I was hyper-conscious of the spending gap between me and David, and I never wanted to give off the impression that I was taking advantage of his wealth. In fact, when he offered to buy me a new Mac during our first month together, I politely but firmly declined. But never was the difference between our worlds so vivid as the day we went shopping for ski pants. The saleslady ignored me but spotted the red Prada tag on David's ski jacket in a nanosecond—and promptly brought him the matching pants. They cost $600.
"They match my jacket," said David. "It's a no-brainer." I referred him to the $80 variety, but he was already waving his black AmEx around. "Do you really need those?" I asked. "What's need?" he answered. I was hurt and infuriated by his callous comments. If only he knew how much I could have used $600. Though my family lived in an affluent community, my parents were struggling; my dad had recently been diagnosed with cancer. Soon after, his garment business had tanked.
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"Don't be stupid," my mother told me, when I relayed the story. "If he is generous with himself, he will be generous with you." And he was. Still, I couldn't help seething over the fact that David didn't know what it was like to pay for a bagel and soda with a credit card—and be declined. That he didn't know what it was like to have creditors call him all day or to have his cell phone cut off because the bill hadn't been paid. When I would hint at my financial problems, David would dismiss them. My family appeared well-off. I had graduated from Columbia.
"She couldn't possibly have any real worries," he seemed to surmise. For that, I resented him, but at the same time I admired him. I wanted to live like David. He was happy. He enjoyed his success, but he didn’t rely on it to build his self-esteem like so many other people I knew. We had only been together for eight months when he spoke with my parents about marrying me. The thought of spending forever with someone I had been dating for such a short time made me nervous, but I also knew that I loved him. I figured that was enough. I had fake gel-nails put on in anticipation of the ring.
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A few weeks later, David came over to my parents’ house, presumably to ask for my hand. For the first time since I met him, he seemed scared and insecure. "I don't know what it is," he said. "I'm just not ready."