Sunday, September 24, 2006

Love, Money, and Manipulation

I don't believe that dreams tell the truth. I think they are fanciful illusions that entertain us at night. And yet, I woke up two mornings ago deeply affected by what seemed to me as "truth" revealed by my dream. I was asking a lover to take me to a fancy meal and, rather than happily agree, he immediately made me feel guilty for asking for money. The idea was that by asking for fine things, I was demanding that love be expressed monetarily, and therefore, I was failing to love him for who he was.

This dream was not true, in the sense that it had anything to do with me and Za. But, when I awoke, I recognized this interaction as familiar; it was the way my father and I talked about, or didn't, my need for money. I learned early on that asking him for money was tantamount to showing him I didn't love him, but rather wanted to use him for my own material gain. Certainly, as a young person, I wasn't scheming for cash. I just asked for things like most kids do. But, what I learned from those exchanges, was that asking for things (money) was a perversion of love.

The truth of this dream lies in my recognition that who I have become followed from these painful interactions around money. I have never felt comfortable when anyone pays for me or offers me nice things. When I have been on dates, I have always framed my distinct desire to pay as a principled feminist stand. The idea of ever relying on anyone else for money is a profoundly scary thought. For years, I have believed that I didn't want to be financially dependent because it would put me in the vulnerable situation that so many other women found themselves in: risking poverty if my husband or lover would leave me for another woman. I was told, countless times by my mother, to never depend on a man financially.

But, my dream revealed to me the real reason I deeply dislike taking money from others: to do so is to reduce them to what they can give me.

Certainly this is not true. To give to others is an exquisite experience. I have always striven to be generous and taken pleasure out of making others happy. But, I have been paralyzed by accepting from others. Don't get me wrong. I do. When my parents or brother give me gifts, I am grateful. But, I am always a bit worried. I fear they will feel taken advantage of if I were to give any hint that I expected something or if I were to ask for anything.

Receiving gifts or asking others for money is deeply painful to me. So much so that I have never wanted to be in a romantic situation that was defined by my lover giving me beautiful things or providing for me in material ways.

And, hence, my sense that I was financially independent for deeply feminist reasons is just a story I have told myself to avoid facing the more complicated emotional reactions to receiving gifts from another. The real fear is that I would make the one who gave me gifts feel used up.