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Monday, April 26, 2010

A Stroll Through Some Blogs: Simple in France saying NO

As I thought about strolling through some of my favorite blogs--both old and new (to me)--I decided to first highlight Simple Life in France, whose guest post I read yesterday at Early Retirement Extreme. That post is now on her own blog as well. Perhaps because Simple is living in France, with her French husband, I thought of being a stroller in French, a language that exists in some deep part of my memory, courtesy of some outstanding teachers, M. Giordano, M. Moore, and M. Danon, to name only the three best.

The word flaneur came to mind, although its use in cultural studies, owing to the work of Walter Benjamin and others, takes it in other (theoretical) directions from just strolling about. Needless to say, in the age of the internet, I googled flaneur and found a site devoted to the concept. Here is an epigraph from the Arcades Project Project that does seem to apply to my stroll through the blogosphere: "Taking a walk is a haeccity . . . Haecceity, fog, glare. A haecceity has neither beginning nor end, origin nor destination; it is always in the middle. It is not made of points, only of lines. It is a rhizome". (1000 P 263)

Simple in France's post (on both blogs) is about saying NO. She perceptively points out that saying NO to things you don't really want is the easy part; it's dealing with friends and family that is difficult. Of course, one can find new friends (sometimes--true frugal friends are rare); one has to deal with one's family.

In my comment on ERE's blog, I mentioned my recent moment in class. I had gotten there a few minutes early, and everyone was exclaiming over the BIG diamond on someone's engagement ring. I feigned interest, and then a student inquired about the location of my ring. I said I didn't have one. "Why?" I answered that I hadn't wanted one.

This admission led to a long moment of rather uncomfortable silence, followed by one student saying "That's neat." I think she was trying to make me feel better.

Then another student said, "You ARE Emersonian." I was so happy! A real life example.

Emerson says, Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.

That, like saying NO, is the easy part. The harder part is dealing with friends and family. Emerson is aware of that: A man must know how to estimate a sour face.

Simple in France recounts some of the sour faces--and comments--she received when she discovered that she actually preferred some aspects of the frugal life. Believe me, my $30 wedding (that was for the license and the German measles test) did not elicit admiration from family members. Neither did my decision NOT to let my kids go on the yearly overpriced Disney tip with their schoolmates.* Some of my NO moments were so shocking to my family that--even in this space of relative anonymity--I will not share them.

What is interesting is that saying NO is understood when followed by "We can't afford it." And I find that in a cowardly way, I sometimes say that for--as Mr. FS says--"protective coloration." But when you say NO for the reason that something is not worth it (in general or to you), you will get those sour faces.

*** I wrote a post long ago about how I did not let my kids go on the Disney trips, but did happily spring for school trips to Japan.

9 comments:

simple in France said...

Nice--I didn't realize that you have no ring at all (I myself was shocked at the idea of having engagement ring and wedding band) but saying no to either makes sense as well.

And saying "no" to Disneyland is just the kind of thing I'd want to do. It sometimes seems to me that people are far more judgmental of frugal choices that involve children.

And I must admit, that sometimes I tell people I "can't afford something" or more correctly "it's not in my budget" in the hopes of wriggling out of conflict.

Budgeting in the Fun Stuff said...

My husband and I have been together for 9 years and married for 5 this May.

For the first 8 years of our relationship, my in-laws (MIL, FIL, Aunt IL, and Uncle IL) stressed the importance of living life fully and "not just saving for the future". I'd reply that you can live a full life and save too. They'd blow me off.

I don't know how many times I heard the words "you are saving too much" from them and a couple of times from my husband as well.

Then we hit a three month period of small financial crises in 2008 - new $400 tires, higher home insurance than expected, and a $800 medical bill for a minor surgery my husband needed. In a moment of high stress, my husband had a lapse of sanity and yelled at me for not saving enough. I promptly yelled back that I thought he and his family thought I "was saving too much". I also brought up the fact that my saving is what allowed us to pay all those little bills without hurting our investments at all. He immediately shut up and apologized profusely a few hours later. I haven't heard a criticism about our savings amounts from him since then.

Then a year ago, my MIL actually said, "With the economy the way it is and all my friends worrying about their kids, it's nice to know we don't have to worry about you two." I was so happy (and slighltly annoyed that it had taken so long).

The funny thing is that my parents think we splurge too much (housekeeper, lawn care, a CPA...they think it's just a waste).

My point is that no one is ever completely happy with someone else's financial choices. They're personal and controversial and you are so right, I just got used to "sour faces".

PS I have an engagement ring and bands, but they are from his grandma and mom. I also have never been to Disneyland, but I'd never say no to a cruise if we have the vacation budget for it and time. I frequently say "we can't afford it" when what I mean is, "that isn't important enough for us to pay for".

Lucy Marmalade said...

How true! How very very true! It's true that it's difficult--nay, impossible!--to justify your NO moments to some people. It's hard when "some people" happen to be family and friends. I, too, abhor the whole "we can't afford it" dealio, though it can sometimes be useful. I remember how upset we were when my very-wealthy friend droned on about not being able to afford a private institution. What a ridiculous notion! We have to try not to shy away from our NOs, despite the sour faces we may meet.

Shelley said...

These days I find saying NO is more about my use of time and keeping to what is important to me, not just what comes along. The Tightwad Gazette editor said, "We're saving up for a house." (or whatever). I say, "I rather do/have ...". I don't generally even tell myself I can't afford something, rather that it's not part of our lifestyle.

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Duchesse said...

Our license plate is "Flaneur" and the title of my blog is a nod to the passages or arcades of Paris, where I return blissfully as often as possible.

I never had a diamond engagement ring. And that is over three marriages! There were always more important uses for our money, and what we could possibly afford was not very interesting to me. However, I now have some jewelry that provides beauty and enjoyment. And has tripled in value in 15 years. (Most diamonds will not.)

I would be equally indifferent to receiving praise or criticism; both are someone else's idea of what's acceptable. And as I have said before, I often buy antique jewels to wear to work, where a huge ER is admired but a woman who spends (her own) serious money on a bracelet is often criticized for extravagance.

Jacob said...

Interestingly, DW's engagement ring represents about half of the cost of the wedding. This was because the ring is an asset and it can be appreciated daily whereas the wedding is only a memory and thus it gets discounted in time.

Incidentally, the diamond in the ring is not very large but it is perfect (or close to it) --- I forget the details. Don't know if that means anything other than people usually going for size. We went into a jeweler to get it reset in another ring and they offered to trade the stone for a bigger one: "But it's bigger!"... ah thanks, but no thanks.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Simple--I have two wedding rings--one is my great-aunt's and one is my grandmother's. I love them.

@Budgeting--Yeah--people always pressure me to buy stuff I don't want. And I HAVE tons of stuff already. I love that your are showing how you CAN budget for services like lawn etc. and still save! Inspirational.

@Lucy--That "can't afford" comment still irks, does it not?

@Shelley--Good point about time. But do you say "can't afford" to others just to avoid the "don't want to" issue?

@Duchesse--That is the world's best license plate and I'll be looking for it if I ever visit Toronto. You know, I used to buy jewelry for myself and I used to get the same reaction.

@Jacob--An interesting take on the relative value of ring and wedding. I am honored to have a comment from you. I feel as though I've been visited by a celebrated figure from the blog world,

Artful Lawyer said...

I just had to comment because I've had such similiar moments - I'm not as frugal, so our wedding - brunch included - cost $1200. My parents offered a limo, paid by them, three times but I told them no (and finally had to be honest and rude and tell them that I think limos are ridiculous but we would wash the car in honor of the occasion).

But most of all - I have a $100 wedding band and NO engagement ring. I've never been into diamonds or jewlery of any kind, and I find the engagement ring thing (the "mine's bigger" Barbie Princess) thing SO revolting that even if I did like accessories I wouldn't get one. Boy does that make me the outlier....

Keep on saying NO. It's the only way.