No matter how old you are, you never quite think of yourself as fully an adult. Surely, you think, there must be someone else around who’s truly mature. Not you! Someone else! Someone a little more experienced.
Texas writer Prudence Mackintosh referred to this phenomenon when she was bringing up her sons. In the middle of any childish imbroglio, she once wrote, she always found herself wondering, When is the real mother going to show up? You know, the adult woman who actually knows what she’s doing.
But then, you notice there are certifiable markers of adulthood and maturity that can’t be denied. Things like:
1) paying a mortgage on time;
2) going to the dentist without anybody nagging you to do it;
3) breaking a tooth on a cakeball (if you’ve never eaten a cakeball, please be advised that it’s about as hard and crunchy as, say, cotton candy. Breaking a tooth on a walnut would be sad; breaking a tooth on a cakeball is ignominious);
4) showing your maturity and class by “rising above it all” on a regular basis. (I would like to say I’ve got this one nailed, but the truth is more complicated. Based on my recent, unattractive behavior as a pedestrian, I believe I may be remembered not as a classy, mature, above-it-all woman, but as a pedestrian fatality whose last ((shrieked)) words were “Fuck you, moron!” This leaves something to be desired on many accounts).
Anyway, I could go on listing other certifiably mature behavior, such as burying a parent, but who wants to get all gloomy and downtrodden? The point I was originally planning to make — which also got buried — is that I am currently engaged in the certifiably adult behavior of tending to our financial lives. I find it excruciating, exhausting, demoralizing.
I see numbers and dollar signs and I get the vapors. I am not a details person or a numbers person. I prefer vague generalities and unfounded rumors.
In any other family, I would be the grasshopper frolicking and doing whatever else grasshoppers do, while my ant of a husband took care of money. In our family, where the grasshopper heroine fell in love with a bigger grasshopper, there’s not an ant to be found. A few times a year, I have to become a fake ant. I get in such a foul mood that the Big Grasshopper keeps his distance.
I pore over our accounts and I brood. To break up my work, I look up a Bible verse that’s bugging me. It’s in Proverbs and it gets hauled out, usually, at funeral services for women who have sacrificed their lives for their families: “Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.” Then it goes on to list how the virtuous woman works with wool and flax and plants vineyards and girds her loins and clutches the distaff and “eateth not the bread of idleness.”
I always get unreasonably depressed when the old price-of-rubies quote gets dusted off, while everybody sobs about what an unappreciated doormat Old Mom was and now it’s too late to thank her and we’ll have to learn to wash our own laundry.
Before I go back to our finances, I would like to put the Big Grasshopper and my children on notice: No price-of-rubies homages at my funeral. Just say I went to the dentist and I paid the mortgage on time and I managed to rise above it all on a case-by-case basis. Maybe I was a Bad Ant, but I grew up when I had to.
And, I almost always got to the point, eventually.
(Copyright 2011 by Ruth Pennebaker)