The minute my husband and I start doing it, I realize it’s a very bad idea.
But that doesn’t mean we stop. Oh, no. We just keep on dumping receipts and forms and bank statements all over every surface in our tiny rented living room. We are participating in an annual drill we both loathe — getting our tax materials together. Neither of us is what you would call a detail person. No, siree, we go for the broad brush, the grand sweep, the outsized gesture. Details and decimal points make us catatonic.
Tax season is traditionally the low point of our marital satisfaction index every year. If neither of us commits a violent felony against the other at tax time, we call it a raging success.
This year is even more fraught, though, since we have complications because of our temporary tenure in New York. Not only that — but we are attempting to sort through the annual detritus of our lives during the Super Bowl. There’s a reason for this: I like the Saints a lot, but I’m sure they won’t win. Peyton Manning is invincible, I’ve read. So is the Indianapolis coach, who told one of the sports anchors he is even calmer than he appears; since he has done his work, he said, there won’t be any surprises. Oh barf. If there’s anything I hate, it’s that kind of cocky self-assurance. I prefer people with low self-esteem. Like me, say.
I have no idea who’s even rooting for the Colts. I don’t think I even know anybody from Indiana, for God’s sake. The whole world, as far as I can tell, is rooting for New Orleans. Why not? New Orleans has the glamour, the tragedy, the intoxicating accents, the succulent food, the spirit, the music, Confederacy of Dunces, and a quarterback named Drew Brees, who’s from Austin. The Colts, in contrast, have no bluesy back story, no hilarious novel, no epic natural disasters. All they have is invincibility and cocky self-assurance — and I know enough about football and life to realize that’s almost always a winning combination.
So, no wonder we’re trying to start our taxes at the same time; it’s going to be a miserable rout, anyway. Why not go ahead and suffer it full throttle in one hideous night.
We thrash through papers and snap at each other, with the TV blaring in the background. I get irritated by how good the Colts look and by all the repugnant, sexist beer commercials (to make beer look good, evidently, you have to make women look bad). My husband says some of the beer commercials make men look like idiots, too, but I don’t buy it. I announce I am going to boycott Budweiser, even though I never drank it in the first place. I have principles. I won’t drink beer brewed by assholes.
Second half comes and our living room looks like a blizzard of white papers — but who cares about that? We forget our taxes and watch a thrilling game. For once, the team with soul and spirit and bum luck, steeped in floodwaters and wailing saxophones and the blues, wins. We see footage of Bourbon Street erupting in joy and for one instant, I could swear my husband and I are surrounded by sheets of dazzling white confetti streaming through the air. Tomorrow, they’ll be depressing W-4 forms once again, but tonight, they’re practically festive.
(Copyright 2010 by Ruth Pennebaker)
Read one of my favorite posts about how to pick a quarterback
“Tax season is traditionally the low point of our marital satisfaction index every year.”
Amen, Ruth, amen.
And don’t forget the joy of The Who at half-time. A whole generation is surprised to find that the sizzling anthems for those CSI shows were actual real rock songs by hot dudes like Roger Daltry.
Taxes make you catatonic? Good God, woman, what are you complaining about? People pay good money for catatonic. I would kill to be catatonic, and since taxes make me both homicidal and suicidal, I probably will, one day.
I pay my taxes, of course (not happily, but at least resignedly). Making me fill in forms seems to me adding insult to injury.
In my insomniac way I listened to a lot of good humoured World Service commentary on the game. Apparently the whole world was watching, and this time the world was rejoicing.
Oh, lord. The next thing you’re going to be telling me is you pay higher taxes in England, Duchess. Well … at least you have universal healthcare.
Susan and I went to New Orleans to watch the game at Who Dat ground zero. Afterwards, we ventured into the Quarter with hundreds of thousands of our closest friends. We didn’t last long in the crush of humanity, but you could sense that, for at least a few hours, the world had fundamentally changed for the better.
Pennebaker, you’ve done it again! You’ve struck upon the perfect modern couple compatibility test. Any two people wishing to legally wed ought to be required to file a joint tax return first. The ones who survive that process are allowed to wed. The rest are calmly escorted to the door and advised to come back when they can maintain their composure throughout a 3 day long inquisition regarding all their expenditures convened by their “beloved intended”.
Down with filling out tax returns and sorting through paperwork. Groan.
To paraphrase Miss Emily Dickinson:
Who are you?
Are you a taxpayer, too?
Then there’s a zillion of us– oh, swell!
They’ll bleed us dry, you know.
How dreary to be so upper crust.
How furtive, like a CEO,
to cloak your wealth your lifelong rank,
in an admiring off-shore bank!
Even though I’m no football fan, I watched the last half and found myself yelling gleeful things like “Woo hoo” and “Way to go!” Just what is it about an underdog win that turns us into star-struck, blithering idiots?
I loved the juxtaposition of the confetti with the blizzard of white papers.
I hate tax season, too, especially since we don’t do it en couple: being the American, I get to sift through the American papers and my husband, being the Swede, gets to present me with a sheet listing his income with taxes, already deducted, from Sweden. Then I tie it all up with a big red box and present the mess to the accountant.
Desperately trying to think of beignets at Cafe du Monde in the French Quarter instead of Marginal Tax Rates. Argh!
Taxes and American football…two of my least favorite pastimes.
I’m just amazed you got through both with marriage still intact. Onward…
Texas Deb makes a good point. I’d also add that people who want to marry should also A) ride a tandem bicycle and B) paddle a two-seat kayak … if they do either of those things for an hour or two without causing bodily harm and/or shouting vicious things, then maybe, just maybe, they are well matched for marriage.
As for the Super Bowl, we do not watch sports much at our house. Thankfully, I married one of few (it seems) American men who hate most spectator sports.
But the snows ruined our alternative plans, so we watched. And, if I was only going to watch one game all year, I’m glad I got to see the Saints win.
Plus a friend dubbed me an honorary member of the Who Dat Nation for liking and using the phrase “fiya-wata.” So, I guess they’re my pseudo home team.
Love the metaphorical symbolism of this post. You are too funny. You know what? I think watching the two of you do your tax prep would be far superior to watching the Super Bowl! I hope April 15 treats you well!
I’m knee deep in tax forms too! I didn’t think of doing them during the Superbowl. Frankly, for me it takes a lot of concentration (and TurboTax) to get it right–even if I have kept track of ever single potential deduction very carefully all year.
fun. i think doing the taxes in front of the superbowl was a brilliant idea!
Well, yes, I do pay more taxes than you do, probably quite a lot more… And we do have a health care system that I think is more fair – more humane – than yours; families are never crippled by health debts. There is some difference between the rich and the poor — inevitably some people know how to work the system better than others – but it isn’t like in the US.
The thing I keep banging on about, however, is that when everyone gets basic healthcare, unless you pay a whole LOT more, no one gets the Rolls Royce health care insured Americans expect. My health care isn’t the health care you get, and I am pretty sure you would find it unacceptable. Actually I am not sure you would be alive on it. A 2008 study (reported by the BBC) said that the US had the highest 5 year survival rate for breast cancer at 83.9%. compared to the UK at 69.7%. That’s a pretty big difference and a lot of dead women.
If you are an uninsured American you definitely prefer my system. If you are insured, your system is clearly preferable, especially if you plan on getting most common types of cancer.
If you have a social conscious probably you are willing to give up some of your goodies to those less well off — unless, of course, your illness is potentially curable, but very expensive. Then it might be every man for himself. And what if you only suspect you might have such an illness. Believe me it is hard work getting diagnosed on this side of the Atlantic.
Here’s the reference. It does refer to data from the 90s. The UK has got better absolutely, if you discover a lump in your breast you are now supposed to be seen in two weeks, but I am not sure it is better relatively. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7510121.stm
It’s not that I am opposed to universal health care! I am definitely in favour of it. I just think most people are not ready to face the hard choices and the hard facts.
Sorry! I have used your comment box again to ride my hobby horse.
Comparing health care systems across country can be daunting. Life expectancy in the UK is longer for men (about 1 year) and women (half a year) than the U.S.; 9.9% of the UK population dies before age 60 compared to 12.8% in the U.S. Breast cancer diagnosis rates are higher in the UK (26.1) than the U.S. (21.2), but overall death rates for cancer are much higher in the U.S. (321 in the US vs 253 in UK).
Perhaps the most telling statistic is how much each country spends on health care per year. Right now, with no universal health care, the U.S. spends $4600 per person and the UK spends $1700 per person. This includes both both private and public sources. In terms of percent of total GDP, the U.S. spends 15.4% of all its money on health care compared to the U.K.’s 8.1%.
Right now, the U.S. is spending far more than any other country on health care and has very little to show for it compared to other countries. The Duchess is quite right about a hidden third factor — social class. Across people in virtually all countries, the more money you make the longer you will live. This is true in the UK, Sweden, Sri Lanka, and the U.S. In fact, professionals in the UK and US tend to be equally healthy and live the longest. However, if you are in the bottom 20 percent of the population, you are far worse off in the US than the UK.
What this means is that the US system works just fine for at least half of the population — even though it is far more expensive than it is all other countries on Earth. If you are poor, you will get far worse health care but the taxpayer will still pay top dollar to get it.
I find it breathtaking that the American people don’t put more pressure on both Republicans and Democrats to come up with a sane solution. You would think that this is one area where both the compassionate and greedy would have a common concern.
If you are interested in seeing more depressing statistics, check out: