And I said to God: “Thy will be done, but, please, could you see to it that the next man I meet has some money.” So when they said “We’re going to introduce you to the Greek” I asked: And does he have money? because I honestly believed that by then I had done my share in paying bills for men who seemed to have less money than I had. The answer was “yes”, a lot of money. So I set out to ignore the only two things I know about Greeks (“Beware of Greeks bearing gifts” and “Zorba the Greek” a downright swindler, cheat and financial disaster if there ever was one, although fun no doubt) and meet The Greek the following Friday. I had gotten assurances: he didn’t drink or smoke and he was interesting… AND he had money, lots of money. Hurrah. I was convinced that it was ok for me to like him for his money just as I was absolutely convinced that it was alright for him to like me for mine. I actually believed that that was the best thing that could happen and although this might sound strange, bear with me and I will explain.
I always have had the suspicion that my first husband married me, in part, because of the family money which he hoped someday we would inherit in tandem. I did not marry him for his money because he didn’t have any. Perhaps I married him for the money he didn’t have because that would allow me to be important in his life, not only due to the money (which I didn’t have either because it belonged to my parents), but also because I could help him make the money he wanted: girl Friday to doctor Livingstone, I presume… It didn’t work out that way, not because he didn’t make money –good God- he could have been rich as far as I could see, but due to the fact that there was no way he could keep it. No one, not even his administrator and his accountant could figure out what he did with the money that came into his medical practice, but the man was incapable of saving a penny and found himself in debt ten times out of ten.
I only remember once time in our life when he seemed to have more than enough: all the doctors in the Clinic where he had his office were on a roll and everyone had money. Besides things were cheap. We drank champagne at all the social gatherings and partied our heads off. That was when my husband decided to have an affair; he had enough money –it seems- to rent a house that he shared for making whoopee with the other woman (something I was kindly spared from finding out till ten years later) while at the same time crying poor mouth at home. It was interesting –when I did find out- to remember how I skimped and saved on my things and my children’s things (clothes, extras, outings) because he was always in debt and always had some emergency payment that he needed to make. I felt like an absolute idiot, contemplated suicide, decided against it and lived ten more years with the man during which we never got out of debt, and I kept skimping and saving, not because he demanded it but because that was the only thing I knew how to do to help with the household economy and maybe get myself loved in return. I had been brought up on the waste-not-want-not philosophy and had turned it into the only religion I could apparently live by. But my wanting nothing was no match for my husband’s wanting everything and being perfectly willing to waste whatever –but especially any money I came into- to get it. I’m not complaining: I was free to say ‘no’ and I was free to go; I just didn’t know it then.
Actually, things turned out for the best. By the time the scent of money began to descend from my parent’s house to mine, I was sick of my marriage, sick of my life, sick of my addictions and ready to move on. When I caught on that something was coming my way all I could see was that it had “Freedom” written all over it as long as I didn’t agree to hand it over to the man in my life. And believe me he tried to squeeze it out of me. Suddenly debts cropped up all over, especially tax debts that had to be paid, and if it wasn’t the debts it was the opportunities of investment in the Clinic where he had his office by buying the amount of shares necessary to give him control of the business. The arguments were very powerful, the suggestions of a loan which would be paid back (oh yeah, tell me another one) given in the most sincere of voices and the depression that followed my insistent “no”, felt heart wrenching, but somehow I managed to resist. Well, I have to be honest: it wasn’t “somehow”, it was diverting the attack: “Why don’t you borrow it from my Mother” I suggested, well aware that my Mother’s money might someday be mine, but at least that would put half into my brother’s inheritance. The suggestion was taken, my Mother promptly supplied the money (this giving to men had to come from somewhere in my past) and I was spared until the next round of debts cropped up.
By the time it did, our marriage was beginning to come apart at the seams. I remember very clearly the last onslaught of effort on his part to get the money out of me. It was the tax thing again, and this time –according to him- really urgent. I listened and the feeling of guilt mixed with rage crept into me like poison. By that time, I was off my addictions (had stopped drinking and smoking), attending AA meetings and consulting with a sponsor. I listened in dismay to my husband’s pleas for help, ran to my sponsor and spilled the whole story over coffee. It was then I heard the most liberating thing I have ever heard in my whole life.
“So” my sponsor said, “your problem is you have to make a decision.”
“And if you decide not to loan him the money you will feel guilty, “
“…and if you decide to loan him the money you will be furious with him and with yourself.”
“You’ve got it.”
“So, you have to decide, but you can’t decide.”
“Hmmm. Suppose you decide not to decide,” he looked me in the eye and his twinkled. I sat for a moment in stunned silence; my mind had stopped completely.
“I can do that? I mean: decide not to decide?”
“Uh huh. You need to make a decision, right? You can’t decide to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ because neither are satisfactory, right?” I was nodding my head like crazy, a delicious tingling rising in my stomach and filling my heart. “So, you decide not to decide, say, for a month or two, whatever you want. Problem solved: you have taken a decision, the mind rests and you have time to not do anything for a while until… well, until whatever has to happen, happens.”
Everything that had been weighing on my life and my mood lifted immediately and I rushed home filled with a feeling of power and freedom. I will never forget the look on my husband’s face when I told him.
“I have decided not to decide whether or not to loan you the money until after my birthday (three months away).” No explanation, no ‘I’m sorries’ or ‘lies’ or ‘cover-ups’. Just straight: I have decided not to decide. A smile, a sweet smile which really was for me not for him, spread across my face. I was free.
By the time the three months passed, we were definitely on the rocky road to divorce and the question of loans was part of the past. By then it was a question of who was going to get what and I was taking whatever I could with no feeling of guilt whatsoever. It was interesting to see that my husband had never really given up the idea that he was entitled to part of my inheritance and fought like a madman to get at least half of what my Mother had already given me. I fought just as hard not to give it to him. Finally, my son intervened and we worked out a deal where I gave him a part of the money I had and he agreed to sign the divorce. It was the best spent money in all my life and the stub in my checkbook reads: MY FREEDOM.
I should have learned my lesson, and actually I thought I had. So when I met somebody really attractive a year later I was delighted to see he owned his own house, had three cars (including a TransAm), and proceeded to give me a Rolex watch and a diamond ring. I didn’t listen when he said he wasn’t rich. One thing I must admit: he only asked for a loan once. It was a comparatively small one. I heard myself say yes, of course, before I felt the sinking feeling in my stomach and heard the screaming voice in my head. I went to my studio, sat for an hour, bit off all my fingernails, cried and finally found the courage to return and face my new partner.
“I can’t loan you that money” I stammered, “because our relationship is more important to me than being the good girl, and I know myself: if I loan you money I will watch you like a hawk and resent every penny you spend on anything else before paying me off and my love for you will go down the drain.”
He looked at me in silence; then he smiled: “Thank you for being true to yourself and setting your limits” he said, and that was the end of it. I was a little bit freer than ever before.
Still, there were things I wanted to do. I wanted to travel, something that my first husband had never wanted, at least with our own money (he always said yes to an invitation from my parents). And my second partner had told the truth, he was not rich, not rich enough at any rate to travel the way I wanted to travel, or at least that was not what he wanted to do. So I ended up paying for his company on my trips (after all, I reasoned, if I had a poor girl friend who I wanted to accompany me I would invite her, and this is the same). I discovered that giving away money was not the same as lending it, and I actually began to enjoy it. I travelled, had a great time and money was hardly ever a problem.
I say “hardly ever” because I do clearly remember one instance when I made it a problem. We were shopping in Malaga, Spain; my invitation to travel always included a certain amount of spending money so we could also shop together. He was looking at shirts and had pulled two out of a selection.
“Which do you like the best?” he asked. I studied both and pointed to the one with the larger plaid (they both were blue and yellow plaid on a white background). He turned to the shop person.
“I’ll take both,” he said and handed the shirts back. I said nothing, but anger began to boil deep down in my stomach. Today I would simply smile at my own reaction and quietly ask myself: “Sweetheart, can you absolutely know it’s true he shouldn’t buy both shirts?” “What do you get for believing that thought?” But at that moment I didn’t know that what I got was to be right, I got to side with the whole waste-not-want-not family that I had been brought up in. I got to be my Mother taking back a beautiful 800 dollar evening dress because she couldn’t stand to spend the money; my Grandmother making my Grandfather return a stuffed toy dog that he had bought me for $25 dollars which she believed to be an exorbitant price at that time; my Father turning his earnings over to my Mother so she could save them. I got to be right, and I got to be terribly angry the rest of the afternoon with which I absolutely ruined my own day.
But actually, sharing money in that way did not become a problem for many years because he always supported himself, paid for anything his children needed and invited me out often enough for me not to feel exploited. At least there was no problem until the economic “crisis” hit Mexico. I won’t go into details. Although it seemed in the beginning that the “crisis” was going to pass him by, it eventually reached the doorstep of his business and things began to get tough. His earnings went from bad to worse to untenable as he first ground his business into nothing, then his personal finances and finally his life as such. I stood and watched, helpless. When there was almost nothing left and the relationship itself threatened to crumble under the weight of frustration, despair and hopelessness something in me forgot every lesson it had ever learned and decided to jump to the rescue. I had recently discovered that I wanted to live in Spain and the moment to make the move seemed right: he could begin a new business with the money he got from the sale of the old one and his house, and I would get my wish. Everything was perfect, except that he couldn’t sell his house. No problem, I said forgetting every single thing I had learned in my previous relationship: I will loan you the money until you sell the house. This I did, and our relationship immediately began to go further downhill than it already had with the economic pressure. I discovered that a loan is a very dangerous thing because everyone has different priorities and my new debtor’s priority was an expensive sports car before even looking for a new business to invest in. To make a long story short, the “crisis” he had suffered in Mexico followed him to Madrid –that was his story- and it didn’t take long for the new business to begin to go the way of the old. To make things worse, the house he intended to sell in Mexico did not sell. Our relationship went the way of the business and when things got to the point of rupture, I gave them the final push by forgiving him his debt so that he was free to leave, which he did. As life would have it, his house sold shortly after we had broken up and I was faced with the fact that for the second time I had given a man money to leave me, which I suppose is better than giving him money to stay. I found myself living alone for the first time –with the exception of the eleven months between my two relationships- and deeply relieved.
Seven years had passed in the non-conflictive company of my little dog when the opportunity of meeting The Greek popped up. I realized that of late I had been thinking a lot about “men” in general and even been flirting with a young man who came to my consultations. One day, on my way back home from lunch, the thought occurred to me that perhaps it was time to have someone in my life so I decided then and there to be open to more maleness in any way that Life saw fit.
Since that moment men had begun appearing in the most unexpected but unromantic ways. Soon afterwards, I had a delicious flirtation over internet with someone my own age that lived halfway across the world. He was even poorer than the fleas on the proverbial church mouse so there was no way it could become anything more than an internet friendship (which continues, marvelously, to this day).
Then, I was invited to a wedding and for the first time since the breakup with my second partner, I felt attracted to a man. He danced with me once: then dedicated the rest of the evening to writhing with all the young girls on the dance floor; after a while I realized I was reminded of how my first husband had behaved after our divorce, dating everything that stood in his path. I realized that my attraction was doomed to become frustration, but it felt good to be attracted to a real man, not an internet figment of my imagination.
Then life came up with The American Club Gala Dance and The Greek. It was interesting to notice at that time that I didn’t feel I needed The Greek and if nothing came of it that was perfectly all right with me. My flat mate (who had commandeered the meeting) showed me a photo of my prospective date on internet, along with the crew of employees in his restaurant called The Texas Ranch (Life does have such a sense of humor! After I had practically sworn off everything American, I was getting placed in the middle of Kansas corn: American Club gala dance with the owner of The Texas Ranch!) Before she could point out The Greek in the photo, I spotted a tall, white-haired man, not at all unattractive with a bowtie and formal suit and said: “I hope it is this one and not the short plump one in the pink tie”. Of course, it was the short plump one in the pink tie. The tall bow-tied one was the maître d’ (but I should have known) and therefore “poor”. What a shame. I decided to go with an open mind and an open heart and a closed pocket book and a closed everything else that should be closed on a first date. After all: beware of Greeks bearing gifts. Beware, beware…
In the end there was nothing to be-aware of: the Greek wasn’t even bearing a gift! Once we were seated at the table, he proceeded to talk non-stop to the lady on his right (I was on his left) who was at least twenty years younger than me (which made her around thirty years younger than The Greek) and then leave the table directly after dinner having danced with me only once. I saw him later standing at the bar talking to three other men. I was relieved that he had left and actually enjoyed myself the rest of the evening having a lively conversation with the lady sitting next to me.
Since then, I have not been introduced to any more “eligible” men, Greek or not, and the ones I have been attracted to are all unavailable because they are too married, too gay or too young. I must admit, though, that I have more men friends today than I have ever had before in my life and it is something I am thoroughly enjoying.