For part of this weekend, I attended a financial seminar. I should’ve known it wasn’t for people like me. If you’ve been following my blog, you know I don’t exactly have piles of unused capital sitting around, but the way this seminar was sold, it sounded like it could help someone like me create additional streams of income. I didn’t get what I expected– in more ways than one.
Less than an hour in, I was awakened to the unpleasant fact that this was going to be a shame session. I was going to get shamed for being poor, for not having been taught the same financial skills wealthy parents teach their kids, for being fat (ah, old faithful), and, of course, for being single. And single was the one they hit on first!
50 minutes in, the speaker throws up a Warren Buffet quote:
“The most important people in your life are your spouse, your children and your mentor, in that order.”
Oh, fabulous. I’m 0 for 3. So what’s the message here? If you have none of those, you should go jump off a bridge? Well, then the same speaker decides he’s going to share with us about his personal life. He throws up a slide on the screen that says, “My Story” and shows a picture of him with his arms around a beautiful woman. Now, for starters, this is the most stereotypical “good looking” couple you can picture, or at least that the media wants you to picture: Both slim, white, young people; the woman is petite and platinum blonde, the man well-built and wildly successful. For another, the dude went on for TEN minutes without even mentioning the slide behind him, and then when he was ready to move on, threw in, “Oh, that’s my wife.” Someone please pinch me now.
The next guy was no better, except that he was a little older and a little heavier. This didn’t stop him from going on a fat shaming spiral (“I lost 80lbs in 4 months, because I was committed!” Way to push the willpower stereotype, as though we all aren’t coded with different body make-ups). He did say one thing I appreciated, though, which was pointing out that fat people already KNOW they’re fat– why does anyone think walking up to a fat person and calling them a cow or telling them to lose weight is something novel that will open our ranch-drenched eyes for the very first time? Fuck off. I’m fat, I’m over it, you should be too. I get the same bullshit about being single. Like I was somehow unaware of the fact that I’m single when I can’t even go to a financial conference without being shamed to high hell for not having a spouse and a couple of kids by now.
Anyhow, this second guy actually threw up a slide with a list of his “achievements.” On the slide were the items, “Married 26 wonderful years” and “4 amazing kids.” As a kid who’s been called someone’s “accomplishment” (Yes, this was a long time ago before I came out as the freak I am), it doesn’t feel good. It feels… weird. You’re a kid, you want to be a KID, a whole person, not an “accomplishment.” Props for 26 years of marriage, though, even if listing it as an accomplishment feels like “flaunting.” (Isn’t it funny that gay people get accused of flaunting their gayness for simply not being in the closet, but straight people can talk about how being married is an “accomplishment” and no one calls this flaunting? Fascinating.)
That aside, boy was I feeling stupid right about now.
To be fair, I’m sure it’s all about marketing. More people have kids than don’t, and I was certainly one of the younger people in the crowd. I was surprised, truth be told, that there weren’t more people my age there. I can’t possibly be the only recent-grad in my state who’s struggling financially and wondering if that Bachelor’s degree was actually a worthwhile investment. But, really, the next closest group of people there, in age, where couples in their early 30s. You could tell some were newlyweds by who could NOT keep their hands off each other. I’ve never been a huge PDA fan. I’m all for some hand-holding and the like, but is it really necessary to keep tickling your husband’s neck in front of me when I’m actually trying to listen? I mean, is it? If you really can’t help yourself, there’s a bathroom across the hall. K, thanks.
The day went on like this. Listen, I get that family is a good motivator for a lot of people. It’s certainly one of mine. My aunt wrote me a nasty letter about two months ago (neatly disguised as a birthday card) about how my parents are never going to be able to retire and it’s all my fault and what the hell am I going to do about it? Believe me, if I could buy my parents a house and support them and tell my dad he didn’t have to work anymore, I’d do it in a heartbeat. But the three of us made this bad investment where we decided the best way to pay for my education would be through student loans (yes, my parents hold a loan for me; they wanted to take out the loan for my freshman year, it was a gift– all other loans, since there are three more years you know, are mine), and I still haven’t figured out how to get out of this hole. So, since they didn’t teach me any financial skills and didn’t save any money for their retirement, it’s now my job, at 26, to figure out how to support them through retirement when I’ve barely figured out how to support myself?
I hate everything. Especially listening to these white, privileged asshats go on about how they’re setting their kids up for success now. This one woman claims her 8 and 10 year-olds have credit cards and own their own property already. Well how nice for you all. I’m guessing your parents did something similar, and didn’t one day tell you, “Oh yeah, it’s your job to support us” when they gave you NO tools to be able to do this.
So there’s that. You may have guessed that I didn’t go back for the second day of the conference. Sure, I paid for it, but I didn’t pay to get shamed all damn weekend. I get that for free everywhere else. I’m just left wondering, since I don’t have a spouse or children or a mentor, who’s the most important person in my life?