Trigger warning: This is 110% a First World Problem. Read on at your own risk.
As a birthday present, my mother gave me what we call Frivolous Dollars — money that must be spent on oneself in an indulgent way, rather than saved — and insisted that I earmark the cash for massage and ice cream. She did so because she knows that I have a tendency, when given money, to stash it away immediately. Even when I was a kid, that was my impulse; the top drawer of my dresser became the family bank. Everyone knew they could rely on me to lend out the cash I had laid away there, which I did, faithfully, until it was gone.
I feel incredibly grateful that I have a mother who can remember & recognize birthdays, even for adult children who live several states away. When I was little, she used to sneak into my room in the middle of the night and decorate with streamers, signs, and balloons, so that when I woke up on July 19th it would be to a world transformed. (Mike Dang will totally do that for his kids, btw.) And she also knows that I, like most people, generally prefer experiences over things. So: perfect A+ present, mom! I feel loved & understood. Thanks!
She found a deal online for a place in Manhattan that is offering a discounted bundle of massages. Three for $149 instead of the usual price of $300! Amazing. Even when I do treat myself to a massage — like, say, after going through childbirth — I only do one, and the therapist is usually like, “Wow, your back is like a wall!” and I say, “Ha ha, yeah, I know!” and though the massage feels great there isn’t much/any lasting effect. But three massages? That might actually make some kind of dent in my Shoulder Wall of Constant Stress & Pain.
On the other hand, I haven’t ever been to that particular spa. The place I have gone, and know I enjoy, is around the corner from me in Brooklyn. That means it gets points for proximity and familiarity. With the frivolous dollars, I could afford one, maybe two massages there. So what would you do? Three at the unknown, further away place, or one, maybe two at the place you already know closer to home?
Wouldn’t Prudie and the Ethicist be a good name for a band? Anyway. Someone wrote a letter to Slate’s Dear Prudence with a question that they should have pointed our way:
My good friend has found her mate after several failed relationships and is desperate to be married and start her family (tick tock). I am thrilled that she is engaged, and she has asked me to be in the wedding. I would normally be pleased to do so, except for one issue. She has debt of approximately $250,000 in credit cards and student loans, and she has not told her fiancé about this. I feel strongly that she is morally and ethically required to tell him before they are married, but she refuses. I can’t help but feel like an accomplice to her dishonesty by standing up in the wedding. What is the right thing to do? —Silent Accomplice
Prudie tells SA that she’s right to be squicked out: her “good” friend is perpetrating a fraud.
debt like this is something that simply must be revealed before two people wed. Keeping from your intended painful news, like a diagnosis of major illness, a previous incarceration, or the fact that you are dead broke (and not Hillary Clinton dead broke), means starting a life together based on an implicit lie.
Startlingly, Prudie does not suggest that SA write the clueless fiance an anonymous letter suggesting he follow the money. I wish we knew whether the bride were hiding financial truths from the groom or straight out lying. Either way, marriages have been based on deceit since the beginning of time. Years shaved off of ages, ex-wives forgotten, goats gone unaccounted for, paternity fudged. This can be seen as just another strike against the Wedding Industrial Complex, the societal idiocy that drives us to get married at all costs, often literally. Audits and prenups for all! Or don’t get married. That’s cool too.
Meanwhile, at the Ethicist’s lair …
So, let’s say an elderly relative gave you a check for five figures as part of her estate planning, essentially an advance on your inheritance. Not a hugely extravagant amount of money, but quite a goodly sum, enough for one whole month of full-time long-term care insurance.
SIDENOTE: long-term care insurance is so hilariously expensive it seems insane that it could save you money in the long term, and yet Roz Chast’s new graphic memoir about the decline and fall of both of her aged parents, culminating in having to put them in a home, would scare any reasonable person into scrambling desperately to secure some kind of safety net for themselves.
Five figures! It’s not a prize, like the Pulitzer. It’s not salary. It’s not fun money, because it’s given in the spirit of Thinking About the Future. Obviously it’s not Quit Your Job and Retire money but it’s not nothin’. What do you do with it? Buy real estate, or ice cream sandwiches, or both? Invest in something? What? Put it in your IRA, or is that too boring and conservative?
Don’t worry, my fella and I are seeing an actual Financial Planner on Friday and so will get expert advice then, but in the meantime I’m curious. WWYD?
Annabelle: What is a reasonable amount to pay for a root canal in NYC because I have to get one and HOLY SHIT
Ester: Oh no!
Annabelle: It is so expensive. Should I go to the suburbs?
Ester: :( :( :( You don’t have dental?
Annabelle: No. we don’t. [My boss] claims that dental insurance isn’t worth it/isn’t possible for small businesses. And I naively didn’t put nearly this much into my FSA. It’s $2,100!!!!
Ester: Oh wow.
Annabelle: Bonkers right.
Ester: Totally bonkers.
Annabelle: The economy of dental confounds me. Is dental insurance worth it? What is reasonable?