Hell Is Other People’s Spending. Specifically My BF’s.

by Ashley Danielle Burnett

They say you hate in other people what you see in yourself, and in my case, that has always been true. I get annoyed when people can’t keep a conversation going even though I constantly find myself struggling to think of what to say. I’m agitated when people merge into my lane without using a signal even though that’s been my modus operandi ever since I started my long commute to Los Angeles. And I especially loathe when people take the last of something even though I was talking about how much I wanted to have it behind them in line.

I’m sorry, guy who also wanted a honey bran muffin! I know your pain.

I think the adage is also true of other people’s spending. I’m prone to buying the most ridiculous stuff: expensive food from food trucks, saltwater spray in a bid to get wavier hair (sidenote: there is literally no saltwater spray that will actually give you wavy hair if yours is straight), lipstick colors in varying shades of reddish pink that already look exactly like my natural lip color.

Unfortunately, my boyfriend is also prone to ridiculous purchases.

He tells me he has $20 in his checking account and receives exactly 10 minutes of pity from me before he reveals that it’s because he bought a new, ultra-slim wallet he saw in GQ or a new watch even though he already has a bunch or, my least favorite, gun parts that he doesn’t actually need. At which point, all of my sympathy recedes to reveal pure irritation. He then refuses to eat food for two weeks to preserve that $20, only to spend his next paycheck on something I consider equally ridiculous.

Of course, in that same timeframe, I’ll probably get a new pair of shoes or a bag or a genuine leather passport holder for no apparent reason. It doesn’t stop me from getting annoyed, though.

“Let me pay for your food,” I say. “OK, let’s split the check,” I say after he refuses that initial offer. (That’s another thing: we’re both stubborn, so he refuses to let me pay even when he hasn’t eaten the entire day.)

“I’ll just pay for yours so you can eat and then I’ll watch you,” he replies, which is absolutely ridiculous and slightly creepy. Sometimes I even sneak food in his backpack just so he’ll eat something that isn’t his customary ultra-cheap lunch of Mountain Dew and peanuts or — even worse — nothing.

This came to a head recently in, of all places, a Wingstop which, sidenote, is absurdly expensive for wings.

“I’m thinking of selling off some of my stocks to pay off my credit card debt,” he told me. (Another sidenote: he has quite a bit invested, while having nothing in his savings account. I don’t judge, as I just opened my own savings account approximately two weeks ago.)

“That sounds like a great idea!” I said.

“Yeah, but actually I might just sell of a quarter of it and then use half of that to pay off some of the debt.”

I paused. “What will you do with the other half then?”

“Oh,” he said, and smiled. “Probably buy night vision goggles!”

And that’s how we began fighting in a Wingstop. I pleaded with him to just pay off his debt. He had enough to do so with plenty left over and it was accruing interest.

“But,” he said, a hint of sadness in his voice, “I really want night vision goggles.”

In the end he did sell off his stocks and intends to pay off his debt — although, in truth, he hasn’t yet. “I’m waiting for the transaction to go through,” he tells me every time I ask. Time will tell.

If I see night vision goggles in his room, I will know. And I will pick another fight in a Wingstop if I have to.

The one bonus is that his spending has made me take a look at mine. I’m no longer receiving a weekly package containing something I don’t really need: goodbye, fancy day planner! I bring my lunch instead of buying overly expensive food. I heavily research things I’m thinking of getting to make sure they’re worthwhile products: no more spontaneous mascara buying or trying out weird and random snacks at Trader Joes.

I’ve also learned to understand other people’s seemingly whimsical purchases more. To him it’s worth it to eat peanuts to get something he wants. I don’t have to like it, but I do have to let it go. And, in the meantime, slip him some healthier snacks to offset all that Mountain Dew.

Ashley Burnett is a writer living in California. You can see both her short stories as well as other articles she’s written on her website ashleyburnett.net.