So now that you have an idea of my monthly income, let’s look at expenses.
If you’re a New Yorker with a beating heart, you probably remember the subway kittens that shut down the MTA last summer in the most adorable way possible. If you’re a cat lady like me (which oh praise is now a badge of honor, thanks New York Times), then you might already know Steven Liu, the guy behind the Scratching Pad, who took in the tiny bandits and fostered them through their eventual adoption. In July of last year, Steve found a duplex apartment in Bushwick, moved in with two roommates, and started taking in cats—current total eight.
I am in a good place right now: I have a job that can pay my bills, my student loans; I have health insurance; I can afford fancy cheeses when I want to play Russian roulette with my cholesterol. I have a kickass apartment with a washer and dryer, an L-shaped couch, and a working thermostat. It also has a roommate, and she is the best roommate I’ve ever had. She’s funny, she cleans, and she has a puppy. There is only one flaw: her boyfriend.
In January, This American Life aired a segment in which reporter Ben Calhoun went to a few stores and tried asking for a “good guy discount” at the register. Here’s how Calhoun explained it: A friend of his named Sonari Glinton was interviewing a negotiations expert from Columbia University Business school who described a technique where you ask at the register, “Can I get a good guy discount on that? You’re a good guy, I’m a good guy—come on, just, you know, a good guy discount.”
The first dog was named Gucci. As Justin, my trainer (as if I were some kind of dog too!), told it, it was because Gucci’s owner wanted to advertise that she’d spent as much on him as on a designer handbag. Gucci was definitely cuter than a handbag, but a lot less practical. Bernese Mountain dogs are built to survive in the Alps, and a high-elevation Financial District apartment in New York City is hardly the same thing. Coaxing Gucci into the elevator, and keeping him from barking long enough to hustle across the marble lobby and out the service entrance, was an act of sheer will that I tried to muster and brute strength that I certainly lacked.
Where have you lived, Nicole Johns?
Things are not even in most respects, and I get that.
The Salesman The Salesman was an older gentleman with a smoker’s cough and a bad gossip-site habit. He read Perez Hilton every day at 4 p.m., for one hour, while cackling and reading tidbits out loud over my cubicle wall. He left the office promptly at five, often with his manager, a brusque but nice woman with a penchant for pantsuits, usually off to a bar around the corner to have a cocktail and dish before getting on the BART and heading back to San Francisco’s East Bay. As bosses go, he was one of the best I’ve had: low maintenance, trusting, out of my hair. His teeth were the worst I’ve seen, jagged and brown, but he had a nice smile, a quick laugh and shared my passion for sotto voce gossip, shared in quick bursts every hour. Usually, our subject was the head of sales, a pompous jackass who spent the entire year I worked there calling me Heather. The Salesman used to joke that he came with the building, and for a while, I believed him.
Most profound listening experience: Every morning, I would sleep in until 11 a.m. because I worked swing shift. Being that I was in Seattle in March, it would still be dark and cloudy at that late hour. My commute was a slow, degrading walk down Pike/Pine Corridor to the train depot. It was always overcast, and sometimes it rained early in the day. I had Tegan & Sara’s The Con on repeat during my commute, which fits perfectly with heartbreak and lack of Vitamin D.
As an adult I actually spent some time as a performing musician, where I faced the question that nearly every musician faces at some point: Is this something I’m doing for fun? Is this a job? Is this a business?
Spring is in the air, and as Alfred, Lord Tennyson famously said, it’s the time when a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love. Truly, this is an optimistic moment: buds are bursting through frost, fans of lousy baseball teams feel improvident hope, and in all matters romantic, we cannot help but think of the good things yet to come—the spark of new attraction, the idyllic domesticity of a shared apartment, the stomach-flutteringly massive notion of getting married. So let me bring you down to earth: There’s a good chance you’re going to get divorced, by which time you may have kids, and on top of all the other heartbreaks, you may embark on a lifetime of difficult conversations about money. Let’s talk about this.