Driving Miss Snobby November 14, 2010

In my last post I mentioned how my husband has become a disciple of Dave Ramsey.  For those of you not familiar with Dave, he is the author of Total Money Makeover.  Mr. Ramsey’s motto is “If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.” In other words, suck it up now and forget about keeping up with the Joneses.  Later on the Joneses will still be in debt while you are mortgage-free and living it up.

Now let me stop right here and I say that I get it.  I completely understand the plan and the philosophy, and I have read Dave’s book.  He makes sense.  However, his plan is not easy, especially for people like me who like the finer things in life.  Even though we are not as strict as Dave, we are on what I like to call a “modified Dave Ramsey plan”, which allows for some splurges while still being a lot stricter than most American household budgets.  

However, there is one area of the plan where my husband refused to budge, and that is the vehicle rule.  That is, if you can’t pay cash, then don’t get a new car.  (And if your car is in decent shape you probably shouldn’t get a new one anyway, even if you do pay cash).

A few years ago my husband decided to purchase a 1995 Cutlass from his mechanic.  It’s old, it’s smelly, it’s rust-laden, it’s just plain embarrassing.  However, it’s paid for and it runs, so he prefers to play the martyr and drive it, extolling Dave and cranking his radio show from the ancient speakers.  

This car is the epitome of “living like no one else”.  Let’s just say that the Cutlass does not exactly fit our house.  While you’d expect some nice SUV or luxury sudan in the driveway, instead you see a rusty Cutlass and a 2007 Honda Civic with 110,000 miles on it.  The Cutlass stands out so much that our neighbor simply asked us, “What’s up with the old car?”  Another woman from church commented, “That’s what they drive?”  

Is this embarrassing?  Of course.  It’s kind of like being 13 years old again and having your parents embarrass you on a regular basis.  Only the parents are a car.  And you’re thirty-seven.

However, there was one recent incident that mortified me so much that it almost made me sprint to the nearest 0% financing deal.  It was the episode with The Golden Couple.  This would be the successful, hip, beautiful couple with beautiful children and equally beautiful cars.  

Now the day started off innocently enough.  I was at my stepson’s football game when my husband asked me to switch cars so he could take the Honda to a meeting 30 miles away.  No problem, I said.

Since I still have not gotten over the snobby factor, I hate being seen in the Cutlass.  I avoid it at all costs.  Therefore, I know that it will be particularly tricky to avoid being seen by the other parents.  My first maneuver is to drive by the hoards of parents after the game ends.  However, the trouble starts when I have to pick up my stepson from school.  I pull up among the other cars, parents waiting in line for their sons.  As luck would have it, it’s none other than Golden Couple who pulls up right behind me in their shiny black luxury sedan.  Let the mortification begin. 

Now since freshman boys are notoriously slow, this gave Golden Couple plenty of time to scrutinize the piece of sh*t car in front of them and recognize it was yours truly slumped down in the driver’s seat.  And if they weren’t quite sure it was me, my stepson erased all doubts when he came out of the locker room first (of course) and made a bee line toward the car.  Could he have just come out fully dressed like a normal kid?  Sure.  But no, he chose to come out barefoot, socks in hand, walking across the parking lot to get into the car whose windows can be rolled down but not up.  I swear I could hear Dueling Banjos in the background.

As you can imagine, I was quick to recount my humiliation to my husband later that night, probably using the word “mortified” about 30 times in as many seconds.  As expected, he laughed at my tale but did promise to look at some other cars that were slightly less embarrassing.

The next day I get this phone call:

Husband:  I found the perfect car for us.  What do you think of a 1994 Lincoln Town Car?

Me:  Hmmm.  That would be great.  If we were EIGHTY.

Husband:  Okay, how about a 1997 Buick LeSabre?

Me:  Again, that would be perfect.  If we were EIGHTY.

Since then I have settled down a bit.  We are getting new tires for the Cutlass.  We are doing well on the modified Dave Ramsey plan.  I have learned to laugh about the Golden Couple incident.  (Okay, it does help that I have since found some dirt about them).  

But just remember this:  Even if there is a clunker in someone’s driveway, they might not be pennyless or tasteless. They might just be following Dave Ramsey.


What Every Woman Should Know: How to Hide the Shopping Bags November 12, 2010

Filed under: Humor,Money Matters — aniederkorn @ 8:48 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

An observant husband can be a double-edged sword.  On one end you’ve got men like my dad, affectionately known as Captain Oblivious.  My mom could wear a brand new outfit every day for a month and that man still would not notice.  In other words, my mom can get away with a lot.  Dad isn’t going to be noticing those new shoes any time soon, nor does he really know what things cost these days, unless it’s related to deer hunting or Ham Radio equipment.  Now this can be nice, but surely my mom would appreciate some compliments on her stellar outfits every once in a while. 

My own husband is on the opposite end of the spectrum.  Since he has started listening to Dave Ramsey, it’s all about the budget.  So if any article of clothing I wear hints of newness, he immediately wants to know said garment’s history and vital statistics.  Ironically, as I am writing this, he does indeed ask me if my skirt is new (no), compliments me, then eyes me suspiciously and asks my stepdaughter if she has seen the skirt before.  It is several minutes before he lets the subject rest and goes to watch Thursday night football.

Unfortunately, there is not often a happy medium.  While I would hate for any fabulous new fashion purchase to be ignored by my spouse, I don’t want to have to defend every single purchase.  Unlike my dad, my husband does actually have an idea how much Tod’s shoes cost. 

As a result, we women often resort to the guilt-laden but highly skilled practice known as hiding the goods.  You know what I mean, ladies.  You go to the mall and overdo it; hence you have to conceal the evidence.  Sometimes this means stashing the bags in the back of your closet and staggering each item over a few months.  But as most seasoned criminals or power-shoppers-with-observant-husbands can tell you, the first 24 hours of the crime/shopping spree are often most crucial to the investigation.  This is no time to get sloppy. 

Shopping bag concealment is no joke, folks.  It involves fast thinking, stealth-like movement and a poker face that could convince any husband that yes, he already knew about the $500 Target credit card charge and he was fine with it.

Case in point, my friend J (all names have been hidden to protect the innocent shopper). After a particularly unexpected (i.e. successful) shopping excursion, J notices that her husband has beaten her home.  This is an easy one: leave the purchases in the trunk.  Of course this leads to panic later, as clueless husband conveniently decides to take her car to the store.  She makes a mad dash outside to grab the bags while he is distracted, throwing them into the front hall closet as he moves for the door.  It is not until 2:00 a.m. that she wakes up in a cold sweat, remembering that the bags are still downstairs.  She gets up and grabs them, only to see her husband has gotten up for his nightly bathroom visit.  In the nick of time, J slides into her son’s bedroom and chucks the bags into his closet before running into her husband in the hallway.

Lurking Husband:  What are you doing in L’s[1] room?

J:  Oh I was just checking on him because he had a fever earlier.

So why do we do it?  We know that eventually the jig will be up and the credit card statement will come in the mail.  I can tell you why:  because when it comes to the emotional process of shopping, it is easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission.  And that is why I am logging onto in a few minutes for the special weekend sale event.  Because make-up is a lot easier to hide than a new dress.

[1] Innocent childrens’ names were spared as well.


Celebrity Encounters of the Close Kind November 5, 2010

Most of us have had a celebrity encounter at some point in our lives.  I’m not talking a concert or performance sighting, because in that case I’ve “seen” some pretty impressive people, like when I was an audience member at the Regis & Kelly show and saw Julia Stiles, Rosario Dawson and then…wait for it…George Clooney![1] Nope, I’m talking about a chance meeting that makes you call your closest friend and squeal, “I was walking down the street and guess who walked right past me!”  Since small town Wisconsin is not exactly a celebrity haven (unless you count Screech from Saved by the Bell, who is bankrupt in the Milwaukee area) it is pretty momentous when something like this happens. 

One friend of mine who used to live in New York City can easily spot the beautiful people, like Edward Burns and his stunning model wife Christy Turlington.  A former neighbor of mine was thrilled (and I literally do mean thrilled) to have met Squiggy from Laverne & Shirley while on vacation in Hawaii.  I doubt he knows who Ed and Christy are.

 From what I can remember, I’ve had seven such meetings, either where I saw a celebrity on the street or I had the good fortune to actually meet one, which usually ends up with me looking like an idiot.  Let’s count them down, shall we?  We’ll count down on a scale from “You saw who?” to “No way, you’re kidding me, right?”

Number Seven:  Uh…I saw Pauly D. from Jersey Shore at O’Hare’s United baggage terminal in September.  

Number Six:  While having dinner before a Broadway showing of Avenue Q, I saw Kathy Najimy a few tables over.  You know her, right?  The really perky nun from Sister Act?  Kudos to my second cousin Meghan for recognizing her.

Number Five:  Kevin Cronin, lead singer for REO Speedwagon.  (If you are under thirty, this probably does not register with you).  It so happens that the woman (then teenager) who used to babysit me married Kevin Cronin’s brother.  I attended the wedding and got to see him perform “I Can’t Fight this Feeling” in church; he later joined the band for a few numbers at the reception.  I also got his autograph:  an elegantly scribed “Hi Anne” and a smiley face.  This connection later came in handy as I got to watch one of REO’s concerts from backstage.  Ridin’ the storm out, baby!

Number Four:  I was shopping (okay more like browsing because it’s so freaking expensive) at Fred Segal in L.A.  I turned to my left and there was Axl Rose, shopping with a leggy brunette and sporting multi-colored dreadlocks.  This was the cleaned-up and healthy Axl who was also apparently desperately seeking publicity in order to jumpstart his stalling career.  Case in point:  he made quite the show of oohing and ahhing and cooing over a baby in front of the check-out.  And the baby wasn’t even that cute.  Don’t tell me that he didn’t want one of those salesgirls to speed dial Us Weekly for their “Seen and Heard” column.

Number Three:  Here is one of those awkward celebrity encounters.  During college I once skipped class so I could go watch Woody Harrelson play basketball on campus.  This was shortly after White Men Can’t Jump, and Woody started touring with his band.  Show of hands:  how many people out there know that Woody Harrelson had a band?  Anyway, one of his celebrity “demands” was to play pick-up basketball games on the road.  So I got wind of this, stalked him and took pictures.  While I was snapping away, one of his strange band mates accosted me, asked me to take his picture, and then proceeded to dip me and stick his tongue in my ear.  I think I was so stunned that all I could do upon meeting Woody was stand next to him and smile for a picture.  Nothing else.

Number Two:  If this list counted down the celebrities I most respect, Tim Gunn would not be number two; he would be number one.  I had the pleasure of hearing Tim speak at a women’s shopping event in Madison, Wisconsin.  Now normally this would not count since it was technically a speaking performance, but since I actually got to ask Tim a question and speak to him directly, it counts as an actual meet and greet.  Alas this was another slightly awkward moment for me, as you would have thought I was about to meet the Pope.  My hands could not stop shaking and it was a wonder I held onto the microphone.  But Tim was so completely gracious and wonderful, and I really respected his views on personal accountability. 

Number One:  Again, this was part of a performance…but alas I was part of the performance and it resulted in several close encounters, so I am just going to go ahead and count it because it’s BIG.  Yes, every once in a while something bigger than Extreme Home Makeover visits Wisconsin, and this time it was the filming of the movie Public Enemies.  I was lucky enough to be cast as an extra, which meant getting within a few feet of Mr. Johnny Depp himself.  Again, devastatingly handsome in person.  And a word of advice:  If the snotty girl production assistants scold you for staring too much, just say screw ‘em.  Mr. Depp is making a cool 20 million or so for the movie; I think he can handle some adoring female fans staring at him.  Squiggy would kill for that kind of notoriety.  Am I right?

[1] Yes, he is just as good looking in person.  And I KNOW he looked right at me and smiled.  The girl sitting next to said so, so it must be true.