Although I am a mostly fiscally responsible person, every now and then the urge to buy something surges up out of my brainstem and smacks me right in the back of my eyes. My responsible norm becomes an impulsive Id, and while the purchase is never a big one (an album, a couple of books, or a $30 bottle of wine that I love even more because it’s on sale from $50), I click away on iTunes, PayPal, or Amazon and suddenly my craving is sated. Guilty, but sated.
Don’t misunderstand – I’m not a compulsive shopper. I’m not addicted or even very attracted to any part of shopping. Not the looking, the finding, the spending, or the owning. There’s no rush in it for me and I don’t feel guilty because I did something bad. I feel guilty because I was raised Catholic, and that’s what we do when we experience an iota of pleasure, no matter how cheaply it was achieved.
My latest indulgence is books. I feel particularly bad about these, mostly because now is not the time for me to indulge in anything. I knew that St. Louis was the cheapest place in the world to live, but that point was really driven home when I sent a deposit and first month’s rent on the new place in Seattle. I never expected it to be cheap, it’s just that I don’t enjoy being kicked in the nuts so hard.
I’m not spending what I don’t have and although the $40 I spent on books could have been applied elsewhere (a portion of a tank of South Dakota gas, maybe?), my biggest regret over them is that I haven’t finished anything. Nope. Not a one. Not The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Not Already Dead. Not The Devil in the White City, not Into the Wild, not The Master, not The Cloud Atlas, not even Dear Sugar. My current roster of unread books is higher than the number of books most dumbasses read in a year, and here I went paying for them while their predecessors just sat on the shelf, waiting.
So I’m reading some of them before bed at night. I couldn’t always do this; I once read so much and so voraciously that reading in bed kept me awake. The worlds inside the books kept me rapt, worried, upset, or elated after I closed them, and instead of real life problems, I’d stay awake going over the stories in my head. Now, and especially lately, I’m living in the real world, so those problems are what wake me up in the middle of the night, and I can barely get through 20 pages without my eyelids starting to ache.
Last night, I read a letter in Dear Sugar from a 29-year-old woman who was preparing to get married. Her much older sister and brother-in-law, with whom she was very close, were going to walk her down the aisle. Because her sister and brother-in-law have been happily married and best friends for 25 years, the letter writer was shocked when she asked her sister the secret of marriage, and the sister confided that there was no secret, and sometimes it wasn’t easy, and that there had been infidelities on both sides at some point in her marriage. The letter writer was so appalled by this confession that she was asking Sugar if it was okay to de-involve her sister and brother-in-law in her wedding, because she didn’t want anyone whose love was impure, imperfect, or dishonest to be a part of her marriage in any way. Her marriage would be different. The type of love she would have would be so much better.
I was happy to read that Sugar’s response was similar to but much more eloquent than my own, which was “Well, aren’t we being a sanctimonious little bitch today?”
It’s my opinion that you can’t really judge someone else’s relationship, and by “really” I mean “accurately,” and by “can’t” I mean “not unless they’ve asked you to.” Some relationships can weather bad times and infidelities and those weird gray areas, and if the people in those relationships say it’s okay, then…it’s okay. Other relationships can be briskly terminated at signs of trouble or with evidence of cheating, and again, if that’s how the people in those relationships want to handle their business, then that’s okay, too. Relationships aren’t contagious, so you can observe those of others while having your own however you want it. It’s when the people in either kind of relationship tell you it’s not okay that you can pass your born-of-limited-experience judgment, because yours is probably better than the person’s who just admitted to forgetting how to live their own life.
I get tetchy when people question my decisions as it is; aside from the occasional album, book, or bottle of wine, I am not an impulsive person. I know my choices. I’ve thought about them. Correctly or not, I perceive that anyone who is questioning my decisions to be questioning my intelligence, and that anyone who makes incorrect assumptions about my decisions to be a fucking asshole.
Awhile ago, one of my friends commented to someone that she likes mine and Graham’s relationship because he always knows where I stand. I liked that comment. I like it because it’s observant and true. For the most part, I have always been able to look Graham in the eye and say “Listen. Here is how it is with me.” And I like that. Anyway, the someone who heard this comment – a someone who was once my friend but is not anymore, partly for reasons like this – replied that that wasn’t the case at all, and that I hated my boyfriend just like she hated hers, and the way everyone else hated theirs. Which was wrong and stupid and crazy, and like I said, we’re not friends anymore.
As I said before, you can’t accurately judge someone else’s relationship unless they’ve asked you do. Occasionally griping about something that annoys you is vastly different from telling a group of people vile things about you hating the sound of your significant other’s voice, or recoiling when they touch you, or about them being an emotionally abusive asshole you can’t stand. In this sense I think that laying bare a certain amount of certain kinds of information leaves you open for judgment, as in, you don’t have a choice anymore. But your willingness to say these things (and more importantly, stay in a relationship with someone who causes you to say these things) doesn’t mean you’re allowed to project them onto others. Your relationship isn’t a communicative disease. Stop acting like you have any ability to understand anyone else’s entire life when you’re so incapable of living your own, and the next person who questions my decisions is getting karate kicked in the groin.