As a close friend of mine recently wrote to his girlfriend . . or should I say, his former girlfriend,
"I know that you are very upset with me because I mentioned the taboo subject yet again, even after promising once more that I would never do it again. But the main purpose of this letter is not to yak about that; it is to tell you something else, which I think very important: I think I may finally understand why you are so reluctant to begin accepting any of your Social Security payments for the next couple of years: it's so you can get those larger checks that will then come 10 or 11 years from now, if you wait long enough before beginning to collect. But more than that, it is that your greatest dream in life is to finally open your bistro (at age 74?! -- better late than never -- and you know it will take as much investment money as possible, from you, in order to get the kind of loan, the right workers (graduates of a culinary academy you said), and the location you need, for it to be successful. You're probably aware of the fact that a third of all new restaurants fail within the first 5 years, and you don't want yours to be one of them.
"Unfortunately, however, this time I really have run out of money with which to help you any longer, toward this goal. I "loaned" you all I could over these past 2 years, to prevent you from dropping me, and now that I really have run out, STILL can't find a job, AND no longer have an apartment of my own (and being evicted by a landlord who knows he can get so very much more for this place, now that so many exceptionally well-paid Silicon Valley types are working in San Francisco and looking for nearby housing, thereby bidding up all home and apartment prices into the stratosphere), I'm pretty sure you are finally going to drop me for good, having threatened to do so several times before, when I violated this taboo.
"I've figured out that having a better shot at getting your restaurant up and running 10 years hence -- or maybe it's just financial security in old age -- is more important to you than maintaining your loving relationship with me. Continually jobless both, because of this damned economy, neither one of us can any longer afford a decent place to live on our own. Your pension and my Social Security check are just not enough for something like that anymore. At one time, before home prices went up, we could of course have rented a small house together, were it not for your strong preference to live alone -- a privilege for which I have for 2 years been helping you pay. Then too, you don't want to take the chance of becoming saddled with a guy so much (12 yrs) older than you, who, in a decade, may well be dying from cancer or something.
"So here we are, my inheritance money gone and still no job, causing me to be about to move, as a renter, into the house of a woman for whom I have no romantic or sexual feelings, to live cheek by jowl with her, her obese and neurotic daughter and grand-daughter, while you with no car that the Department of Motor Vehicles will let you drive legally (because of all the money you owe them), and with way too little money for your groceries and meds.
"Of course you've always reminded me that there are several men, not 'cheap' like me, waiting in the wings, to give you the romance-and-money you need, should you ever need to get it from one of them, so I guess your problems may very well be short lived, if indeed you haven't solved them already.
"And even if, by some miracle, you don't drop me, or haven't already, it looks like all I will be able to afford, in my attempt to entertain you and keep you, from now on, is the money it will take to pay for a motel and a couple of restaurant meals in Pt. Reyes, twice a month. You do understand, I'm sure, that without any savings left, and still no job, if I were to spend what little money I have on anything other than that, I would then lack the money necessary to provide even that place on the coast for us, for a day or two, twice a month -- someplace where we could be together and have some privacy, now that my beautiful and spacious apartment is soon to be gone. Thus, with you living so far away, in an environment I detest (because of the constant television noise in a one-room cottage), we would have no time to spend alone with each other, near the kind of beautiful coastal areas we love so much.
"This all assumes you're still open to doing these things with me, or that you eventually will be again, sometime in the near future. And of course I have no assurance that you will -- not when you refuse to reply to my many texts and phone messages. Quite the opposite. And why is that? Because the very nature of this punishment you mete out to me is DESIGNED to make me doubt that you are ever coming back. And in that respect the punishment is very effective.
"On the other hand, maybe it isn't meant as punishment THIS time (as I guess it always has been previously), but just your way of saying good-bye and good riddance, as your new suitor takes my place. I've never known, one way or another, and that's what has always made the punishment so cruel, if indeed it's still just punishment as it probably was in previous cycles -- which I increasingly doubt, as the days go by without any word from you whatsoever. On the other hand, perhaps you had several times decided to dump me before, but then each time changed your mind.
"In any case, sap that I probably am, I will never forget your words to me on the phone, when I told you, in the midst of trying to find a new place to live, that on my now very limited income (Social Security and food stamps), I wanted to at least be able to have enough money to take you to Pt. Reyes a couple times each month -- you told me that you loved me. But of course "love" is sometimes (often?) quite ephemeral isn't it.
"I know you don't like to talk about stuff like this, and likely you don't want to even think about it. Nevertheless, I so much wish you would be so kind as to let me know if you think I've gotten any of this wrong. You know me -- I like to understand things! -- no matter how unpleasant or sad they might be.
"You once told me that you wished I would stop "jerking you around." I asked you what that meant, and you refused to tell me. And now I think I know what it meant, but I'm not absolutely sure. What I think it meant is that as long as I kept giving you money, for food, gas, meds and a few luxuries, you would be able to continue loving me, but whenever I stopped doing that, and suggested that you began to collect your Social Security, on top of your existing pension, so as to be able to pay all of your own bills, you would then have to begin the process of cutting off your love for me, and that was of course painful for you. Apparently, a man that will not, or cannot, help you pay your bills, is out of the question as a romantic partner, even when you have enough money of your own to pay all those bills.
"But then, desperate for your love and affection, I would, each time finally knuckle under and, even though unemployed, I would start giving you money again, from my ever shrinking savings account, once again being generous with you financially (at least by my humble standards), and you would come back to me once again. And back and forth we would go, from one month to the next, locked in this ghastly cycle of love and love lost. Whenever I was not generous enough, and started suggesting that you should stop throwing away the Social Security payments (that you could be receiving), so that you would be able to pay all your own bills, you would stay away from me and stop returning my phone calls. Then I would miss you terribly, and start giving you money again, and you would return to me, giving me the affection and love I craved so much from you. In other words, "love for sale," the phrase that infuriated you so much when I dared use it to your face. Sometimes hurtful/embarrassing truth must be kept buried, right?
"Was it not essentially love for sale? If not, I wonder how you understand all of this and if this letter will change your mind at all. Did you think of me as a pushover and a stooge, or just a poor, dumb 'man' struggling to fulfill the 'obligations' that men customarily have? But of course you would and will never tell me. And no wonder you are not a feminist! You much prefer to be "the Queen," with all the privileges which that confers, including the privilege of not having to stoop to answering nosy and rude questions like this one.