My fiance and I are among the many Americans who live "paycheck to paycheck." We're not on or below the poverty line, and we aren't unemployed. Yet, with the constant rise in the cost of living and the stagnation of our income, each year feels like a harder struggle. We always make sure necessities are taken care of (rent, bills, food), and we've "cut back" as best we can. We aren't homeowners; our wedding plans have gone no further than speculating a date, we don't go on lavish vacations (we rarely go on them at all) and we have nothing that would be considered "equity."
I want to stress that this is not a complaint, so please spare me the eye rolls and sarcastic violin music. I am very aware of how lucky I am to have a job and a cozy place to call "home" at the end of the day. I know things could be far more difficult. I understand that as far as the "bigger picture" is concerned, we're fine. However, this doesn't mean that I don't have my moments of complete hair pulling frustration over how hard it is to simply "get by" or reminding myself that it's a good thing we don't have kids right now because how the hell would we feed them?
I know we're not the only ones out there who earn too much to be part of the "working poor" and earn too little to be among those who live "comfortably" (notice I didn't say "wealthy"). It's not something that's going to change any time soon (I'm looking at you, Congress) and for the most part, we accept it and carry on as best we can, but sometimes, I get really damn bitter about it.
I was having one of these bitter moments a few days ago when my fiance brought up my birthday plans while we were driving home from work. Typically, I like to keep my birthday low-key and under the radar. I even went so far as to put the kibosh on my own surprise party last year when I found out about my family's well-intentioned plans.
Yes. It's true. I am a killjoy.
He told me he had found the perfect gift for me until he saw what it cost. I had asked him to tell me what it was. He was hesitant; he didn't want me to be disappointed that we couldn't do it. However, you can't tell a person that you found something "perfect" for them without also being obligated to tell them what that perfect thing is. That's not how this game works.
So here it is: The Museum of Natural History is hosting it's first "adult" sleepover. It's a grown-up version of what they do for the children's sleepovers. The night starts off with a champagne reception and live music (okay, maybe that's a bit much for us but everything else is cool). You get to do the flashlight thing, eat delicious food; there's a midnight viewing of the Dark Universe Space Show (narrated by Neil deGrasse Tyson, of course), a live animal exhibition, you get to sleep under the whale, and then there's breakfast in the morning.
He was right. It was the perfect gift for me.
"How much?" I asked.
"$375 a person."
It was no longer the perfect gift for me.
What was so great about it though, was that after he had told me, I didn't feel sad or disappointed (for reals). I was touched, and I was happy. I know it's an overused saying, but the thought really does count. And I love that this is the kind of sweet, over the top stuff he thinks of when he wants to do something special for me. I know he'd give me the world if he could, and there's a value in that that will never be found in a paycheck or my bank account. It's hard to feel bitter once you know something like that.
I told him it was the best gift he never gave me.