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January 25, 1999 e-mail e-mail to a friend in need


The Republicans are currently rounding up the (a) usual suspects, and (b) the numbers. The New York Times reports that in the GOP response to the State of the Union -- in which attempts were made to disintegrate prevailing "President bad, economy good .... President good" logic -- Representative Jennifer Dunn of Seattle ranted that a typical two-income family pays "nearly 40 percent of their income in taxes." Not so, says ... her source, the non-profit Tax Foundation, who suspects that Dunn's staff crunched outdated numbers, and whose current estimates for such a family actually max out around 32% (in her own district, it's more like 28%). Whoops.

Now, Breakup Girl is not saying that she likes to watch the Superhero Revenue Service take even 30% of her income. Au contraire: though her metier offers rich spiritual rewards, cash flow -- no matter its quantity -- is a concern for any single superhero. And even though "two-income family" appears, in her own life, to be an entity much like "the unicorn," BG well knows that the issue of money can tax a relationship, no matter what bracket. Whether you're a two-Beamer couple, a two-slacker couple -- or, Hamilton help us, a one-professional, one-potato couple -- listen up: the Dems, rightly, have long reminded themselves that it's "The Economy, Stupid." And likewise, if your love is losing points, it may well be that it's

Money, Honey.

Assorted expert sources cite "finances" as a top cause of friction in relationships. Why is money such a big deal? Well, remember: money is, by definition, a measure of value. Also, your currency has a past. Taken both together, these points mean that Society infuses money with larger-than-paper meaning, and so do you. How were you raised? Wanting for nothing? Coveting everything? Was money talked about, or taboo? Did it drive a widget between your parents? Is being "better off" than they a big thing for you (or for them)? I could write these questions forever -- point is, the color of money itself changes depending on how you choose to look at it, and, in turn, it shades your life and the love therein.

But of course you realize that at some level "it's not about the money." In the biggest picture, money doesn't mean a thing. We made all this stuff up. It's just the pieces of paper and metal that are legally established as an exchangeable equivalent for commidities. That's why the Mexican government can up and say things like, "Hey, let's get rid of some zeros." Likewise, you made up that money equals success or that money equals all evil or that money equals masculinity or that money equals the reason you do or don't date. And that's why the January/February Psychology Today (read this article) talks about people as Money Personalities (Planners, Dreamers, Hoarders, Spenders, Money Monks, Money Amassers, etc.). Who -- when they wind up as partners -- clash.

Yes, bringing up "money" in a relationship can be like opening Pandora's Cash Box (even in New York City, where people will discuss their rents with strangers, but not their salaries with intimates). But if you need to rejigger the rate of exchange in your own relationship, then you must discuss. Relationship and financial experts will concur that putting things off will cost you. Pretending money issues aren't there (much like spending assets that aren't either) incurs an astronomical service charge on the good will you've already banked.

So try a little legal tenderness. When you talk about money, don't talk about money. Talk about: in/dependence, support, partnership, gratification, plans, dreams. Then talk about the role that Washington, Lincoln, and Jackson, play in all that -- and take it from there. Start now and establish regular, if brief, check-ins on whatever budgets or savings plans or splurges you start to design. Up to 32% of your income may be funding Henry Hyde, but at least you'll be reallocating your own resources -- affection, respect, cooperation -- for maximum gain.

P.S. Let me take this opportunity to reiterate an Important Breakup Girl Maxim: Whoever invited pays. Don't you dare take out (a) a nice girl/boy, and then (b) a #2 pencil and a legal pad to calcuate his/her share. TACKY. If you can't afford a particular venue, then go someplace within your means, and be equally gracious there (as our very own Paul the Intern would say: "Supersize that for the lady!"). It's not about money, it's about manners.




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