I am thinking about New York. About our months there, going to the theater (Our Town! God of Carnage! Brief Encounter!) About the little restaurant habit we developed (Sichuan! Northern Italian! Middle Eastern!) About the taxis, the excursions, the museums, the —
Oh, forget it. Truth is, I’m having my usual miserable time, pulling our tax receipts together. I do get kind of a temporary kick looking back at what we’ve done over the past year (it’s kind of like reading a financial diary), but that quickly recedes as I start sinking under the sheer morass of dollar signs, details, percentages, dates, regulations, you name it, I hate them all. I am not a detail person. Oh, no. I prefer the world of broad strokes and cheap, convenient hypotheses.
As it turns out, I am not married to a detail person, either. That should probably be a premarital requirement — that one of you be a detail person or promise to become a detail person, so help you God. I wouldn’t find that very exciting, since I’ve never found detail people to be terribly attractive. But I do have to admit that, the time of year, bookkeepers, accountants and tax lawyers do develop a certain allure.
Every year, at tax time, my husband and I develop a new theme — or revive an old one. He usually specializes in loud expressions of horror about how many fees our bank is charging us. He will sit, stewing and swearing, at the accumulation of one-dollar fees — “Those creeps! Bloodsuckers! Swine!” — while I ignore him.
This year, he’s furious at Citibank, where the forces of evil have evidently decamped and are gutting us financially left, right and center. Now, I could get into that, having had my own little differences with Citibank.
But that was months ago. This year, my own villain is our idiotic maneuver in going paperless. “I thought going paperless was supposed to save us time and paper,” I say darkly. “Well, ha.”
Instead of going through piles of bills, I see, I am squinting at online versions of bills and checking and savings accounts. This puts me at odds with my Cavewoman ideal that, if it isn’t on paper, it doesn’t truly exist. Which explains why I have recently begun to yearn for a paper calendar — a real, flesh-and-blood calendar, and not the overly subtle, devious computer calendar my husband loves so much — and to question whether I have really read the books my iPad says I have.
“I want paper bills! I’m going to print them out!” I screech.
My husband doesn’t answer, since he’s seething about something Citibank did in July — “They were really screwing us then. Vermin!”
We go on, into the night, spewing our own private tax-spawned tirades. It’s just as I’ve always thought: When it comes to taxes, the marriage penalty isn’t financial, it’s the two of you having to prepare a joint return together so you can take it to your CPA. Somebody should put that in wedding vows to scare off the faint of heart.
(Copyright 2011 by Ruth Pennebaker)