October 24, 2008
This is a rant. It has been building for a while now. That's your warning. This is a rant.
Do you want to know how to piss me off? Tell me I'm one of the "most responsible people you know." Really. Go ahead and watch my gears lock up as I fight with the knowledge that you are trying to compliment me but you just, in fact, stomped all over one of my hot buttons.
Do you want to know what I hear when you say something like "you're so responsible"? I hear you tell me:
1. "I'm a fuck up and I need someone else to pull my ass out of the fire and because I know you're stable and nice, you'll help me."
2. "Help me. I can't think for myself. I can't be bothered to call the right person or to look up this information in the normal places I should look."
3. "Oh, man, I have the money management skills of a stoned turtle and am up shit creek without a paddle but you, you're a hard worker and have money. You'll "loan" me money even though you know I'll never pay you back."
4. "Dude, I totally did not think about the consequences of my actions and now I have an emergency on my hands but you're the kind of person who can't help but fix other people's problems. So, fix my problem for me."
5. "Wow. You're smart and nice. If I tell you what I did wrong, you'll tell me how to fix it so I don't have to think for myself and maybe even fix it for me if I cry at you."
Bitter? Yes. The word "responsible" has come to mean "I can use you for my own gain" in my lexicon these days. I've loaned out more than $15,000 to friends and only a handful of people have bothered to pay me back. I have helped people move, find apartments for them, cat/dog sat, given financial advice and a myriad of other things and very few people have bothered to even say "Thank you." Much less returned the favor. Many of the people I have rescued in the past are no better off now than they were then and it frustrates the hell out of me.
What's worse is that I am now married to a "responsible" guy who has friends who think nothing of asking him to do all sorts of things for them without gratitude. They are so used to him being "the responsible one" that they automatically call him to help them or for information or for anything else. To the point that people still call him long after he's left a volunteer position because they assume he's going to have the information anyway. Or, if he doesn't, he'll stop and take the time to look it up for them.
Together, we have become "the most responsible couple" people know. This makes me want to scream and yell. "Why don't you know more responsible people? Why aren't you more responsible? Why didn't you think about your actions before now? Why can't you stand by your word of honor? Why can't you manage your money? Why can't you look this information up? Why can't you take care of yourselves? Why? Why? Why?"
It has gotten to a point where people expect me (or my husband) to automatically pick up the pieces of a mess they have made and now that we are saying "no" because we have our own lives to take care of, they are shocked and upset at us. Well, guess what, folks, past mistakes are catching up with us and I've been burned one too many times. Some of you know about this last burning and it is bad enough that I'm half tempted to take people to court over it.
I have friends who tell me, "I hope this won't stop you from helping people in the future" but unfortunately it will in some ways. Never again will I tie myself financially to anyone who is not family. Small loans, small favors, small rescues, yes. But the days of my big rescues are gone. I have a husband and a household to look out for.
My current rescue going on right now has caused me to insist on redoing the budget in my household so I had a much better understanding of how much money we have coming in versus how much is going out. Yes, I did something in good faith and I have not only been bit on the ass for it, my credit score is suffering which hurts my husband's score since we are tied together. The economy is not doing great and it scares me. The budgeting assured me that all was well but Jeff and I need to look to ourselves for now.
Sure, we are responsible people. Today we had a meeting with a great estate lawyer who helped us put together our household trust and wills. (Seriously great. He's now on my 'highly recommended' list.) We are preparing ourselves for all possible problems. Being an adult sucks sometimes. But if you are an adult, you need to be an adult. That means to be responsible for yourself and your family. That means being prepared and thinking ahead. That means being able to stand on your own two feet.
I'm not saying I won't help people in the future but I will think long and hard about it each and every time now. I've been burned way too many times just because I'm the "responsible" one and I can recover from it. The wounds of being used have healed but the scars are still there and I'm just plain tired of it.