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Don’t Let Her Marry A Starving Artist

January 30th, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

BEFORE READING: Click here to read the more truthful version of this post.

Your mother tells you, when you and your sister were children, she supported the two of you with less than the money you will be making at your first job out of college. She just wants you to know that, and even though what you’re making is typical entry-level salary, to her, that’s still no excuse. There should be no reason you can’t make ends meet on your own in the world.

When you enter the world, you go about things carefully at first, blessed to have a job you love, working for the kind of company that looks cool on a business card. You’re in your early 20s and you don’t think about anything beyond whether or not your name is on a list and of course, the women you’re dating.

They, the women, are a necessary expense. You have to take them out to eat, buy them drinks, pay their cab fare, buy condoms. You also have to be out in the city where these women are at, keep up appearances to make yourself look desirable.

This goes on for a few years. You’ve hit some bumps in the road at times, but you’ve maintained gainful employment. You’ve even graduated in some areas to a more mature form of adulthood, going from a two-bedroom apartment with a roommate, to a one-bedroom apartment by yourself. You’re no longer entry level, you’ve moved up the ladder some, the checks have more digits.

The irony is, this moment has come at a time in your life where you were beginning to reassess your value system. Of course it has to do with a girl you meet. That’s how all these things work. This girl is your future, so you move her in with you, and you make an attempt to provide everything for her, but you couldn’t afford to do that and she, bless her heart, refuses to let you try. As a matter of fact, not only does she not let you deal with all the finances yourself, she pointed to the fact that she could tell, you didn’t know how to deal with them in the first place. One night, she said to print out your bank statements from the last three months. It was the first time you saw fear in her eyes.

That girl, the first girl you ever wanted to marry, left you. She had reasons that had nothing to do with finances, but trust, your finances were definitely played a part. The money argument wasn’t as big as the other disagreements you two had, but it was prevalent.

For example: During the time you two were together, you were due for a raise you didn’t fight to get, and she would always ask you about it. You told her that it was coming, she asked you what you were doing to get it. You always changed the subject. You didn’t understand at the time, that it wasn’t the money that was important to her, it was what your attitude about the money said about you.

After she left, you hit what is more than a bump in the road, you hit a wall. You woke up one day to find yourself without a job, the company you worked for was closing. And you officially become what you never wanted to be: A starving artist.

Now you’re jobless, broke in your pockets and broken-hearted, both of which were of your own doing. What you are not is without talent and charm. For the next three years, you don’t let your job status or your financial status affect your quality of life. You stay in the one bedroom apartment, you go on unemployment, you start putting together some steady freelance gigs, and with your talent you start something on the side.

That THING is your ticket to freedom. You don’t say that out loud at first, but deep down inside, you know you’re sitting on a gold mine. You just have to build it, and pretty soon, your big break will come. You take it so seriously in fact, that you actually quit opportunities to make a steady income, just so you can focus on building this THING. So now you’ve gone from a reluctant starving artist to the perfect case-study for a starving artist. You are Lena Dunham’s character in “Girls” before “Girls” ever existed.

You’ve brainwashed yourself into thinking this is actually what life is about: starving. This bleeds into your dating values. You don’t date like you used to, because you can’t afford to, but to your surprise, that doesn’t mean you date less. Women still like you, still date you, and even want to help you just like your ex-girlfriend used to do.

With that THING in your backpocket, and a countless number of women in your phone, you abandon the path you were once on to being more responsible and more able to take care of yourself. That THING is a success to many, and it boosts your profile in ways you were never going to be able to if you were working for some company. But the rub is, that THING isn’t making you any money. As a matter of fact, it is the reason you are starving, because yeah, you told one of your bosses that you didn’t need them, and you quit. As a matter of fact, that’s what you told two bosses. It’s not like that THING was going to your head, but it definitely was affecting your head from making smart decisions.

Still, you were fine, finding a way to make it all work out, while unbeknownst to you, being as irresponsible as ever. Any day now that THING was going to pay off. Any day it was going to happen, but it wasn’t going to happen before you met a new girl.

Not since the first girl you met did you feel this way about someone. The breakup with the ex was long gone, but you still remember the lessons you were taught from when she left you. You were going to do things differently with this new girl, because you were determined to make this girl your wife.

There was one problem: You. Were. Broke.

You were more broke then you ever had been actually, and also, broke at an age where being a starving artist wasn’t as cool as it used to be. In so many ways you had grown to be a man, but your bank accountant and your savings, made you look you were making allowances for doing chores.

At first you tried to keep it from her, until one day she saw a difference in your morning routine. You were leaving your apartment dressed nicer than usual. Foolishly you thought she wouldn’t notice. She asked you where you were going, all dressed up, and for whatever reason (probably because you loved her, definitely because you were tired of keeping things a secret) you told her the truth. “Housing court,” you said.

That same look your ex gave you when she saw your bank statements, was the same look this woman was giving you. She just looked at you and said, “Well, you know you have to fix this right? This can’t happen again, because I can’t marry you if you don’t fix this.” Then she smiled. Keep in mind, you two never discussed marriage at that point, that was the first time either of you mentioned it. But it was the perfect thing for her to say, because it motivated you to fix things.

You settled things at housing court that day, and even bettered your situation by making that THING less of a priority (though you still maintained it and worked at it), and finding a steady job. The first month there, you were able to pay your rent, which deserved no applause, because it’s what you are supposed to do, but still you were proud. You fixed the problem.

Unfortunately, you didn’t fix yourself, which was very different than fixing the problem. A couple of months later, you found yourself in the same situation you were in before you got the job. What the f*ck? you asked yourself. How is that you’re here, again?

Too embarrassed to say anything to the girl, you made a decision that would break her heart and yours at the same time. The first thing you did is you admitted that once again, you were in a hole. This got her upset. You told her you understood why she was upset with you, and then you told her it is why you had to let her go.

You told her…For years, you went through these phases of prosperity and financial hardship, but never ever looked within yourself and said you were doing it wrong, and you weren’t doing enough to fix it. At some point, you confused being financially irresponsible and undisciplined for being a starving artist. Your hardships, though due somewhat to the great recession, were mostly of your own making. And now you were paying the ultimate price by letting her go because any woman can marry a starving artist, but no woman should have to.

You told her…

A lot of men say before they settle down, they have to get their ducks in a row; they have to make sure they’re in a good place. You used to feel the same way and said the same thing because you thought you had to make more money and get your big break from that THING in order to be the marrying type, in order to live a comfortable life.

You told her…

You were wrong.

You told her…

You have to grow up, change everything you have been doing, because you realize the problem isn’t the system or the powers that be not paying attention to that THING. The problem is, you didn’t retain what your mother said to you before you went out in the world. The problem is, you didn’t understand, no matter how much money you made or didn’t make over the years, you never had a plan for it.

You tell her…

The problem is you, and it has been for years.

She doesn’t fight you on this, just breathes a sigh of relief, asks if you would stay the night, and you two fell asleep without saying much. In the morning, when you leave her place, you kiss her on the cheek as she sleeps and then you leave.

Waiting to win the Lottery is no way to make a living. You can’t be a starving artist anymore. You have to be a man. On your own, you have to be a man.

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  • Pete

    I recently found myself asking: “would I rather be married to photography, or married to a woman?” My college self loved women so much; but my adult self loves the idea of being a star photographer. It’s hard to give up on the idea that I can’t do both.

  • Andrea Robinson

    Great piece, but I think the issue is more complex and depends on the people involved. My father used to be a starving artist and my mother, frustrated that his art required long hours and often took him away from home for relatively long stretches of time, preferred to have a husband who came home the same time everyday. Years later, however, my father is quite financially successful at his craft and my mother regrets that decision from time to time, knowing she loved him but didn’t have the patience to withstand the process.

    Growing up I was convinced that I would end up with an artist myself and developed an understanding quite early on of the give and take required. If you love someone truly, you take them as they are. My husband is an artist and I’d rather come home everyday seeing the hope and determination in his eyes while he works on his latest painting masterpiece, than have him work a dead end job he hates, become miserable and depressed, and inevitably cause conflict in our relationship too. It all boils down to values and how far you’re willing to go to not only support the person you love, but BE that person who helps them grow into themselves, into their careers, and into sustainable success.

  • DreeTV

    “my mother regrets that decision from time to time, knowing she loved him but didn’t have the patience to withstand the process.” Totally relate to this. My ex will be a brilliant music producer; I’m sure of it. But paying the rent and car note myself while trying to be supportive took much more patience than I had in the tank. I sometimes wonder if I just didn’t love him like I thought, or if finances really are that big of a deal….