Sunday, September 30, 2012

The High Cost of Loving

I believe most who know me would feel that I’m pretty good at handling money.  I’ve never been in deep debt.  I buy my cars pre-owned and with cash.  My home, which I moved into in ‘99, was paid off in less than eight years. I didn’t utilize a single credit card until I was in my mid-thirties, and even now, I pay it off every month.  While running my own business for over a decade, I was able to keep things running fairly smoothly with payroll and other overhead despite the rollercoaster ride that is the music business. I was freakin’ Dave Ramsey before Dave Ramsey existed!

Being able to tithe at least 10% of my earnings to spiritual and social causes that I believe in has been a blessing. Seeking out good advisors has allowed me to parlay various investments in mutual funds into a nice cushion for the future (might as well plan on Social Security not having much left for many of us in our retiring years). Since good health is important to me, I’ve invested in balanced diet, health club memberships, vitamins, and regular physicals and dental check-ups. Ongoing education is a priority as well, and I’ve been able to attend seminars, buy books, periodicals, tapes, CD’s, DVD’s, etc. that have helped feed my mind, broaden my horizons, and inspire me.

According to American standards, I’m pretty much your average schlub.  I think my income level would be a trackable barometer for “the middle class.”  Of course, by the overall world’s graph, I would be in the top 5% of wage earners.  And historical economists calculate that I would be in the top 1/2 of 1% in wealth over the course of mankind’s time on the planet…so I truly have much to be thankful for in comparison with all around me, and all that have gone before.

But there is one area of financial endeavor where I sometimes question my judgment, where I on occasion wonder, “what the heck was I thinking?” This is realm of spending on women.  Now, don’t get me wrong…I like women.  And there have been many that I gladly gave of my resources to please and it brought much enjoyment to our time together. 

It’s just that I’ve been a bit on the introspective side of things lately, and as I was taking emotional inventory of my singleness, I also decided to do some actual counting.  Before you jump to the conclusion that I must be some sort of weirdo who collects his own hair from the shower drain, or retains each burnt-out light bulb he’s ever used, or keeps a chart on every phone call he’s made since junior high school…well, don’t worry.  I am blessed with a pretty good memory, and I also do have all of my notebook calendars that help organize my life from the past several decades.  But I didn’t have to refer to those much—most of what I am about to recount is off the top of my head, and literally only took about an hour of “ciphering.”  It’s not like I have kept some sort of master chart or copious notes in a complex diary or anything of the sort.

Through pondering how many dates I go out on in a given month over the past thirty years, what an average date costs (dinner, the featured event, coffee/desert afterwards, and transportation), and then doing the basic math, I came up with the bulk of the figure.  Of course, there were additional costs that came in for the exceptional relationships.  Things like airline tickets for her to come see me, or me to go see her, or for us to both go to the Caribbean or Las Vegas or Pacific Coast or the Rockies together.  Or paying for rooms at resorts, beachside cabanas, and luxury hotels.  Or more involved costs like parasailing, cross country skiing, swimming with dolphins, snowmobiling, hiring tour guides, camping trips, helicopter rides, horse trails, dinner trains, limousines…you get the picture.

Then there are other items to be added into the Ledger of Love like cards and flowers (this certainly has gone into the thousands), and gifts of all sorts including jewelry, perfume, clothing, purses, paintings, sculptures, furniture, books of poetry, embroidery, decorative scented candles, ceramics, doilies, knick-knacks, brick-a-brack, and sometimes even gave-her-dog-a-bone.

Of course there are infrastructure costs to be considered as well, like long distance phone bills, shipping of goods, duplication of (and framing) of photos, stationary, postcards, stamps, pay phones (those have pretty much disappeared, haven’t they?), overnight delivery shipments, and the like.

So, what’s the bottom line? $63,000 as best I can figure.  That’s considerably more than an average year’s salary during those years.   

And this doesn’t count things like wear and tear on my vehicle, car washes, getting haircuts, colognes, a portion of the health club memberships that is appropriated for trying to become “buff,” investing in clothes to make myself more appealing, home décor, dance classes, ski lessons, and the fees for psychotherapy sessions brought on from all of the above.  Lord knows all of that could add tens of thousands more to the columns.

But $63,000…wow.  That’s more than I’ve spent on anything besides taxes, housing, and donations in my life.  Yes, it’s more than I’ve invested in categories like groceries, transportation, insurance, stock portfolios, and entertainment.  It’s almost double what I have spent on furnishings, clothing, health club memberships and sports combined.  It’s also 50% more than on utilities and phone bills over that span.

And I certainly don’t mean to discount what my counterparts on the female side of the ledger have had to invest.  My guess is my totals are nothing compared to what some single women I know have gone through.  The fashion industry socks it to ladies by charging easily three times as much for clothing, shoes, and accessories.  Hair appointments regularly take at least four times as long as a man’s and are quadruple the cost as well.  Then there’s make-up, dieting, buns of steel DVD’s, plucking, shaving, waxing, tanning, softening, deep cleansing, moisturizing, manicures, pedicures, liposuction, collagen injections, nip/tuck procedures, boob jobs, and on and on it goes. 

Nor would I be at all surprised if large shares of the women I’ve dated have endured subsequent and extensive counseling, which has taken a toll not only on their pocketbooks, but also their psyches.  I wonder if I ought to get a referral fee with area psychotherapists the business I bring their way?

Anyway…all of this causes deep consternation.  As I said earlier, I have fond memories of my dates, and have enjoyed some terrific relationships over the years.  So, it’s not my intent to sound like this has been excruciating for me.  Far from it.  I’m a social being who loves the interaction with a lovely feminine friend.

I suppose it’s just that I look back over all that spending and wonder what the “bottom line” is?  I’m still single, with no obvious prospects.  Thus it has been and most likely will remain. 

When the U.S. population crossed the three hundred million milestone half a decade ago many new demographic studies were released.  A particularly intriguing one showed that now, for the first time in our history, there are more single adults in the U.S. than those that are married or living with someone of the opposite sex.  That’s pretty stunning when you think of it.

We all seem to be circling, looking for a place to land…but are simultaneously seeing so many wrecked marriages and others folks who have been damaged by “committed” relationships gone awry that we are hesitant to join long-term with someone else. It’s odd that we spend copious amounts of time and money trying to be attractive, yet being increasingly reserved about actually entering into a deeper commitment.

Would I be so preoccupied with this spending if I had found the love of my life, and continued to invest in our relationship as we grew in our journey together?  I don’t think so, for I would be seeing it as an ongoing development and expression of our deepening care.  But when that doesn’t exist with a particular someone, the cost starts to feel rather hollow and pointless when put on a cumulative scale.

So…where do I head from here?  Most likely, continuing this cycle to some extent since I’m not sure what the alternative is.  But over the recent couple of years I am certainly trying to think more carefully about how I invest my time and resources if it doesn’t appear that it will lead towards anything meaningful.  Dating just to date seems like an oft-silly luxury, and an obscenely expensive one at that. All the preening that goes along with it (under the guise of looking good for someone else) at its core seems so self-centered.  

We’ve read that where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  I want to do better at investing more wisely, and as a result, I think my heart might be less bruised in the process.

Of course, none of this can protect one from a broken heart.  That’s a whole other subject for another day.

1 comment:

  1. WHAT???? Seriously? that much?
    How did I miss this!?
    I think you may have just come up with
    "THE 63,000 DOLLAR QUESTION"!!