“Bonnie, what on earth do you see in me?” Those were my husband’s words to me one day a few months ago, when he was feeling particularly low. Why on earth would he say such a thing? Because he thinks he doesn’t make enough money. Such was the damage done by his ex-wife, who does measure a man’s worth in dollars, and taught him to do the same.
I used to think there was nobody in the world who would ever judge the lovableness of another human being based on that person’s financial situation. Common sense tells me that money is just a convention. It’s just something that we all agree to pretend has meaning. How could any human being become so out of alignment with basic ethics as to imagine that money is important at all — let alone think that the most important aspect of a romantic partner is the size of his or her bank balance?
Sadly, I’ve learned (mostly by hearing heartrending stories from men, but also from occasionally hearing unbelievably callous comments from women) that there is, as comedian Bill Burr so eloquently points out, “an epidemic of gold-digging whores in this country.”
There are women out there who think that a man’s wallet is his third testicle, and the fatter that third testicle is, the sexier those women think a man is. And I think it’s shameful. From a tarot point of view, it makes me think of the Queen of Pentacles reversed. Upright, the Queen of Pentacles is so earthy and sexy — someone who can be genuine and present. Reversed, she just seems compulsively obsessed with, and controlled by, the material world. Upright, she has immeasurable depths and the courage to delve into them, but reversed, she may have those depths but prefers to hang out in the shallows — and to be shallow. (And when she becomes a mother, she is not the Empress upright — loving and empowering her children — but rather the Empress reversed, suffocating her children, constantly hungry for and jealous of their attentions, and prone to using them as pawns in her own power struggle with her by now ex or soon to be ex-husband.) But I’m not here right now to lecture the ladies. I leave that task to women’s consciences.
What I am here to say is, men, don’t buy this bullshit. Your wallet is NOT your third testicle. You never needed a third testicle in the first place. If you find a woman who you think you need to impress with a fancy dinner and expensive gifts, maybe you should ask yourself if that woman if going to fall in love with you or with the fake you’re pretending to be. Real women don’t need you to peel them a grape or buy them a car or a fur or a fancy diamond ring.
Men, what women need is for you to be genuine and for them to be able to feel that they can be genuine with you. (And if your partner is a man, believe me, he needs someone he can be genuine with too.) Do you want a real relationship or are you just trying to do power politics? If a real relationship is what you’re looking for, you’re going to have to be brave enough to show your weaknesses, and you might as well do it right from the start. If you can do that — guess what — you may just find that the woman you love loves you NOT for your money OR your education OR the class into which you were born but rather for your courage, your vulnerability, your tenderness, and your ability to dive into life as if you actually intend to live your life’s mission, not just make it to age 90 with a good-sized 401k.
This isn’t just a relationship issue, though. The very same man who buys into a partner’s co-dependent belief that his success or failure in life can be measured by how much he earns is likely to believe that himself. How much depression and anxiety in men is kindled by money issues? If you want to know how absurd this is, consider this: one of my favorite editing clients lives in Europe and pays me in euros. Since I live in the U.S., that means my bank balance is partially dependent on the strength of the dollar compared to the euro. When the dollar is weak, I get paid more; when the dollar is strong, I get paid less. Imagine how I would feel right now, watching the dollar slowly get stronger, if I was hanging my self-esteem on the euro to dollar conversion rate! Yet I see men all around me who have hung their self-esteem on an economy the strength of which is not based on anything they did or didn’t do. Men, I can’t say this too many times: don’t do this to yourselves. You are lovable and worthy of respect, even if you have not one dollar (or a euro, or any other form of currency) to your name. If you want to measure your net worth, measure it in lovingkindness, in tenderness, in honesty and sincerity, and in ethics — not in money.