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'Til Dearth Do Us Part My boyfriend is a nice guy, but he not only lacks ambition and motivation, he's very critical of mine. We're both in our early thirties, but he has a $10-an-hour, no-advancement job, lives in a crummy apartment, and doesn't even own a car. I have a master's degree and a career I love, plus a car and a higher standard of living. He likes to "splurge" when we go out, but we split the bill, or I pay more. Yes, he earns less, but because I'm struggling with conference fees, car payments, student loans, etc., he actually has more disposable income. I'm sick of him reaping the benefits of my hard work while putting me down for it. (He calls my desire to live in an apartment with central air "materialistic consumerism"!) Still, I wonder if my issues with him reflect a lack of imagination on my part about gender roles and lifestyle choices. I mean, we both don't really NEED a car. What's wrong with me? How can I learn to accept our differences?

--A Relax To Grind


You don't really NEEEEED indoor plumbing. But, maybe you aren't the embodiment of wretched excess if you prefer to brush your teeth from a faucet instead of the hose, or if you pore over chrome bathroom fixtures in Architectural Digest instead of studying the how-to section in Lean-To Today: "Dig Your Own Latrine! Flush toilets are so bourgeois."

You've probably heard that money can't buy happiness. Well, welfare checks can't buy it either. Still, if you're going to be miserable, wouldn't you rather throw yourself down on a Stearns & Foster ultra-plush Euro PillowTop for a good cry about your meaningless life? Let's face it: Money is the root of good dentistry, wine that doesn't unscrew, and vacations that go beyond sitting at a bus stop and imagining palm trees. Having money doesn't make you a bad person, and lacking it doesn't make you a saintly one.

Yet, there's your boyfriend worshipping at the altar of poverty chic: "I spit on your car! And all other capitalistic icons of materialism! What time will you be driving us to dinner?" Here you are, a woman who's going places, paired up with a boyfriend who's not only staying places, but showing a rare flash of ambition in his efforts to drag you down so it won't be so lonely at the bottom.

Laziness is a "lifestyle choice"? What, like golf or living by the sea? Don't hold your breath for photographs of underachievers living in squalor to show up in condo brochures. Oh, and let's not forget that "lack of imagination about gender roles." There's nothing progressive about a man who smiles demurely as a woman runs herself into debt paying the lion's share of the check. What you lack is not imagination but a boyfriend who's more than a sponge with feet.

Stop apologizing for what you want. Tell La-Z-Boy, yeah, I lust for central air, 6,000 thread-count sheets, and spending sprees at Pottery Barn. Then pat him on the head and leave him on the curb for some other misguided girl to pick up. Find a man who cares enough to think twice about "splurging" if it means you'll be scrounging for change to make your car payment. Or, horror of horrors, you might consider dating a man successful enough to treat you to dinner from time to time, and self-confident enough to applaud your accomplishments. Tempted as you may be to walk hand-to-mouth into the sunset with your current boyfriend, it's pretty much impossible to have a fantasy love affair when reality is banging on your door demanding six months' back rent.

Posted by aalkon at October 18, 2005 1:08 PM

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