In an effort to make this sound a little less pathetic and a little more “oh, look at me, I’m a sexy bohemian writer,” I’m going to borrow a phrase from our friends across the pond:
I am completely skint.
(See? Doesn’t that sound fancier than broke? Thanks, Britain!)
In fact, I have been varying levels of skint for as long as I can remember. Sure, I’ve always had the basics --food, shelter, clothing, beer, tequila, vodka-- in one form or another during all those times (although there was a, and I use this term loosely, “house” I lived in during college that was less shelter and more terrifying death trap unfit for habitation by anyone except naive 19-year-olds who just needed four walls behind which to do their underage drinking). But in general, the term “in the black” has only ever been used to describe me in regards to drinking (as in “Aprill is totes in the blackout zone”).
Granted, I’m probably doing better than some people if you completely disregard the fact that my net income is actually sub-zero thanks to student loans and credit card debt (which I don’t really mind considering it’s been my lifelong dream to die before those are paid off…good luck reaching me in Hell with your scary bill collectors, Miami University! Ha! Ha!) And considering my chosen field, I’ve pretty much reached an inner peace with the fact I will have to frequently use the spare change from my couch to pay my utility bill for the rest of my life.
That said, however, being
broke skint in Boston is a whole different kind of experience. It’s not just that everything is more expensive here (although it is). And it’s not just that there is so much awesome stuff to do here that costs money (although there is). It’s not even that Boston is an odd mix of wealthy people, blue-collar workers, students and everyone else in-between all mingled together.
It’s that no one ever TALKS about money here. Like it doesn’t matter. Or it’s so abundant, like air, it’s not even worth mentioning. Like it isn’t the one subject that keeps a majority of us up at night as we mentally calculate whether food really is THAT important this week considering rent is due.
For example, when declining a social outing invitation, I learned quickly to never reply with “I’d love to but I quite literally only have $14.33 in my bank account right now.” That makes people exceedingly uncomfortable here. And then there is the eating out (heh) minefield. Seven people, one bill, cash and debit cards flying around the table. And me, no idea what the total is because it seems rude to ask, and visibly sweating and silently praying whatever card I give won’t be declined.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I know and abide by the social mores that it is rude to ask how much someone makes or to divulge your own income. Or to inquire in general about financial matters to friends and acquaintances.
But I grew up in the Midwest, where talking about the price of gas and groceries is the regional past time and couponing is a blood sport.
And then I lived in the South, where the only major social blunder you could make was to ask a dude in a cowboy hat how many acres he owned (Answer: A lot, which is none of your damn bidness, Yankee).
So to move to a place where it almost seems taboo to give the impression that you have any idea money even exists is extremely surreal. Especially now, with this never-ending craptastic economy. And especially since, at least for me, being able to casually talk about money woes in general terms with friends helps ease the burden a bit.
Then again, perhaps it’s not Boston at all. Maybe it’s just that I have simply reached an age where it is considered uncouth to mention money at all. Maybe being in your 30′s means joking about having Ramen Noodles and Natural Light for dinner is now just sad. Maybe I have finally reached the age where it’s time to get my shit together.
So I guess it’s time to grow up and handle my finances like grown up…
…Then again, what has a 401K, savings account, health insurance and lack of crippling debt ever REALLY done for anybody?