Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue, Men Are Terrible And Everyone Is Drowning In Debt!
Ah Reddit! Sometimes it is really, really bad. Sometimes it's really, really good! And sometimes it is good/bad in a very satisfying kind of way that lends itself very well to falling into a four-hour internet hole. Perhaps the subreddits best suited to that sort of time-wasting misadventure are r/AmITheAsshole — a forum in which people ask if they are actually the asshole in whatever situation they are currently in — and r/relationships, in which people seek advice from strangers on the internet on issues in their relationships. It's sort of like a modern version of advice columns and Ricki Lake. I also "enjoy" r/legal_advice for when I'm just not having enough nightmares, r/IDontWorkHereLady, and r/AskTrumpSupporters for when I am just not jaded enough about humanity, and the many skincare and nail art subreddits I am subscribed to for when I decide to fuck it all and just be really shallow.
But I digress.
Last night, just in time for the holiday, a very particularly American post appeared on Am I The Asshole? A post from a man who was wondering if it's bad that he is telling his fiancée she has to work 80 hours a week and live off of cheese sandwiches and eat zero avocados in order to be debt free by the time they are married. Said fiancée has accrued $60K in debt because she had to finance her father's cancer treatments.
Happy Valentine's Day!
The husband-to-be also has debt — $70K in student loans — and is also planning to work 80 hours a week and live off of cheese sandwiches for a year and a half in order to pay it off.
AITA for asking my fiancee/girlfriend [28F] to work 80 hours a week in order to pay off her debt in time for our marriage?
I have been doing the same thing since last November.
I have $70K in debt, all of it student loans. I got a second job. It will take me until the beginning of next year to pay off my debt. I am looking at working about 80 hours making $130K. It sucks, but I realized I am not going to get out of debt quickly any other way.
She has around $60K debt. She financed her father's treatment for cancer (who is thankfully in remission) on credit card.
She works as a teacher working 60-65 hours a week making around $65K. I told her if she works another 15 hours tutoring people she can easily make $15K-$20K. She can easily be debt free in around 18 months. If she gets another job or starts tutoring people, I can help her and she'll be done quicker.
She is calling me an asshole because she already "compromised" by agreeing to do a budget.
I told her doing a budget means nothing if we are not cutting our spending and increasing our income.
She said that working 80 hours a week will be bad for her mental health (she has a history of depression).
I told her that I had/have depression (as diagnosed by the doctor). If I can do it, she can as well. I also told her that her mental health will be worse with the debt hanging like an albatross on her neck. Hell, paying of [sic] debt is important for my mental health because it is stressing me out.
She resents the fact that she, in her words, "never sees me" and that this will hurt our relationship.
I told her that if we didn't figure out our debt problems, we would definitely get divorced because money problems cause fights.
She said I was a [sic] asshole and cheapskate because I am demanding we reduce our spending on food by not going out, not eating fancy stuff like avocado, and not spending money on Netflix. Currently, we are paying $450. She thinks that $350 per month on groceries between the both of us is too low. It isn't.
Breakfast: Milk and banana ($0.40)
Lunch: spaghetti ($2) or salad ($3.50).
Dinner: two cheese ($2) or tomatoes/cucumbers without cheese($2.50) sandwiches.
Total is ~$5-6 per person per day, per month ~$180. We can meet the $350 guideline if she stops buying avocado ($0.50 per avocado), she only eats salads on the weekends, and we shop at a different grocery store for some other things.
I told her to cancel her gym membership ($40). She can run on the streets. She called me an asshole for suggesting this. Apparently, I wasn't checking my "male privilege" because she feels afraid as a woman, running at night. She has never told me this before. I told her we can arrange our schedules so she can run with me. I cancelled my gym membership and run alone in the park.
She wants to go on a honeymoon after our wedding, but if we don't get out of our debt, I am not going to enjoy the honeymoon because I will feel guilty due to debt.
She is now calling me an asshole for valuing money over her. She thinks I am being "too intense and obsessed with debt." She says I am trying to control her life.
Is he the asshole? Sure, he's the asshole! But you know who is also the asshole? America.
People shouldn't have $60,000 worth of debt because their dad had cancer. It's not right. Hell, people shouldn't have $70,000 in student loans they took out in order to be able to earn a living in order to pay back the $70,000 in student loans. That's not right either. This is no way to live.
The way this guy is treating his girlfriend is completely unacceptable, and she should run. No one needs someone who is gonna try and control them their whole lives like that. That is, if she makes it that long living on bananas and cheese sandwiches. She could starve to death! And that need to control everything is probably not going to end at just spending, either.
But I'll tell you what — the part about not being able to enjoy a honeymoon without feeling guilty about the debt? I get it. And not just because the only thing of Catholicism that my family passed on to me was the crushing guilt that makes it impossible to truly enjoy pretty much anything, ever. It's understandable because it's a scary thing.
People love joking about "economic anxiety." And sure! Attributing people voting for Trump to economic anxiety instead of racism was ridiculous — but that doesn't mean it's not a real thing otherwise. Pretty much everyone I know has regular, middle-of-the-night panic attacks over their debt, and I don't really know anyone my age or younger who could take the financial hit of a major medical issue like cancer. What are we gonna do? Mortgage the homes we don't own?
It would be super cool if we were all very mature human beings who never acted like assholes because we were stressed out or pissed off about something unrelated. If we never snapped at someone we love because something shitty happened at work or because we were stressed out about how we were going to pay for something we know we need. Something's always gotta give, it has to come out somewhere. I don't necessarily think it comes out in the form of racism, but I do think it comes out in the form of acting irrationally. It's hard to be rational when you are freaked the hell out.
People shouldn't be feeling like they have to work 80 hours a week and live off of cheese sandwiches just to deal with the normal ups and downs of a normal human life in America. People go to school, people get sick, these are ordinary facts of life, not exorbitant luxuries. We can't just have everyone running around with $60K and $70K debts hanging over their heads for things that are in no way extraordinary. That cannot be the norm.
It's not just that people need to go to college to earn a living — it is certainly possible to do so without going to college! —but we actually also need people to go to college in order to have a functioning society. If young people started saying "fuck it" and not going to college because of how much it costs, we would be screwed. I actually don't know how long we can reasonably expect people to keep doing this. Especially if we hit another economic crisis and another crop of students finds themselves in the same situation mine did, when we left the colleges we paid dearly for to find there were no jobs to be had. It's not sustainable.
Neither is our healthcare system. It's just not. It can't go on like this forever. Right now, we have a whole crop of kids with severe and fatal food allergies. Think about that. When they get older, if they don't have health care and Epipens are a million dollars (in 2040 dollars)? What's that gonna look like?
At this point, the pie-in-the-sky idealists are not the people saying we need student loan forgiveness, subsidized college and Medicare For All — it's the people who actually think we can keep going on like this and have everything keep being fine.
We must have bread, but so too must we have avocados to put on that bread. With some nice olive oil and red pepper. After all, what is the point about constantly progressing in technology and science and production and everything else if we're all miserable, debt-ridden and working 80 hours a week and living off of cheese sandwiches just to not enjoy our honeymoons we can't have?
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse