties were fobbed off on Bill’s daughters, whom she never even bothered to teach any skills. They had to figure it all out for themselves.

Sad that our governments [she is referring to the UK’s government] have utterly lost their minds. I want to immigrate to Scotland, don’t mind being poor and having to grow the majority of my food! I’m poor here… everyone is poor here because of policy. Everyone except that damnable 1%… we all live in debt to survive.

I would like to tell Ex that when Bill and I met, we were both broke and heavily in debt. I had student loans, a car loan, and credit card debt. He had child support, credit card debt, a car loan, and recovery from a bankruptcy and foreclosure he went through with Ex. When we met, Bill’s credit rating was in the 400s. Now, it’s in the upper 700s. Today, I have no credit card debt, no student loan debt, and no car loan debt. Bill owes some on our Volvo, and his credit card. If he needed to, he could pay off his debts today. It took years for us to get to this point, but we’re now here. And we’re going to stay here for as long as we can, barring any catastrophes.

Yes, it IS possible to live with low debt loads, as long as you don’t have chronic medical problems. You simply have to make managing and controlling debt a priority, do some planning, make smart choices, and practice some discipline. We’re not in the “damnable 1 percent”. We aren’t rich, but we’re pretty comfortable. We work together as partners, and are committed to not be drowning in debt. Consequently, we have been able to enjoy a lot of the things Ex claims she covets. And no, we don’t live in debt to survive, although we used to do that. We made changes so we don’t have to do that anymore. We also don’t have kids, largely thanks to her. Kids are expensive. She has five of them, and one will probably never be able to live on his own. Imagine where she could be if she’d simply been satisfied with what she had twenty years ago and set a few goals, instead of wanting and trying to have it all. Maybe she could have even had it all at some point… just not all at one time.

This could be Ex’s theme song. It’s a great song, and maybe inspirational to some. But if you focus on having it all, you miss out on enjoying what you already have.

I get the impression that Ex lives as if she will die tomorrow. So, instead of taking things as they come, she wants everything NOW. And she wants us to believe that she is worthy of having it all, when the truth is, none of us can have everything. Even super wealthy people typically lack other things in their lives, like stable relationships with mentally healthy people who aren’t trying to use them for their money or influence. Like, Donald Trump supposedly has a lot of money and power, but he still wants more, doesn’t he? He’s not satisfied with being married to an ex model, owning hotels and golf courses around the world, or even being a former US president. And yet, he continually wants more. Ex is not that unlike him, is she?

Anyway, I think we can add this Ph.D. ambition to Ex’s long list of desires for her life… like a fence for her house, a therapy dog, a trip to Scotland, unlimited wealth, unconditional love from her husband and kids (which really doesn’t exist, unless you’re a dog), and an idyllic house that looks like one she saw in a snow globe. 😉 Nothing to see here. It’s just another typical day in paradise for a garden variety narcissist.

Queen’s lyrics to “I Want it All”…

Adventure seeker on an empty street
Just an alley creeper, light on his feet
A young fighter screaming, with no time for doubt
With the pain and anger can’t see a way out
It ain’t much I’m asking, I heard him say
Gotta find me a future move out of my way
I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now
I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now

Listen all you people, come gather round
I gotta get me a game plan, gotta shake you to the ground
But just give me, huh, what I know is mine
People do you hear me, just gimme the sign
It ain’t much I’m asking, if you want the truth
Here’s to the future for the dreams of youth

I want it all (give it all I want it all)
I want it all (yeah)
I want it all and I want it now

I want it all (yes I want it all)
I want it all hey
I want it all and I want it now

I’m a man with a one track mind
So much to do in one lifetime (people do you hear me)
Not a man for compromise and where’s and why’s and living lies
So I’m living it all, yes I’m living it all
And I’m giving it all, and I’m giving it all
Oh oh yeah yeah ha ha ha ha ha
Yeah yeah yeah yeah
I want it all

It ain’t much I’m asking, if you want the truth
Here’s to the future
Hear the cry of youth (hear the cry of youth) (hear the cry of youth)
I want it all, I want it all, I want it all and I want it now

I want it all yeah yeah yeah
I want it all, I want it all and I want it now
Oh oh oh oh oh

And I want it (now)
I want it, I want it
Oh ha

Songwriters: Brian May / Freddie Mercury / John Deacon / Roger Taylor

Standard
complaints, poor judgment, psychology

She’s down with O.P.M.!

“Wah! Why won’t my boyfriend’s parents financially support me?”

Okay… so you should already know that I don’t have a boyfriend. I am happily married to Mr. Bill, who already supports my unemployed ass without complaint. Today’s blog post title comes from therapist Lori Gottlieb’s column in The Atlantic. The powers that be at The Atlantic decided to rerun one of Lori’s posts on Facebook this morning. I happened to read it before my eyes were fully opened after this morning’s nightmare, which involved Bill bringing home a bag of snakes. I ended up killing two of them with my bare hands! Naturally, that was traumatizing. Thank God it was just a bad dream. Bill has already tried to interpret it, though. He’s very Jungian that way.

A little old school mood music for this post… although O.P.P. is not quite the same thing as O.P.M. is…

Anyway, the post I read in Lori Gottlieb’s column this morning was originally published on December 24, 2018. A woman named Zoe, writing from Edinburgh, Scotland, writes that she’s involved in a long distance relationship with a man who has a twin brother.

Zoe’s boyfriend, whom she’s been dating for five years, but isn’t yet ready to marry (as of 2018, anyway), has a doctorate from a “top” university. He has a job and is “doing right” in life. The boyfriend’s brother, on the other hand, is apparently aimless and shiftless. He doesn’t have a degree, and has bounced from college to college. He moved to Florida, married an “older” woman (horrors!), and now has a baby girl with his wife (double horrors!).

Zoe’s issue is that the twin brothers’ very wealthy parents are “lavishing” money on the “aimless” twin, his wife, and their baby. But Zoe, as the long suffering “girlfriend” of the more established twin, is “out in the cold”. She is, herself, in a doctoral program and claims she will not be ready for marriage or child bearing for some time. And she feels it’s unfair that her boyfriend’s rich parents aren’t sharing their piece of the pie with her.

In other words, Zoe’s down with O.P.M. (other people’s money), and they aren’t getting with the program by sharing the wealth with her. She clearly feels like she has her shit together and is worthy of some renumeration from the boyfriend’s rich parents for being the girlfriend of the “good” twin, who also apparently has his shit together… except for the fact that he has terrible taste in girlfriends.

Perhaps mitigating what sounds like an outrageous attitude of entitlement to me, is the fact that Zoe’s family of origin has been “torn apart” because Zoe’s Granny didn’t share her money equitably with her children. And now, people in Zoe’s family all resent each other. She makes it sound like she’s worried for the twin brothers and their relationship, rather than just feeling greedy and entitled to O.P.M.– that is, other people’s money.

Zoe’s boyfriend has told her that she needs to zip it about this issue, since “the financial matters should be between him, his brother, and his parents.”

But Zoe, who has been dating the guy for five years but “isn’t ready” to put a ring on it, says “… if we are planning to spend our lives together, shouldn’t I also be able to voice an opinion on these things?” Uh huh… she’s definitely down with O.P.M.

Zoe writes that she would be “grateful” for any advice, since she’s so upset and jealous that she can barely think. And that is sure to be having a deleterious effect on her studies in her “doctoral” program, which is very important to her. Not that there’s anything wrong with being committed to higher education and finishing what one starts, of course.

Okay… well, I was glad to see that Lori Gottlieb rather gently and constructively pointed out what is blindingly obvious to all but the most obtuse of us. Zoe’s boyfriend’s parents are entitled to spend their money as they see fit. It’s their money. What the potential parents-in-law do with their money is none of Zoe’s goddamned business, especially when she has no legal ties to their family. But even if she and twin doctoral guy were married, it would still be O.P.M., and none of her business how the in-laws spend their dough. It’s their money!

I can’t believe that someone who is supposedly smart enough to be pursuing a doctoral degree doesn’t understand this basic fact. I wonder how Zoe would feel if, years from now, she’s made a nice living for herself and has a pile of money saved. And then some person dating one of her hypothetical offspring has an “issue” with how she doles out her largesse. There’s no legal requirement for parents to give their adult children any help whatsoever, financial or otherwise. Certainly the girlfriend isn’t entitled to anything from her boyfriend’s parents. If they choose to give her anything, she should be extremely happy about it and STFU. If they choose not to give it to her, she should also STFU. Access to their money is not her right, even if she and their son have been dating forever.

Maybe it’s just me, since I don’t expect much of an inheritance myself. My parents didn’t inherit anything but furniture and an old car from my mom’s dad, when he passed in 1979. When my Granny died in 2007, I don’t remember my dad, who was then 74 years old, getting anything from her estate. My mom has been living in a really beautiful senior assisted living apartment since 2009. It’s not a cheap place to stay. I don’t expect much of anything from her estate, when she dies. I’m just thankful that she’s still able to take care of herself, financially and otherwise.

My mom was pretty smart, as she gave me and my sisters special heirlooms as we were growing up. But I can’t imagine having the nerve to tell my mom, who is feisty, opinionated, and brooks no nonsense, that she needs to “share the wealth” with me. My mom hasn’t been the most demonstrative mother in the world, but she and my dad were always financially generous when they could be, and my mom, in particular, helped me a lot when I needed it. I’m simply grateful for that. As for my in-laws, I certainly wouldn’t have dreamed of expecting either of Bill’s parents or his stepmother to give me a dime, especially when we were just dating.

That being said… having been through graduate school myself, I understand how financially stressful it can be. I lived on the proceeds of student loans and part time jobs– a graduate assistantship that paid $10 an hour and had limited hours I could work, and a job waiting tables at a country club with very occasional tips (but free food and a pretty decent hourly wage). I remember some stressful times during those three years, and I worried a lot about how things would be paid for. I was blessed in a number of ways when I was in school, though I sure wouldn’t want to repeat those lean years. Still, I handled my own business back then. I didn’t start mooching off of Bill until we were married and I started putting out.

Actually, given the financial havoc wreaked on him by his ex wife, I feel lucky that Bill trusts me and shares access to his good fortune with me, at all. It did take a few years after we married before he did start trusting me, and that was because he went to war in Iraq and I had to handle the bills. Since then, I have repaid his trust by investing some of his money. At this writing, the money I’ve invested on his behalf is about equal to what he paid for my education– we’re even about $10,000 ahead. It’s his money, though, and I’m grateful that he shares it with me, even as he insists that he considers his earnings “our money”. And I sure didn’t expect him to share it when we were dating, especially after what he’d already been through in his first marriage.

I guess I can kinda see why it’s distressing for Zoe to have a long-term, but unofficial, relationship with her boyfriend and feel jealous that his twin brother married an “older” (HORRORS!) woman who is getting so much financial help from the parents. But if she’s expecting the same level of generosity as the twin brother and his wife are getting, she will probably have to make the relationship official by way of marriage, at the very least. Even then, there’s absolutely neither a guarantee nor a requirement for her boyfriend’s parents to give either of them any cash. It’s entirely up to the boyfriend’s parents how they spend their money. And I’m not even sure, based on Zoe’s letter, that the boyfriend even wants to marry her. Maybe he’s smarter than we realize.

Zoe would do well to figure out how to make her own money, if it’s that important to her. If she marries her boyfriend, they can decide together how money matters will be handled. Even then, his parents shouldn’t be a part of the equation or expectation for support. If they do decide to contribute, Zoe should simply be grateful and zip it, other than to say “Thank you” to the in-laws for anything they do for her.

Frankly, I think Zoe ought to consider breaking up with her boyfriend, if this problem is really that upsetting for her. Or, really, I think her boyfriend, who sounds a lot wiser and more sensitive than she is, should consider breaking up with Zoe. She sounds like an insensitive clod. At the very least, I think Zoe should have an empathy check and, perhaps, put herself in her boyfriend’s shoes. I’m sure it’s embarrassing and irritating to him that his girlfriend is creating an issue over how his parents spend their money. He’s obviously a smart man, with a doctorate from a “top” university. He could probably do better. And then Zoe can quit obsessing over other people’s money (O.P.M.) and focus on building her career, which is obviously more of a priority for her right now (or at least in 2018) than family matters are.

You’d think someone smart enough to earn a doctorate would know better, right? But there are plenty of people with Ph.D.s who are down with O.P.M. 😉

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Bill, nostalgia

Big proposals, and the big picture…

Last night, as we were enjoying German Father’s Day and Asuncion Day, as well as the sublime weather we’ve been having lately, I was reminded of a woman I used to know in Armenia. She is American and was in the group who came to Armenia before ours did.

I didn’t actually know her very well. I remember she was from Illinois, as a lot of people who were in the Peace Corps during that time seemed to be. She had trained to be a teacher, and helped during our “TEFL” training. TEFL, for those who don’t know, stands for “teaching English as a foreign language”. I was kind of glad they called it TEFL as opposed to TESL, which is the older term, “teaching English as a second language”. In Armenia, that wouldn’t have been accurate. Almost every Armenian, especially in those days, also spoke Russian. So English would have been at least their third language.

Anyway, last night I remembered this woman, I’ll call her Tracey, but that’s not her real name, was very driven and accomplished. She once did a really cool presentation on teaching Armenian kids critical thinking skills. I remember being so impressed by the lesson and excited by things I might get to do when I became a teacher myself. Of course, in my case, the reality of the difficulty of trying to teach in an Armenian school overcame my ambitions. I’ll also admit that I probably didn’t try as hard as I could have. Teaching was never one of my passions.

Besides being smart, driven, and accomplished, Tracey was also very pretty. She dated an equally handsome guy who had come to Armenia with her in their group. This handsome guy, I’ll call Al, had written a funny open letter to all of the new Volunteers in my group. I remember sitting at home in Gloucester, Virginia, reading all of the letters the “A2s” had written. They were all about the challenges that awaited us in Armenia. Some of it was shocking. There were a few letters that issued warnings. I specifically remember one letter warned vegetarians to stay away, because vegetarianism wasn’t a “thing” in Armenia. Another warned alcoholics that the drinking culture was strong in Armenia. While I agree that alcoholics may have trouble in Armenia, I disagree that it would be hard to be a vegetarian there. In fact, I knew several vegetarians in my group. Armenia has really beautiful produce.

But I remember that Al’s letter was especially entertaining… He wrote about “breaking in” his overprotective host mom. If I recall correctly, that woman also hosted a guy from my group. He still keeps in touch with her, but I doubt Al does. Al was handsome and charming. He played a twelve string guitar. He was popular with the ladies, and knew it.

One night, a Peace Corps friend and I were sitting at a bar and Al came in, looking roguishly handsome. He approached the two of us, bought us a round, and struck up a conversation. My friend was warming to him, but I kind of stayed aloof. There was something about him that I just didn’t trust. He was a very good looking man, and I had come to distrust guys like him. I found that they were usually glib and insincere. I wondered why he’d want to talk to someone like me.

Al noticed that I wasn’t reacting to him like my friend was. He was bold enough to address it. I don’t remember how he approached it… he may have just asked me what was wrong. I do distinctly remember that he said I was “standoffish”. I’m not usually standoffish to people, so that was an interesting and probably accurate description. I just didn’t trust him. He said the right things and was very good looking, but there was something about him that didn’t ring true. I felt like by talking to me, he felt like he was “slumming” or something– doing me a favor by noticing me. I hasten to add that I might have been wrong in my perception. That was just how it felt to me at the time. It was like he was offended that I wasn’t reacting to him in the way he felt I should, and he had the nerve to call me on it.

I never did get to know Al very well, because he quickly found a job in Armenia and didn’t actually finish his Peace Corps assignment. But he still dated Tracey, and they were kind of the “it couple” from the A2 group. They, and all of the other, popular crew in the Peace Corps, used to get together on the weekends in Yerevan and party with the second in charge at the U.S. Embassy. I think I was invited and actually went to one of the parties the “DCM” (deputy chief of mission) threw, but as I wasn’t “popular”, I didn’t feel comfortable going to them and hanging out with the “in crowd”. They weren’t mean to me or anything, but no one wants to feel like a fifth wheel. Those parties were awkward for a “nobody” like me.

One night, sometime during my first year in Armenia and Tracey’s second, there was a big party in the city of Vanadzor (formerly known as Kirovakan in Soviet times). I had come up from Yerevan, which was where I was posted and the capital of Armenia, to go to this party. I don’t remember if there was another reason I was there… There probably was. Maybe we had some official or unofficial event there, because I remember a whole lot of other Volunteers had also come up that weekend.

Vanadzor was home to an Armenian band called Snack. One of the other A2 volunteers was also in the band. They would play at parties, and in fact, somewhere in storage, I have a cassette of their music. I remember some of the songs, which were kind of charming in their simplicity and sense of fun. If I recall correctly, most of the songs were originals. Snack was playing at this party, and many people were having a great time, dancing and drinking. I probably have pictures from that party, but they’re in storage.

Unfortunately, I have never been very good at parties. I was especially bad at them in the 90s. I remember an Armenian guy at that particular party calling me fat in Armenian, which really upset me. People in Armenia called me fat all the time, and I was… but back then, I struggled with eating disorders, so every time I was confronted by those comments, they were kind of shattering. One of my colleagues and friends defended me, which I appreciated. It was still pretty embarrassing, though.

Right after the fat shaming episode, I decided to go to the bathroom, an adventure in and of itself in Armenia back in those days. You never knew if you’d have power or running water. I opened the unlocked door, and there was Al, on the toilet. He was rip roaring drunk. He looked up at me, grinning, eyes glazed by alcohol, and laughed. He said, “Oh, excccuuuusse me…”

I backed away and slammed the door. Next thing I knew, the party had gone silent. Al, who was still very drunk, was making a speech, and everyone had shut up so he could speak. He was telling Tracey how much he loved and admired her. Her eyes were dewy with emotion as she stood there, starstruck as her drunk boyfriend proposed marriage! I distinctly remember hearing him say, slurring his words, “I wanted to ask ‘Tracey’ if she’d be my wife.”

And I remember her overwhelmed response…. “Of course!” They embraced, everybody cheered, and the party kicked back up into full swing.

Sometime later, I remember hearing Al talking to someone about their mutual career prospects, once Tracey finished her service. He talked of them moving to Africa, embarking on global careers. He said she planned to study public health, and “Africa would be wide open” for her. I knew this to be true, since my own sister, who was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco back in the 1980s, also works in public health. And, like Tracey, she is very driven and accomplished, and she has a Ph.D in public health.

Tracey and Al invited ALL of the Peace Corps Armenia Volunteers to their wedding, which took place in Illinois. I couldn’t attend, of course, and wouldn’t have gone even if it had been convenient. I didn’t know them that well, and as fond as I am of drinking alcoholic beverages, I wasn’t all that impressed by Al’s drunken marriage proposal. I had a feeling their marriage might not succeed. I’m not completely sure, but I think they did eventually get divorced not too many years after their wedding.

I looked up Tracey last night. I wasn’t surprised to see that she has a doctorate in public health from a very good school. And, like me, she has master’s degrees in social work and public health, although she got hers from a more prestigious school than where I got mine. She is now the director of a MPH program at a private university. She’s still very attractive, and probably would love talking to my sister, who is the big achiever in my immediate family. They have a lot in common, including attending the same school of public health, although Tracey went there for both of her master’s degrees and my sister went there for her Ph.D.

Besides being a “doc”, my eldest sister was a ballerina who finished high school early so she could attend the Royal Ballet School in London. She moved herself to Virginia from England and went to William & Mary, then went to Morocco for two years with the Peace Corps. She has a Moroccan friend I have never met who friended me on Facebook. He still remembers her with great affection… he met my parents and recently wrote a touching story about my dad and a guide who was trying to rip him off. I have never met her friend in person, but if I ever went to Morocco, I feel sure he’d show me around. It’s really something when someone who knew you in the 80s is still so attached in 2020.

My sister went on to earn a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University, and then got a Ph.D. from Chapel Hill. She speaks several languages, has two great grown kids, and a long, successful marriage. I look up to her, but have always felt like I kind of fell short.

Last night, I was telling Bill about all this, thinking about how my life has turned out. Looking objectively at my life, I don’t think I have anything to be ashamed of, really. There are many people out there who are much bigger losers than I am. At least I’m not sitting in prison. But the truth is, I do feel ashamed a lot of the time, because I feel like I should be doing more… It’s hard not to compare your life to other people’s lives. There are a lot of accomplished people in my life who, at least on the outside, appear to be big winners at life. Some people might look at me and think I’ve done a lot, but I feel like a lot of other people think of me as insignificant. What they think of me isn’t my business, but it’s still hard not to compare… or to wonder if they think I’m as big of a failure as I sometimes feel like I am, but objectively realize I’m really not.

For many years after my time in Armenia, I felt like I hadn’t done much. That sentiment changed somewhat a few years ago, when I spied my very first Armenian teacher on Facebook. I sent her a message and we caught up a bit. I was in this lady’s very first Armenian language class, ever. We had three teachers over that twelve week training period, and Armine was my first. And that was her first year as a Peace Corps language teacher, way back in 1995. Armine now runs the language program for Peace Corps Armenia.

Right after we friended each other, I got a private message. It was from a guy, who rather shyly asked me if I remembered him. He’d been one of my students at that school where I felt like I’d done nothing of consequence. Now, he’s a program director for Peace Corps Armenia. I doubt I had anything to do with his ultimate success. He spoke English very well when I met him, and that was when he was about 16 years old. I think he went on to get a doctorate, too. But he remembers me, and I didn’t turn him off of the American people. I guess, in a way, he’s sort of my Armenian version of my sister’s Moroccan friend. I know I made a difference to at least one person, anyway. And I probably made a difference to at least several more people, and probably even more than that.

Maybe I wasn’t as accomplished as I felt I should have been, but I did accomplish something. It’s been really fun to get to know him now. I kind of wonder what he must think, having known me when I was in my 20s and, if I’m honest, a lot simpler and less mature than I am today. Looking back on it, it’s a wonder I succeeded in spending two years in Armenia. A lot of people spend their young lives planning to join the Peace Corps. I kind of joined on a whim, and did a lot of winging it. I certainly never came up with any brilliant lessons on critical thinking skills, like Tracey did.

Back in the 90s, when I was probably at my most attractive physically, I felt like a guy like Al would be “slumming” talking to me. He was very cute, accomplished, intelligent, and talented, and a lot of women found him attractive. He was definitely used to charming the women… and to be honest, it surprises me that he didn’t charm me, even though I thought he was good looking. When I was in my 20s, I might have thought of that guy as a “catch”, but the truth is, he’s probably not as much of a catch as he appeared to be. And I’m probably much more of a catch than I know. At least, that’s what 47 year old me would tell 24 year old me.

This is so us.

Now that I’m in my late 40s, I look at my husband, Bill, who may not have been a stud like Al, but he was also not drunk when he proposed to me. In fact, he took me to a beautiful restaurant in Georgetown, a place that he could ill afford at the time, and pulled out a lovely marquis cut half-carat diamond ring. He never actually asked, “Will you marry me?” He was very nervous… so it came out more like “Well, how about it?”

The next day, he put me on a plane to Jamaica so I could sing at my sister’s wedding. Then, a few days later, when I came back to D.C., he was waiting at the airport with a jacket for me, because he knew I’d probably be dressed for Jamaica and D.C. was cold. I’ll bet Al wouldn’t have thought to do that for his wife. Almost 18 years later, Bill and I are still happily together, living in peace and harmony. We’re getting to see the world together and I spend most days doing pretty much whatever I want. Last night, Bill gave me an adorable grin and asked, “Can I interest you in some ice cream?”, even though a guy like Al would probably say I don’t need to be eating ice cream. Bill cares about my happiness, not his image. Choosing a husband is definitely one thing I did right.

Even though I didn’t go on to use my lofty education in the way that Tracey has, I don’t regret going back to school. That experience taught me that I’m capable of doing things I never thought I could. If I really wanted to, I probably could get a doctorate. Fortunately, I am not that driven… because although I think I am probably intellectually capable of doing the work for a terminal degree, I don’t want to spend the money or the time. There are a lot of people who are much better qualified and more willing to take on the responsibility and the massive debt. I guess, in that sense, I’m glad I’m not that driven… it’s just good to know that I’m capable. And that maybe it’s a blessing that handsome men don’t look at me as someone they’d want to marry. I’d rather have a sober, private proposal from a sweet guy who asks, “How about it?” than a drunken, public proposal in front of equally drunk friends and a possible divorce just a few years later.

Though I have met some people, even a couple of Germans, who have made it plain that they don’t think I’m any great shakes, I also know that I’ve made a difference to at least a few people I’ve met here. I’ve even made a difference to some animals. Looking at “the big picture”, I think I’ve done alright. I probably don’t need to compare myself to anyone else. At least I’m not in prison, right?

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silliness

You can’t lick our Cocks…

This morning, as I was sitting here thinking about what I wanted to write about today, I remembered a post I wrote for my original blog back in March 2015. At that point, we had only been in Stuttgart for about nine months. I was a member of way too many local Facebook groups. There was a lot of drama in those groups… drama that I haven’t seen up here in Wiesbaden. In many ways, I enjoy the lack of drama because I don’t end up nearly as annoyed or upset as I regularly did in Stuttgart. On the other hand, I almost never lacked for topics to write about.

Back in March 2015, the American high school for the children of military and government service members, Patch High School, was still located on Patch Barracks. The Stuttgart area high school has since moved to Panzer Kaserne, as a brand new facility was built and opened in the fall of 2015. The new high school’s mascot is the Panther, as it was for Patch High School. However, the community sports team’s mascot was the stallion, as is the mascot for Patch Elementary School.

A flag with the famous Stuttgart stallion on it.

The choice of a stallion as a mascot was locally significant, since Stuttgart’s coat of arms has a stallion on it. Car buffs might also notice that Porsche, which is a sports car brand made and based in Stuttgart, also has a horse on its logo. Sometime in the past, when it came time to name the local sports team’s mascot, someone decided on the stallion. The teams for the female athletes were known as “Lady Stallions”. Back in March 2015, the local sports team coordinators were looking for people to join the “Lady Stallions” softball team.

I am a lover of words. I’m also a lover of horses. A stallion is, by definition, an uncastrated male horse. Because I was feeling saucy, I mentioned this fact in a snarky Facebook group I used to be part of back in the day. Some brave soul decided to share my thoughts with the sports team coordinator, who wrote this cranky response:

I’m going to take a wild guess here and assume that Ms. ****** has no prior experience or dealings with OCONUS community level sports. We did not name ourselves Stallions. That is the mascot for the Stuttgart community, therefore we don’t have the authority nor the desire to change it simply because a stallion is a male horse. Every community level sport here has a men’s team and a women’s team, both of which are Stallions. Just like any other community… Lady Rams, Sabres, Mustangs, Generals, etc. So, if there is more concern about what we are called than actually playing the sport, that is not someone who we are looking to add to the team. 

Well excuuuuuuseeee ME!!!

I was amused by the bitchy response, which wasn’t directed to me personally, but to the woman who had decided to comment that stallions are, in fact, male horses by definition. But then I started thinking about it some more. I wrote this in my original blog:

Okay, fair enough…  but have they considered what makes a stallion a stallion?  I used to judge horses and I’ve seen quite a few sets of stallion genitalia.  They have balls the size of grapefruits.  They have very impressive penises, too.  I was thinking about including a photo for reference, but given that apparently a lot of people like to use horses for their own twisted fantasies, I decided against it.  

Notice that the person who responded lists examples of other “lady” teams as “proof” that Stuttgart is not the only area where a mascot is obviously male, yet has teams designated for the ladies.  But only one of her examples isn’t gender neutral.  One can be a female mustang or general, for instance, though I don’t think sabres actually have genders.  I do realize, though, that sexist mascots are very common. 

My high school’s mascot, the Duke of Gloucester– hence the Gloucester Dukes.

Now, at my high school, our mascot was “The Dukes”.  No, it wasn’t because of the Dukes of Hazzard; it was because of the Duke of Gloucester.  If you grow up near Yorktown, Virginia, you quickly become acquainted with the names of people who were important in the American Revolution.  And yes, we did have “Lady Dukes” instead of Duchesses.

Long, hard, and pointy… just like something else we all know…

After I graduated from Gloucester High School, I went to Longwood College– now known as Longwood University. Our mascot was, and still is, the Lancers. Back when I was a student, we didn’t have an actual mascot. Now, there’s Elwood, who is a horse. Longwood was an all women’s school until 1976. Still, we have a rather phallic looking symbol on our mascot…

Elwood the horse… He didn’t exist when I went to Longwood. I guess the sports teams have gotten better since the 90s.

It wasn’t lost on me that my college had a rather phallic mascot. I mean, the horse isn’t so much… except that I think Elwood is male, and if he’s a stallion, he’s got impressive genitalia. Trust me, I’ve seen a lot of equine genitalia.

I used to have this sticker on my car. I had to remove it due to force protection rules.

So then I went to the University of South Carolina, where the mascot is the Gamecock. Gamecocks are fighting roosters. Roosters are males. I remember that the female athletes at my graduate school were not known as Hens, but Lady Gamecocks. And, in fact, they were all collectively referred to as “Cocks”. I have a Facebook friend who went to the University of South Carolina as an undergraduate. I like to tease him by writing “Go Cocks” on his posts.

I used to wear a garnet colored t-shirt that read, “You can’t lick our Cocks.” It looked just like today’s featured photo looks. Unfortunately, back at that time, it was just before Lou Holtz took over coaching the football team and, in fact, a whole lot of other teams “licked our Cocks” quite soundly. Like Lou Holtz, I started my time at USC in 1999, and Mr. Holtz was indeed able to turn the football team around. They became a very formidable force that year. Lou Holtz left USC in 2004, having vastly improved their stats.

I don’t actually follow football or any other sports. I just think it’s interesting that so many sports teams are named after male animals, and a lot of those names end up being shortened to references to genitalia. Especially when you consider what happens when when a male gets hit in that part of the body…

3:22… that was all she wrote for that fight. OUCH!
Sheesh! Game over!

Given this obvious weakness in a male’s anatomy, I wonder why we glorify a male’s genitals in sports contests and in naming sports teams.  What’s wrong with having a team called the Stuttgart Mares? Mares are pretty tough. And when they get hit in the genitals, it probably doesn’t hurt as much.

This mare looks like she can handle herself quite well.

Anyway… I’m glad that Stuttgart’s high school has adopted a gender neutral mascot in their Panthers. Here in Wiesbaden, the mascot is a nice, somewhat gender neutral Warrior. I guess there are female warriors out there, right? When I went looking to find the featured photo for today’s post, I found a picture of the t-shirt I used to own. I also found a lot of x-rated photos of the slang use of the word “cock”. It’s not just for male chickens, that’s for damned sure.

Actually, I’m reminded of something funny from my glory days in high school. Back then, Gloucester County still played in the AA league, which meant our school was considered “smaller”. It has since moved to the AAA league– I think that happened the year after my graduation. Teams were playing bigger schools in Hampton and Newport News and, unfortunately, getting soundly beaten a lot. But my senior year, we were still AA, and for Homecoming that year, we played the Bruton Panthers. Bruton is a small community in York County, near Williamsburg. Anyway… I distinctly remember my friends trying to come up with fight slogans for the floats in the Homecoming parade– you know, things like “Pierce the Panthers” or “Pop the Panthers”. One of my grosser male friends suggested “Panther Pap Smear”. Knowing my friends, I’m surprised no one suggested “Pork the Panthers”.

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