We recently took a family vacation to a tiny coastal town in Northern California. It had an airstrip, a golf course, a non functioning lighthouse and two restaurants that were each open three days a week. There was a marina, which really seemed to be one of the main points of the place. Lots and lots and lots of boats were crammed into a teeny space. But, it was quaint and beautiful and we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.
While searching for something nice to take home to my brother as a thank you for stopping in at the house and making sure no one had stolen our copper piping or set up a meth lab while we were gone, we visited the tiny general store there. It was packed with a surprising range of fare for such a small place. The next closest store being a 20 minute trek up the mountain made this place a relatively necessary provider for some people, I would imagine.
I found a suitable t-shirt and proceeded to the register where I noticed a little cardboard sign saying “CASH ONLY.” Knowing I had very little cash on me, I asked my wonderful husband for some of his. He handed over his wallet to me and went about perusing the goods.
My husband and I have always shared our money. It is just that kind of relationship where everything is ours. There is no mine and no his. (Except the motorcycles. They do not count in this conversation.) I listen to other couples who keep their separate accounts and watch them have spats over who’s paying for what. It’s not something that we do. Throwing all our money into one pool is something that works for us.
Both names are on our checks. We both have the same credit cards. This, actually, was a necessity at one point. A number of years ago, I received a credit card offer in the mail that was affiliated with a cause I was interested in. At the time, I owned half a house and all the vehicles were in my name. When I called to apply, the man said I had no credit. Apparently, having my name on the mortgage meant nothing. Since Steve had set up all the utilities as I was having the busiest week of the year at my job when we moved, everything was in his name. I had credit cards on his accounts, but my name, apparently, wasn’t on the accounts themselves. A simple oversight, on both our parts, that had huge ramifications.
I actually had to have my husband cosign for me to get my own credit card. It was embarrassing to be a responsible adult who pays all her bills (sometimes early and a few times twice) need a man’s help to get credit. I wondered how many women lose their husbands through death or divorce and find themselves suddenly alone and entirely devoid of credit. They must, then, be treated as an adolescent, with a real adult to back up them up in case they make poor decisions while they learn the world of finance.
Since then, all things have gone in my name, all loans, new credit cards, to guarantee this wouldn’t happen to me in the future. I’m very proud of my credit rating.
I’m also proud of the fact that I out earned my husband by a whopping $1.86 last year. We’ve been making close to the same money for a few years, but he, typically, gets better bonuses. Last year, due to a fairly nice raise I worked hard for, I finally beat him out.
So, imagine my reaction when the cashier, (Remember him? The one in California selling me the nice t-shirt?) looked at me with my husband’s wallet and says “Now, remember, that’s your allowance this week.” You could hear the “little lady” dangling on the end of the sentence.
I know he was kidding. I know he was trying to create a nice, light banter with the touristy customers in his shop. Unfortunately for him, he picked the wrong kind of banter for me. I looked him in the eye and said, rather tersely, I’m afraid, “I make more money than he does.” It was all I could get out through my clenched teeth.
He made a mumble about just making a joke. I didn’t respond to that, because I was too embarrassed and angry.
Yes, I get embarrassed and angry when people assume that I need to be taken care of financially solely because I am a woman. I pay all of our bills.
I get embarrassed and angry when someone thinks that, because I’m a woman, I need to be given my money in small amounts and be told to be careful not to spend it all too soon! I do our taxes every year.
I get embarrassed and angry when people treat me like a child solely because I am a woman. I have been able to pee by myself for 40 years.
I get embarrassed and angry when people use sexist comments as small talk. Small talk is a huge part of our social interaction. We chat about traffic, sports, weather, all sorts of things. That this man felt that treating me like a child is an acceptable part of every day social interaction is infuriating to me.
These are the little, insidious ways in which I am constantly reminded that I am, no matter how old I get, no matter how accomplished, no matter how responsible, still viewed as less than an adult, needing to be taken care of by the men that surround me. But, I am supposed to ignore it because, well, it was just a joke, right?