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A Girl's Gotta Have Her Own Money

I was speaking with one of my nieces about one of my great nieces who is happily ensconced in another state, living with her sweetie. My niece then told me that my great niece didn’t have a job.

Whatchu mean she ain’t got no job?”, I replied. Yes, I can go from zero to vernacular in a nanosecond.

My niece assured me that, yes, she didn’t have a job.

“Oh, but see, that’s not acceptable. She has GOT to get a job. A girl’s gotta have her own money . . . .” And on I blathered, espousing truths I deemed to be self-evident.

One of which is: A girl’s gotta have her own money.

The landscape is littered with formerly happy girlfriends, spouses and, yes, lesbian partners who were bounced out on their tushes by their sole wage-earner boyfriends, spouses and lesbian partners with nothing to cushion the landing but cellulite. It ain’t pretty, and it ain’t painless. A girl’s gotta have her own money.

My mother, who was financially tied to my father because of me and my five siblings, always drilled into my and my sisters’ heads that we needed to “do for self,” “not depend on no man,” and “make our own money” so that we could be independent. So our futures would not be dependent on any partner.

I learned this the hard way during a brief period when I was unemployed. My temporary teaching job with a law school had ended, and I was working for a disreputable legal recruiter. I waited to be paid but was never paid for the work I did. In the meantime, BMNB was effectively the sole wage earner.

We were in Costco doing our monthly Costco run, and I came across a bag of natural almond candy that I wanted. It was $5.00. I asked if we could get it, and BMNB said to me with the solemnity of monk, “I don’t think we should be spending our money this way.”

A $5.00 bag of candy. A lawyer for a husband. And, as the earner of non-existent wages, I had no say.

Over a $5.00 bag of candy.

Let’s just say I had my Scarlett O’Hara moment right then and there: As God was my witness, I would never, EVER, allow myself to be in a position to be financially dependent on anyone, man, woman, or beast. EVER.

I brushed myself off and made my plan. I moved back to California, where I was and am licensed to practice law, leaving BMNB and my dog behind. My sister kindly took me in. Within six weeks, I had a job with a local law firm making double what BMNB made. I paid my sister all the room and board I owed her and continued paying her until I moved out.

I even resisted the urge to engage in payback when, as a strange twist of fate, I became the sole wage earner in the marriage while BMNB studied for the bar exam.

But I never forgot. I will never forget that feeling of financial powerlessness I felt in the snack aisle of the Aurora, Colorado Costco.

And I was lucky. If he had decided to put me out while I was unemployed -- out of the townhome that he owns in his name alone – I would have been in a world of hurt. I had no relatives and few friends in Colorado. I would have been landing on nothing but cellulite, too.

So, ladies, learn from my minor mistake. A girl’s gotta have her own money. Because you never, ever know what life has in store for you.

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