We all come to our relationships with stuff from our lives hanging like albatrosses around our necks. And then some of us also come with bad credit.
According to my friend T, women, in particular, come with credit scores low enough to sink 1000 ships. The other day I was at his office and I happened to mention that I didn’t have a credit card and I couldn’t get one. I’ve been denied more times than I’d like to admit.
T Does Cowboy know about this? About this credit situation he’s marrying himself into?
ME Ummm...yes, obviously.
T You mean you’ve showed him in black and white? In the old days women came with dowries; now they just come with IOUs, bad credit, and a bad attitude!
At this point his buddy J piped up about his wife.
J Yeah, I mean, we’re at the bank, about to get a loan for a house and suddenly there’s silence and the bank lady says you have all these outstanding bills and your credit rating is really low and I’m like, what?, because I have almost perfect credit...and it turns out my wife has thousands of dollars of unpaid bills that she...just...forgot...about. How can you forget about bills?
T gets back on his soapbox.
T To women, old bills are like old boyfriends; they’re deleted from the memory bank. Match.com should add a column in red of how much every potential match owes. It’ll be more like eBay, where you can bid on your future wife and bail her out of debtor’s prison.
I can tell you how you can forget about bills. You can’t pay them so you throw them in the trash. Or, if you’re like me, you’ve carried them around for years in a carefully organized folder with the vain hope that one fine day someone somewhere will take an interest and buy a script or a book or make some kind of investment in you — and your ship will come in. But the creditors change, the bills keep coming, the paychecks never get big enough to handle these old debts and you keep paper clipping them, the folder moving with you from place to place. So, in this sense, maybe they are like old boyfriends, filed away in the memory folder, always a part of your past with the hope that somewhere on the horizon sails a schooner with either a huge check on board or a man with lots of soggy bills in his pockets. And maybe this is where we women have not advanced much past the dowry age.
Then, T pipes up again: "Yeah, my wife had all these bills too, like thousands of dollars, and when I found out about them she says, 'Oh, I just thought they’d go away eventually.' No, they don’t go away, they stay there on your report for the rest of your life."
So this past winter I paid off all those bills that I’d been carrying around for almost ten years. Why? Because I’m getting married. How? I had some stock from my grandfather. Not enough to make me rich; I was saving it for something that mattered. But at T’s insistence, I went down to Fidelity and sold it, at a lower price than I had wished. And then I paid every single bill. I didn’t even have enough left for breakfast at Big Mamas.